Running a startup is hard… and in my experience, near misses take the cake for being the most tolling aspect.
I think a “near miss” is self-explanatory, but just in case, it’s when you think you’re close to closing something important only to see it fall through.
Near misses come in many forms for a startup: recruiting, accelerators, raising money, partnerships, marketing opportunities, etc… and I’ve had the displeasure of experiencing each.
- I’ve had what I thought was almost a sure thing with a CTO candidate who would have been an excellent fit… Only to find out he was burnt out after a year and a half of trying to start his own company. He decided a more stable company is a better fit for his current stage in life.
- I’ve been to the interview stage of multiple accelerators, only to get rejected for being a single founder or “we don’t think the market is there yet”.
- I’ve had the first draft of paperwork for a major deal that would have had us porting one of the most popular mobile games of all time to HTML5 with exclusivity. Only to see it fall through after a lower-than-usual quote led the developer to do more research. He found it would be just me doing the port (opposed to the dev shops they were used to).
- I’ve had a co-founder of a billion dollar game company say he was interested in investing, then weeks later found out his buddy from that company pivoted his new startup to the same market we’re tackling. He chose them.
Near misses suck.
What’s important to realize, however, is that there will always be more opportunities and occasional hits. Always stay positive and never let a miss affect the energy and optimism you put into a similar opportunity next time.
Optimism leads to more perceived near misses. For me, I think I have more of an impact on making something a guarantee than I actually do in some cases. I go all out to make things happen – whether it’s a custom game to grab a news site’s attention, or driving 3 hours to try and sway a potential co-founder’s decision. It’s important that I keep that mindset, regardless of the number of misses and failures, because there are some cases where I am able to will something into happening.
Even with all those misses, we’ve still had some big hits. The most recent hit for us was a new distribution channel that has brought in a million new users in the last two months. Those types of hits feel really good.
It’s also important to note that in hind-sight, sometimes a miss is a good thing. If we had closed the deal to port that game to HTML5, it would have killed at least 2 months of development time. Time I think we were able to find a better way to spend.
Near misses are also great learning tools. You get to experience most parts of a certain process and there’s a lot to gain from this. I’ve become a better recruiter, interviewee, salesman and presenter because of these misses. As a more concrete example, there was an obvious lesson I learned in the game porting deal. I need to not undervalue the service I’m providing… that sometimes charging more is a better thing.
Never let near misses bring you down for too long. They’re going to happen, they’re going to suck, and they’re going to affect you in some ways, but the extent it does can be mitigated. Stay positive, realize that this miss may be a good thing, and there will be more opportunities.