Finish up: Closing my startup was the best decision I ever made

By Tahlia Mandie

The startup world is hard. Very hard. It is one of those experiences that you kind of know is going to be so, everyone tells you (warns you) beforehand, you read, prepare, and prepare even more… but then you don’t really know what it is like until you actually enter that ‘world’.

To say it is challenging is an understatement. When everyone tells you to “just give it a go,” and you do, no one can ever tell you what your day-to-day life will soon entail. But I wouldn’t change a thing.

My experience started when I experienced a common headache/experience/ understanding of networking effectively at events and conferences. What if there was a way that people could meet the right people at events and make better business opportunities effortlessly? And so we began.

I found a technical guru that could help me on my journey. Tick. I hired designers to design the app. Tick. I talked to the right people in the industry. Tick. I learnt about the lean method. Tick. I started to build a network. Tick. I did all the right things, or at least so I thought. But one thing was missing; technical skills. I couldn’t string an html-coded phrase together for the life of me. And when I did a course on what guaranteed me to “know how to code”… ha! The reality was much different – there are no shortcuts.

It was a constant uphill battle. It was a constant struggle. When one technical achievement was made, another challenge occurred. When one milestone was made, another error was discovered. OK yes, this is par for the course in the startup world, but when the challenges are overriding the achievements and milestones day in and day out, something has to be questioned.

The biggest turning point was when our ‘team’ changed, and LinkedIn decided to change its API permissions – we were cactus.

Truth is, without these turning points, I may not have reached the decision as quickly. Without these turning points, I may still be struggling up that hill. Without these turning points, I may have continued to miss precious moments with my young children. As many of us have heard one of Silicon Valley’s most striking mantras time and time again, ‘if you have to fail, fail fast. And there is nothing wrong with that.’ Those words still ring true today.

So what are my other lessons learnt?

Always give something a go

I have absolutely no regrets. But know what you are getting yourself into before you get too deeply involved. Cross your t’s and dot your i’s… all of them.

You have to be better than everyone else

There are incredible new companies emerging every week. Incredible. As Richard Branson says “ensure you have a product that is much, much better than your competitor”. We didn’t.

Embrace the challenges but don’t let them drain you

We all need the challenges to drive us, lead us and motivate us. But don’t let the challenges be the dominating factor in your business. If they are, start to question what is going on?

Don’t be scared to fail

There is too much negativity around failure. Experimenting is not failure and certainly not final. Guaranteed, some of the best companies around did not exist before a previous ‘failure’ from one of the co-founders.

Don’t forget about the bigger picture

When my company started to consume my marriage and my time away from my family, I had to stop, reflect and listen. Don’t ever think that such sacrifices need to be made. Life is short. Do what you love, absolutely, but don’t forget about your bigger picture.

Accepting defeat is not easy. It is damn hard! Finding the strength to move on, and be excited about moving on, is even harder. But I did. And I am excited. Call me crazy, but somehow, and in some way, I think I found my ‘niche’ in this world by sharing the magic of Australia’s own ‘bush tucker’ food to everyday people. I may have fallen ‘flat on my face’ before, but I picked myself up, reinvented myself, and feel like there is something bigger and greater to come. And I am so, so excited to see where it will go.

Tahlia Mandie was the founder of Congoe and is currently working on Kakadu Plum Co.

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