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To be a founder
Some thoughts on shutting bantr and the feelings that have followed
Rishabh called me last night and we spoke about what kind of work we want to do. He said “I don’t want to do short term work and I only want to work on things that are long term.” I agreed with him. Having worked with him for so long and having worked on a moonshot, I learned that we are not short term folks. There’s nothing wrong in doing short term work if that works for some. It just doesn’t work for us. We want to do work that we can be proud of and no matter what we work on, we want to do our life’s best work.
927 days - This is how long we chased our dream of building a social network for football fans. Technically we worked on bantr for 852 days. This is well over 2 years of our lives. But even after shutting bantr, we didn’t stop working. We tried another thing, and then another. After working and trying for nine hundred and twenty seven days and we are exhausted.
Rishabh and I met on Saturday, 4th Feb. On February 3rd in the afternoon, we had another idea that we were excited about. Yes, even after 926 days of trying. We decided to think about that idea individually for the day and then meet the next day to talk about it. We did think about it. I very quickly realised that this wasn’t for us. I spent the evening convincing myself that we should have a go at it. On the morning of 4th Feb, we met at our usual cafe. Rishabh had spent the previous day doing exactly what I did - we were on the same page. The first hour, we struggled to get through each minute and like hungry builders, tried our best to just find some meaning and insight in that idea.
There was none. It didn’t feel right. We spent some time sitting in silence. That silence was helpful. It made me realise that we were both exhausted and that it was time to stop. It seemed almost necessary to stop building our own thing just for the sake of building it.
For 927 days, we worked every single day. Taking close to no breaks. Shipping often. Trying to get users, talking to investors, managing cash among so many other things. I think founders forget how much they do. Everything depends on you if you are a founder. In the early days, with a small team, no money and lots of disappointments, survival mode is your default and you become a different person. This is very hard to do. To do all this and make your startup work is even harder. It takes hard work, commitment and a whole lot of luck.
There is a sense of loss. A loss of purpose. A feeling of ‘Oh, okay. What now’. A feeling of incompleteness eats at me. We set out to bring people together around football. And we failed. So the mission is incomplete.
There is also a sense of relief. Relief that we don’t have to worry about tomorrow. Or the next week or the next month. We can wake up in the morning without thinking about how difficult the day is going to be. I won’t be continuously worried and will be present - when I am with family, walking with my dog or with friends. I won’t be checking emails, discord or running to consume every new essay, article, podcast which may help us build better. I won’t have to think about the next day before grabbing those 3 extra beers with friends. I am breathing differently. I am sleeping better. It’s all just easier.
Rishabh and I learned a lot in the last 2 years or so. Of course it was a lot about products and users and marketing and tech. But a lot more about ourselves. A lot about our value systems, ethics and morals. In tough times we acted with integrity and did not sway our ethics. We learned that together we are a formidable team. We learned that there’s a lot we don’t know and we have a lot to learn. And perhaps, it’s time to learn.
Till yesterday I was trying to convince myself that I need to get out of the founder mindset and then join a team where I can add value. But last night I realised that I do not need to get out of the founder mindset but in fact, I can use this and do great work with another team.
Maybe someday we will go back to our old dream again. The dream of building something that brings people together around a sport we love. Or maybe we’ll have another dream. For now, we are excited to build beautiful things with talented, kind people. This is the new dream. To create value with another team with as much passion as we had for Bantr. Onwards to do our life’s best work.
2023 should be fun.