“On the surface, the business didn’t succeed in the first two iterations of IntroNet for the same reason that 90% of tech startups fail: we did not find a product-market fit before the end of our cash,” Krupit wrote on Trajectify.com, his consulting company which focuses on coaching and mentoring entrepreneurs.
The company had been trekking along its path with some media attention — ourselves included. It managed to rally talent from the Philly tech scene like CTO Nick Hilem (who left Philly in 2016 for the West Coast and joined Google.)
All in all, IntroNet rallied a team of 10 and got to work. But then, the wheels started to fall off.
“We continued to struggle to find the right targets, we weren’t activating customers, and we couldn’t get enough data for the company to be interesting to outside investors,” wrote Krupit. “We ran a bunch of A/B tests on mobile vs. web, on groups vs. open networks, on B2B2C vs. B2B.”
But none of it mattered. By 2016, cofounder and financier Martin Babinec was running for Congress as an independent (he lost, btw, but landed 12 percent of the vote) and it was time to reevaluate things. And so, 2017 got off to a rough start with the announcement that the company would be shutting down.
“These apps became valuable tools for many, but we were unable to find a sustainable product-market fit that would allow us to scale and continue development,” read a statement still available online. “As of January 6, 2017, we have shut down IntroNet Connector, Groups, and Open Network.”
There may still be an exit strategy in the future, though.
“Martin and I continue to work to find a buyer for IntroNet, or an opportunity to merge it with another product or company where the whole would be greater than the sum of the parts,” said Krupit. “There were a few deals on the table, but none have yet to yield results. The IntroNet that we built together was done, but perhaps a third pivot is lurking in its future.”
And now, the lessons Krupit reaped from the experience:
- A startup needs an obsessive founder in the trenches: (“I don’t think I was hands-on enough. Being the CEO, I mostly let the team drive itself.”)
- Being shoulder to shoulder gives a startup more agility: (“It’s simply more effective to be in one place, and at IntroNet we would have benefited from having that advantage”)
- The biggest gains come from taking the biggest risks: (“Were we too risk-averse to in our policies that we limited IntroNet’s chances for success?”)
- Embrace the strengths of the local ecosystem: (“Not playing to the region’s strengths creates friction.”)
Ah, if only every startup founder wrote a blog post with lessons from shuttered companies. The trend seems to be catching on, though.
Knowledge is power!
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