My Biggest Mistake

– Do you want to get really really rich?

This was the beginning of a very troubling relationship. I should of course have just cut him off, but being an entrepreneur means you’re often searching these special things that might become the Nex

t Big Thing. So I listened. His idea was, and actually still is, a great idea. The person who was going to bring it to life, was the problem. As well as our history.

The reason he was, at all, on my Messenger list was that he had been chosen to finish a project I had regarding cleanup of some code. The beauty of freelance sites is that you pay after job is completed which, in theory, means you don’t take any risk. But this guy sweet talked me into making an advance payment. I was going to get a huge discount and it was all going to get done at once. Three weeks later the project was not even started. The developer was deep into dept and my 700 dollars was not going to help him long term. Another two weeks later he was broke again. At this point, we hardly knew each other. I was sending daily emails wondering what was happening, and I was told that all was progressing well. After the three weeks I was given the truth and there I was. I had paid 700 dollars and had received nothing. 700 dollars is not the end of the world, but I should have left it there. I should never have listened to him again, unless he had finished the first project. But that’s when he sent that little piece of text.

Do you want to get really really rich?

I answered yes. Anything else would have been a lie, but I said something like “but not with you”, but I said I’d hear him out. Then he started talking about this idea of a new freelancing idea that would combine project posting with listing of scripts. Anyone who’s into the field can see it as a marriage between Rentacoder and Hotscripts. The idea is brilliant. I really think it is. So I decided to invest. I actually decided to invest in a guy who had delivered nothing.

The irony is that the only reason I said yes, is because he actually had delivered nothing. And I had paid. This was my chance to make up for my loss. Stupid stupid me. It’s like standing by the gambling machine after 100 consecutive losses thinking “Now I am one step closer to a win”. Even though it’s true, it’s stupid. More accurately I would say: If the guy failed you the first time, he is more than likely to fail you again.

I’ll give you the full story. The price I had to pay for a third of the business was just so tempting, that I felt I had to give it a shot. I knew it was like a lottery ticket, but I had to try. He also had tons of ideas how the site was going to reach out to the development community. That’s what he said. It all sounded quite reasonable.

One month later the project was 25% done. Now what? If he had only completed 0% again, I would have bailed out. But now that the project was started I had the choice of losing all, or risking a bit more and get it all done.

Every month I heard the same. “It’s a lot more difficult than expected”. “I had to rewrite a few things but now the system will be really awesome”. Before the site was done I had paid a fortune, or 14.000 dollars to be exact. Sure, my stake was now at 75%, but that doesn’t really matter. 75% of zero is still zero.

Well at least the site was now done. Time to focus on marketing. And that was not going to be a problem. He had written some kind of robot that would auto-post forum entries in Yahoo groups and another places, so that “every single developer” will know about the site in no time. Wow! What a brilliant idea.

The idea was great, but it was nothing but just that – an idea. It didn’t work. The Brilliant-Yahoo-group-auto-posting-robot-application didn’t prove to be that great. It actually didn’t work at all. Well that’s not fair. It worked on the first group, but then apparently someone at Yahoo had experienced this before, so all coming posts were declined. Oops.

Now what?

That’s pretty much the end of the project. Now he was out of ideas. All that talk from the start that he said he would do, he just didn’t do. He was so certain it would all work out by itself. Nothing works by itself. Nothing. Not that I saw the amazing PR guy in him, but surely did I think that after spending 12 months on an idea, that he would at least try and manually post some information in forums and groups? Or at least come up with an idea of a banner? Or just speak to his friends and ask them to join. But unfortunately not.

The interesting thing is that this is all too common. All focus on the product and no focus on how to get it to market. By the time I initially invested in the project, I had not understood how crucial this is. Otherwise I would have focused a lot less on product and only checked if he had ideas of how to get users.

Anyone interested in running the above project is more than welcome to get in touch.

An expensive lesson, but my most important one. On the bright side I now know that it costs 14 thousand dollars to learn that it’s all about sales. Perhaps one day I’ll find it worth the cost.
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