Raw thoughts from Alex Dong

Why "do what you love" is not idealist or a luxury for startup

Brad Feld’s post The Power of Passion When Starting Your Compony reminds me of a pivot we made more than two years ago.  Do what you love is not an idealist slogan or a wishy-washy talk. It’s the only thing that carries startup over the long, dark and endless days in the trough of sorrow

Here is our story. When Tim and I started BinaryPlex, we had a clear idea on what to build.   It was called Tribalytic, basically Google Trends for Twitter.  We’ve manged to sign up quite a few paying customers. We’ve got a couple of companies interested in acquiring our big data analysis technology. We also lined up one of the biggest Non-for-profit company for a pilot.  In May 2010, Tim and I went to Twitter’s first developer conference and even got invited to give a demo at Twitter HQ. Things are looking good from outside.  Except we were running short of money.

Tim and I took on a consulting job for a couple of weeks and by the end of the second week, we had a long skype chat.  I can still remember myself walking on the squeaky wooden floor and tried to explain to Tim that I don’t have any passion left for Tribalytic. I don’t personally use it and I don’t care what happen to it anymore.  I still want to do startup but I just couldn’t pull myself together to push Tribalytic any further.  By then, we’ve already used up our capital reserve, struggle to figure out how to extend our runway and we don’t know what we can do to change that situation in a short period.  That was a very difficult situation.

By the end of that call, Tim and I were both very clear that we’d have to put Tribalytic on hold and figure out something else we want to implement.  We want to build something we could use everyday. And that was trunk.ly.  What we eventually got acquired for.

During the next 12 months building Trunk.ly, there had been 10x more dark moments. We were running even lower on money. Both of us started to rack up debts.  We’ve got 1M investment term sheet signed but the investor ran out of money.  We had to take on contract works and realized this is only making things slower.

But we never gave up.  Looking back, we could be stubborn or naive. Yet We were definitely passionate about trunk.ly. And that passion was like a lighthouse to a lonely ship on a foreign ocean. It gave us hope and strength to keep going. Blindly believe that we will figure one way out.

Don’t settle. Build what you love.