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This article was first published 9 years ago  » Getahead » Seven reasons why my first start-up failed and seven lessons I learnt from them

Seven reasons why my first start-up failed and seven lessons I learnt from them

By Pardeep Goyal/
Last updated on: October 25, 2014 13:40 IST
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We started our journey in wrong direction and we failed to change direction with time, says Pardeep Goyal, co-founder of School Gennie, a start-up that failed.

Start-ups are hot talk these days and everyone want to start their own company. People read success stories but ignore the fact that more than 90 per cent companies fail within 3 years of operation. Our start-up SchoolGennie is one of R.I.P start-up which we founded in 2013 but got shutdown in 2014.

Let me share top reasons of our failure.

1. No Market Validation

We wanted to build zomato like platform for school listing and reviews but realised that parents research for schools in admission days only. Then we thought of doing something else for education industry. With little knowledge about schools, we decided to build online collaboration platform for parents and teachers. We thought this was much desired product by education industry which can help building great relationships between parents and schools.

Lesson Learnt

Do market research (product-market fit) before writing first line of code.

We sowed the first seed of failure when we started building product without validating product-market fit. We could have done better things if we had few school sign-ups before starting product development.

2. Waiting for perfect product launch

In my experience, there is no perfect product in start-ups. My suggestion is to keep building and keep releasing. We were not aware of lean start-up concept which says, build fast—fail fast—fail cheap, and keep iterating until you succeed. Unfortunately, we kept investing time in building awesome product with great user experience and mind blowing features.

Lesson Learnt

Launch MVP (Minimum Viable Product) as early as possible and keep improving product with feedback from early customers

We could have saved lot of resources with early launch of product. Customers should have given opportunity to test demo version, even with bad user experience and half baked features. We spent almost half year to come up with first demo account, which could have been done in first month itself.

3. Following foot steps of competitors

When we launched our product we confronted with harsh reality: customers were not interested in our offerings. Then we started looking out what our competitors were selling.

This was the opportunity to focus on USP (unique selling proposition) but we started building what our competitors were selling.

Lesson Learnt

Focus on something you are very good at—but your competitors are not

We hired people from competitor's sales team, we tried to sell with similar pitch, we prepared similar marketing material, we even tried to align our product features with competitor.

Our efforts failed because we could not compete with competitors at points where they were good at—but we were not!!

4. Spending money on unwanted things

We spent too much on unwanted things like office, furniture and electrical appliances. We could have optimised expenses by running operations from our home.

Lesson Learnt

Spend money only if it helps in releasing software fast, test fast (customer acquisition) or pivot fast.

Start-ups have to spend money on hiring talent and there is no alternative unless you have time to do things yourself. Actually money was not primary reason of our failure but we could have done much more with same money, like hiring more smart developers to fast build and test our product.

5. Lack of Vision

Ultimately we lost the vision!! We forgot why we started company and where it should be in two years or five years. We were saying something and doing something else. We wanted to collect students data from thousands of schools but we were trying to sell to top schools only. We were not having any clue of our key growth metrics, unit economy, sales conversion ratios or product road-map.

Lesson Learnt

Start-ups should keep eagle-eye focus on Vision and keep changing strategies and products to achieve end goal.

Influence of wrong people also disturbed our thought process. We discussed things with people who had no prior start-up experience but they were successful in corporate job. My suggestion is, do not to follow advice of corporate guys, I am not saying they are wrong but things works differently in Start-ups.

Start-ups have to explore their own growth path, don't be afraid to experiment with new things.

6. Delayed Decisions

I believe every start-up comes at a stage where hard decisions are taken. Delay in decisions impact badly on start-up growth. Founders should sit together, discuss deeply about issues, take firm decisions and move on! There are good decisions and there are bad decisions.

If founders are clear of what they want to achieve then they can take quick and efficient decisions otherwise they take decision tonight and tomorrow morning they want to change it.

Something similar happened with us when we were to decide for sales partnerships, establishing new sales channels, product roadmap, equity allocation to team members, pivoting product and finally during critical decision of running or shutting down company.

With time, we (founders) had differences in thought process, one of us wanted to try new unexplored things and other wanted to follow processes of big successful companies. One of us believed in open culture where anyone can contribute in any area but other believed in closed culture where two teams (development and sales) should not share know-hows of each other.

Lesson Learnt

Friction and lack of cohesiveness result in delayed decisions, hence one more step towards death of start-up!

7. No Mentors

Start-ups should genuinely invest time in finding good mentors. We could not find mentors for our company or honestly we have not tried hard enough. Mentors can be really helpful in critical times when start-up needs expert advice, connection in network and resolving internal conflicts.

Now we are not working at SchoolGennie but it has been a great journey so far. I am really grateful to my co-founder Amit, who trusted my capabilities and gave me opportunity to work with him. He was instrumental to bring me out of corporate job and introducing me to amazing world of start-ups.

Lesson Learnt

Failures are not always bad if we know how to handle post-failure situation and apply learnings in future, on positive side. I know sometimes things don't work and I will avoid repeating my mistakes. SchoolGennie experience actually helped me getting into my current start-up, PocketScience, where I joined as co-founder.

Reader Invite

It takes courage to accept failure.

It takes more courage to tell the world your start-up failed.

It takes still more courage to accept failure, tell the world your start-up failed, but still share lessons learnt from the mistakes you made.

Do you fit this bracket?

Did you start-up a company and failed?

Do you think it takes a lot of guts to enlighten people about the mistakes you made and share it with them so that they do not repeat them?

If the answer to all the three questions is positive, then please share mail start-up story, your failures, and lessons you learnt to (Subject line: Start-up failure and lessons learnt).

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Illustration: Dominic Xavier/

The author is co-founder of, an Android app for Class-X students which is gamifying science syllabus. He is passionate about education and loves online marketing & growth hacking.

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Pardeep Goyal/