The Darker Side Of Startups

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I am a 20-Something alcoholic and my failed startup began my spiral into alcoholism.

1. I blamed my startup for my alcoholism

I owned a small tech startup Almstech, we specialized in mobile and web technology. It happened during my junior year and I threw every ounce of my energy into it. My GPA dropped by 0.4 during it, which was significant for me. While I don’t regret the experience of owning my own company, I feel most of the articles about startups do not properly reflect the dark side of when they fail. It isn’t just as simple as, the company failed; it also affected my co-owner and me severely. Not only because we failed, but because our employees sacrificed a lot and believed in us and in our ideas. We were responsible for them, and we failed them too.

Most of what you read online about startups failing mentions how fighting through failure is how the best people succeed. There are many examples — Bill Gates and Steve Jobs being the most recognizable of course. Not all of us are born that way though, my response to my startup failing was to drink. It started as my startup slowly failed, which definitely didn’t help the issue. After we officially deemed it a failure, we pulled most of our products off the market and my drinking increased a lot. I spent the next two months in a state where I truly don’t remember any of it. All I know is I spent about two grand of money I couldn’t afford on booze. It is a lot easier to spend that much than it sounds.

2. I was wrong

Until the last three weeks or so, I blamed my drinking on the failure of my startup. I figured I was just still reeling from the disaster it was. The truth was though that it was my genes, my mindset, and maybe a few other things I could and could not control. Not to dismiss the depression the failure of my startup caused — I cannot ignore the depression I was already in. This depression most likely lead to my drinking, and my breaking point was the failure I felt. After my startup blew up in my face, I didn’t have the normal startup reaction — or well, the one the Internet conveys. I did not feel inspired to create a new company, or even do anything. My only motivation was to continue drinking until I didn’t feel any guilt or shame over it.

3. That was the wrong idea 

If there is anything alcoholism does not make you, it is smart (or dumb). It does give you a certain insight into things though, but not the kind most people want. It just makes you more depressed and emotional. It made me dwell on my failures and made me incapable of seeing any positives from my failure. I just dwelled in my own failure and stayed miserable. A good part of me wanted to be miserable because it gave me an excuse to drink. It took a week or so of being sober — an incredibly rare feat for me — before I finally started to think positively.

4. I don’t regret it 

Some of my less-close friends who know about my problems have asked if I regretted the decision to create a startup. For a long time I told them that I did, and that it was a mistake. Eventually I have begun to be proud of my decision — while my time as a startup owner was dark and painful (and contributed to my drinking in some degree) I do not regret it; it did show me who I was deep down. I found out I had a high risk for alcoholism and learned to keep a very close eye on it. I am hoping to eventually start a new company and learn to see the positives in failure. TC mark

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  • Riju

    It is better to have tried and failed than to have never tried. I know this sounds clichéd but if you think about it, it’s true. Best of luck for your next startup.

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