Most of us reach a point where we know - deep in that dark place where we hide those kind of thoughts - that we are done. Customer growth has stalled for the last 3 months. My cofounder is starting to email me instead of talking to me directly. And I stopped coming to the office every day opting to "be more focused at home".
Things started with so much energy. My college friend and I found the idea one night and immediately started riffing on the idea the next day. We then started talking to some potential customers and their feedback was off-the-charts positive.
We created a light-weight product just like everyone advised. We rolled the prototype then the v1 about 9 months ago. A handful of customers signed up and some monthly revenue starting flowing. With that success we were able to secure angel funding which enabled us to hire a small team and grab a cheap office. It all felt so . . . good.
But it's now over a year later and I know that I am done.
Deciding to leave your startup is not too dissimilar to a breakup or divorce. You know it's the right thing to do but all you can think about is the time and emotional energy you invested. How the heck can I actually pull this off you ask yourself.
First thought process, decide why you are making this decision. I see two basic decision paths; the first is for forward-looking reasons, and the second is a look-back rational. I believe that when the next thing in front of you is calling that you will make a good decision to depart your current gig.
However, if you are focused on what went wrong, why things did not pan out, or why the people were the wrong people; these all feel like blame, fear and generally negative inspired decision-making. This path will not end well of all parties.
Ultimately the decision to leave your startup is a selfish one and that is a good place to generate a good outcome.
What rarely works is when you spend more time focused on everyone else's needs and not yours. I don't know a great founder who's default muscle is to push their needs to the back burner and puts the needs of their team front and center. This is great when you are in a good place - it is devastating when you are in the dark place.