Why I Left Stability at the Door for My Blockchain Startup
This couldn’t go on. Burning out is a gradual process with a sudden realization. I was running my blockchain startup on the doubtful fuel of coffee and sleepless nights. There I sat staring at my screen. It was well past midnight and I had to be at work in five hours.
I’m a computer scientist. Math and system structures are my thing. Not just theoretically, but practically too. I like building. So six months ago, my business partner and I started building easy-to-understand blockchain & smart contracts. We were interested in predictive AI and had this idea to build a decentralized voting platform with altcoin incentives called V-Vote.
I was certainly not the only one millennial who’d always wanted to start his own company. But I felt like I was split between two worlds. My full-time job, which was by all means a great company with a great product and friendly people, and my blockchain startup V-Vote.
I tried combining the two, but I quickly realized that wouldn’t work. My physical and mental health deteriorated, the relationships with my wife and friends worsened, and V-Vote moved at turtle speed because I couldn’t fully focus on it. To put it plainly, I was postponing the decision to leave my job and focus on my startup because I was afraid.
Afraid because I didn’t know whether I’d have enough money. Afraid because it would mean I’d have to make serious lifestyle changes. Afraid because Israel (where I work) didn’t seem as enthusiastic about blockchain as Russia (where I’m from). I found plenty of reasons to be afraid.
I Took a Leap of Faith
After much deliberation, I decided that it was all or nothing. So I flinched forward and quit my job.
But not without a plan of action. You see, as a computer scientist, I prefer taking calculated risks. I drastically cut down on my expenses. My wife still had her job and my business partner decided to keep his job too, so we could save up some money and bootstrap ourselves into motion if needed.
We also decided to use the coworking space where I worked before. Nothing fancy, but it gets the job done without costing too much. And it’s a good way to network and talk to people about your startup, if only to practice your pitch.
Even though I now had an ocean of time to dedicate to V-Vote, we still took everything step by step. In fact, we started with the law. Quite likely not how most startups begin, but we’d seen a lot of blockchain companies experience legal issues. It’s a new field, and regulators are slowly but surely adjusting their regulation. We wanted to make sure our business plan was well within legal parameters. Better safe than sorry.
But it wasn’t easy finding a lawyer who wanted to work with us. The first one asked for 1,000 NIS upfront before asking a single question. The second one wanted to charge 900 NIS per hour. Two other lawyers wouldn’t want to prod blockchain with a stick from behind a wall. Another lawyer phrased his enthusiasm in such a way it felt like he was only in it for the money.
Although it didn’t feel like it at the time, talking to all these lawyers was an invaluable exercise. Several times, we changed aspects of our business plan so lawyers could understand it better, something that made everything clearer in our minds too.
We ultimately decided on a lawyer who persuaded us to build better predictive software. Our business plan was tight and would help us avoid legal problems in the future. This alone would help us stand out against more questionable predictive platforms.
Next, we focused on developing our platform. We had a lot more time to build it and debug it. We could work without distractions and whenever we felt someone could do a task better, we outsourced it.
One of the bigger events in the short lifespan of V-Vote was our participation in the DAPPS Hackathon this October. Because we used our own blockchain, we weren’t eligible for any prizes, but many people responded favorably to the beta version of our voting platform.
We also met the CEO of a gig economy app there, who was very excited about our concept. And we’re thinking of collaborating on a blockchain voting project for the Israeli elections! How exciting is that!
Building a Blockchain Startup is an Adventure
It’s only been six months, and what a wild ride it’s already been. It’s not always easy. In fact, it’s almost always pretty difficult. There’s plenty of stress, I need to do something new and uncomfortable on an almost daily basis, and the evil monkey in my brain sometimes comes out to tell me it will all be for naught.
But every time I look back to who I was then and who I am now, I realize it’s all worth it. The hustle, the pounding heart, the day-to-day, the clammy hands. I’m building something I believe in, something that I stand for. And in the process, I’m learning more than I ever have.
What more is there to wish for?