Sampa: My first failed startup

It’s pretty hard to distinguish a founder from his startup. Oh, wait. Let me take that back. It’s not hard at all. It’s hard for the founders to detach themselves from their startup. It’s the “baby syndrome”. The way they see it, their startup defines them. It *is* them. I’m sure I don’t need to convince you of that’s pretty unhealthy in most cases.

I think for the first 12 months of Sampa that’s how I felt. Sampa was Marcelo. Marcelo was Sampa. Any attempt at telling me there was a problem with Sampa was a direct affront telling there was a problem with me. But them you start to listen, take in the feedback and soon you’ll be the first to tell people about the flaws of your own product and not feel they are your own flaws.

Sampa has been a rollercoaster on my life. Sometimes lifting me to new heights, sometimes dragging me on some dark tunnel for months.

When I started Sampa in 2005 I was completely unprepared to have a startup. Before I even left Microsoft I’ve read about 6 books on startups. I thought I knew exactly what customer acquisition, customer-focus, focus, user experience, conversion were. Heck, I’ve been building software for 15+ years, and learning how to do a startup hands-on couldn’t be that hard, could it?

The biggest impact Sampa has had on my life was to give me clarity on how much I just *love* the way startup works. Corporate life is pretty sweet, pays well and can be career-wise very rewarding, but it’s not me. Startup-life just works better for me.

It sucks really, really bad to fail. It sucks to have spent investors hard-earned money to find out there was no business at the end, a very expensive experiment.

Yes, the lessons I’m taking from Sampa are priceless. Brad Feld (a renowned investor) said on a blog post:

“…what makes a better CEO of a new startup — an experience entrepreneur whose last company was a failure or a big company executive with a stellar pedigree who has never worked in a startup? Give me the experienced entrepreneur whose last company was a failure 100% of the time… the dude that just came off a failure and is ready to go again is super-extraordinary-amazingly hungry for success”

That’s pretty much summarizes how I feel. I have many lessons from Sampa which I will share on others blog post.

And just to be clear, Sampa *is* a failure. It failed. Period. There is no other way to describe it. It can also state clearly that I failed to make Sampa a business. What I can’t say is that I failed in life. The way I see it Sampa was one of the many battles I had and will have.

What’s next? Startup, of course. I don’t know what shape or form my new lifestyle will be (yes, startup is a lifestyle, not work for me), but I can guarantee it will not be as a part of 300-developer team in a corporate office.

Marcelo Calbucci

Marcelo Calbucci

I'm a technologist, founder, geek, author, and a runner.