Essays/how it feels quitting your own startup

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I worked on my own company for 4+ years until it was time to move on into new adventures.

Creating a startup is an extremely personal endeavor. It starts with you, your computer, and perhaps one more person with whom to discuss. Companies can slowly grow, but during the first few years there is a large sense of ownership, you are the only one who can make things happen.

Moving away from the startup you created and sustained over years is a tough decision.

In my case, I'm departing a young company with lots of potential. Dispertech is, in many regards, still in its infancy: there were barely any customers. The first product, the NanoCET did not find product-market fit and we had to discontinue it. We developed a second product, the NanoQNT, which shows lots of potential, even at its minimum viable product level.

The closest feeling I have to describing how it feels leaving my own startup is that of a breakup.

You know it is for the better, but it still does not feel completely alright.

I really enjoyed working with the team that gathered around the fussball table after lunch every day. I liked overcoming challenges together, thinking about the future, solving problems in creative ways. One of the highlights of my journey has been seeing the team grow. They got better, and started doing things smarter every day.

The decision to move forward professionally was taken swiftly but not lightly.

Even if I had a lot of fun, and the company helped me grow in many different dimensions, over time I felt alienated. At a management level we didn't build separation of concerns, nor clear communication strategies. I tried my best to setup a flow that would work for everyone, but I failed. Decisions involving team members were made without dialogue, and without concerns for consequences.

As the team grew, I couldn't sustain feeling responsible for things that were completely out of my hands.

The entire situation became very taxing. It went from an empowering feeling, with a sense of achievement and purpose, to a balancing act. It prevented me from focusing on the things that mattered. My role within the team became unclear, and although I built a high degree of internal trust, authority is a strange phenomenon. I couldn't focus on strengthening the skills I wanted to develop and, perhaps more importantly, I felt I was failing my team.

During almost 5 years, I placed all my energy into building tools and a company I thought were extraordinary (and I still believe they are). I spent a lot of energy into building a business and a team. I found immense pleasure at thinking about strategy, identifying opportunities, and brainstorming solutions. Now it is in the team's hands to keep pushing forward, to bring the company to the next level.

Going away at this moment may like an irrational choice. I had to place myself and my peace of mind ahead of anything else.

I take with me a broad range of learnings, from product to business development. I think I got good at finding opportunities and creatively thinking about solutions. I developed both hard and soft skills. I'm still fascinated by technology, and the doors it opens.

I think I'm ready for new adventures. It'll just take time to readjust and to collect myself.


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Aquiles Carattino
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