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How I lost 1 year of life doing failed crypto startup

Przemysław Thomann on October 05, 2020

In April 2019 I decided to completely stop developing my cryptocurrency project ending entire year of full time work in failed tech startup which I...
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zoedreams profile image
☮️✝️☪️🕉☸️✡️☯️

Hugs. I recently just left my last startup; 3~ years, 2m lines, and 2000 commits, i decided to call it at round 11. Sometimes we have to walk away from the end game and appreciate the in game moments and what we learn from them. Here is a fantastic story which I reference when prosed with obstacle or failure.

life-is-a-game.org/the-story-of-th...

gl;hc

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_pthomann profile image
Przemysław Thomann Author

2m? It sounds like huge enterprise, corporate project. My Volvo Group 20 years old project had 2 million lines :D What was that?

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zoedreams profile image
☮️✝️☪️🕉☸️✡️☯️

WARNING; uber nerdy TL;DR;WTFIT; It's An Artificial intelligent supply chain algorithm and network operating system. Some main features included a p2p hyperspace terminal, server, and client. An OS shell and boot loader written with c++, python, electron and nodejs. A built in mnemonic database factory, cortex map, neural net, and an IO socket web server. I do not have the money to build an optical trap quantum computer, but if i did i could and would. So i stopped, and started working on one of my games in hopes to make some money from that to pay for my new quanputer.

it's not uncommon for me to write several thousand lines of code a day when i'm in the flow; alas, is also common for me to stare at the same pages of code for days to weeks at a time with no changes. That also includes the meta code too like docs.

Yes its was the largest single undertaking i had taken on. The major problem is that the tech is just to future. Meaning we had trouble finding engineers with enough experience and passion to take the time to understand the new design patterns i was inventing. Im sure someone will find it one day, and be like holy s@*& what is this. it does that. wow. The pandemic hit, and everyone is focused on just trying to stay afloat and collect a check. I do not have a family so i have dedicated my life to the pursuit of science and fun.

Thank you for asking, I do not find many (like none) who care about what I am into. YOu made me smile.

dino

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_pthomann profile image
Przemysław Thomann Author

I think that it's the problem of every dev beginning with building products and some will never go beyond that: we start doing something because we like to build. It's the joy of development. The question is: can it be really called the trial of business/startup making? This should be the question even in my case :D I think that mostly I was driven by need of building (something interesting) rather than doing business. Your case sounds for me very similar.

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zoedreams profile image
☮️✝️☪️🕉☸️✡️☯️

get out of my head! jk. i just love creating things. business i find just gets in the way of creativity. The joy of development would be a great name for a book.

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Simon Holdorf

Thanks for sharing your story, one of the best reads on this platform for me. You had a dream, you had to do it. It was destiny. You are still young, plenty of time to earn more money but the experience will stay with you forever! It may look like a step back but who knows if it isn't two steps forth in the future!

All the best on your next adventure!

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Przemysław Thomann Author

Thank you for good words! Yes indeed some kind of intriguing need of doing that was pushing me forward. What's funny is that within such period of time it comes the moment that you feel that chances to succeed are too low. I don't know maybe it really was the destiny to try (and fail). Or maybe it was the first step of some greater adventure (I hope).

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surajv profile image
Surajv

This has truly been a roller-coaster read for me... Definitely very motivating post!
I'd say the experience which you amassed in that 1yr would be literally unmatched... It's just a blessing in disguise :)

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Przemysław Thomann Author

Nice description :D Roller-coaster - in fact these moments I was starting new cooperation were something what looked like a pivot in the story. And every time I hoped it will be. After all every of these 3 co-founder relation I gave me different lesson. Thanks for reading!

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Ben Halpern

What an authentic writeup, thanks for sharing. I can definitely tell you that reflection upon my past failures has been the best mechanism to ensure future success.

Do you have an idea of whether you'll get back into entrepreneurship in the future?

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Przemysław Thomann Author

Thanks for feedback. I know I want to stay in crypto & blockchain - how I already am. And yes - I have a desire to create something. But I'm ready to be patient. I want to be involved in something my inner being will agree. In fact this is why I started to do bittery.io. I'm ready to struggle but I feel it has the mission I want to move forward even if it's not profit oriented entrepreneurship in the first place. Can it be entrepreneurship called then? :) I don't even know but don't really care ;)

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Bitcoin Bay

Hey Przemyslaw! Kicking off your startup can be tough but may be easier with mentors and $$ to support it! Check out, Block Hack Global, our virtual hackathon to see if you can get some assistance and get some money to continue your journey. blockhack.ca - Let me know if you have any questions! Cheers!

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Mateusz Iwaniuk

One of the best stories about startup I have ever read. Amazing and breathtaking.
Sorry to hear that your plans couldn't have been realised.
In fact - I really appreciate you for your engagement and energy. I am sure that once you will build something BIG.

Respect for your fight and idea. I am sure that I will hear about you and your businesses in the future

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Emmanuel N Kyeyune

One of the beautiful things about software development is that there's no such thing as lost time. All those hours you poured into trying to create something you believed in will pay off in other ways later in your career. Life is constant learning and our perceived failures are really just lessons. You are now 20x the dev before you started because you dared try what very few would risk doing. That actually makes you quite special and most employers/founders/VCs would recognize the drive you have as very valuable.

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Przemysław Thomann Author

Thanks for goods words. I agree with you however I think it's normal to reflect things anyway no matter how they were. What you say is probably quite true if past actions align with your current&future plans. There are some things I regret: lost evenings & nights, lost holidays (now I'm married and have a child), a lot of sleepless nights. However I'm still in software space so as you said - it all work for my future. It would hurt more if I would play with things completely separated from I want like and what to do. But... it's worth to mention that from the beginning I had it mind. I knew that if "business" idea will fail - it will be my portfolio anyway. I try to do similar with all the things I do.

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Ümit

I think this is the fate of most start-ups, so nothing to be hugely disappointed about here. Usually the big take-off happens after several such attempts.

Very good on you for taking the risk and trying.

I am curious, though, when the idea was an exchange, how did you plan on driving liquidity to your exchange?

This is a huge problem even for well-advertised exchanges. The Stellar DEX for example I think of as something rather well-known, and has been around for a while, but still has negligible trading volumes, and it has a community behind it.

A one-person built exchange I would have no vision how might handle this issue.

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Przemysław Thomann Author

I think you noticed that many things could not succeed. I didn't think about many things or naively thought that it gonna be fine. Of course I thought also about possible investments - and in fact I had few conversations with VCs but mostly because of no users & being alone they were not willing to talk more.

According to your question - in fact I could probably make kind of deal with other platforms (like crypto exchanges) for providing liquidity. Of course it's matter of platform security - imagine I do a deal with exchange where they borrow me their cryptos for trading. If I would be super safe maybe they could do it for some %. In theory it would work but practically I thought rather about initial investment for early liquidity. It was one of the costs in my business plan.

DEXes are also quite different. Uniswap is huge but except it it's still the topic for crypto freaks imao.

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centurianii profile image
cent

Doing crypto exchange business is totally doing business with conventional money as that is what sits at the other side of the exchange and every money exchange requires to abide with regulations of bank institutions; no physical entity can simply establish a bank institution - in fact laws around the globe are set just to prevent this!

The crypto currency dream is a big fraud even from the perspective of ignorant investors who dream of fast earnings: 7% platform fees on buying + 7% fees on selling gives a total of 14% loss on your card which evaporates every currency fluctuation! I invested 700 euros, took back 500, said to myself that I was lucky and closed all my accounts to different platforms. Money and technology don't blend well!

Probably is that 14% you were dreaming of but if not then why did you started that project in first place?

I agree that every difficulty makes us wiser though!

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Przemysław Thomann Author

First of all I'm very convinced that Bitcoin has the potential to be future money, to replace gold. The more I learn the more I'm convinced about that.

I started because I thought I can connect being in crypto + in tech together doing what I liked the best: to do soft. Of course additionally I considered myself being not just a regular programmer but at the worst case CTO :) Anyway I believed and still believe that the current role of crypto exchanges - is to introduce people to the world of cryptocurrency. They do millions on fees as you said - but still their role for me is quite important at the stage we are right now (adoption). However, I don't believe it will be forever.

Taking into consideration your bad experiences I recommend you to not deal too much with crypto bullshit, because it's quite easy to do so - there is a lot of that. Focus on Bitcoin (I read now Bitcoin Standard and it's great book) as the future of money. Then maybe Ehtereum as the global computer.

Thanks for comment!

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patryk20120

Well man, you have gain a lot of experience - that's for sure. But life is life and money is money. All this story shows how mentally heavy projects are. Cheers for you mate.

PS. Who was that celebrity? :D

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Przemysław Thomann Author

Yes - a lot of experience and I'm happy because of that. It even opened new opportunities for me. According to the celebrity - I prefer it maintains unknown.

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Stokry

This is a great story, thank you for sharing it with us. Every day is a new opportunity to learn something new :-)

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dBriones3

What a journey! many people wish they had your courage (including myself) to start a voyage full of adventure even without a "happy ending" but as you said with tons of experiences and personal growth. Congrats man, you achieve quiet a lot.

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Przemysław Thomann Author

Hah I hope my story is kind of "be careful" story. I would recommend always to estimate pros&cons and as someone already posted here: fail fast, don't waste time too much :) I think my adventure would be half shorter if I would do smarter moves rather than hoping it will be all fine.

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Brian McBride

Thanks for sharing. Unforunatly, it's a story that a lot of others have experienced as well in their on context. I am sure all you learned in this journey will help you years to come.

That was also a tough market to jump into. Cryptocurrenty is a solution to a problem that most people don't have. Same with blockchain in general. The ideas presented by it sound cool - but the actual use cases that would convince the average consumer to adopt it over their bank ATM card is pretty low. It's like building a VR headset but not allowing any games or adult content... a cool idea that lacks a compelling reason to buy into it.

It's a write up though. Hopefully others can take some of your learnings and make their own journey better. It is good that you're still inventing too. Again, it's going to be a lot of work in that blockchain space. A lot of technical issues and through processes to work out before wide-spread adoption.

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Przemysław Thomann Author

Cryptocurrencies as a unique kind of digital money (especially Bitcoin) is I believe one topic which for many people, even countries (Africa) is really problem solutions. And in fact I focus on searching opportunity in payments (with bittery.io which is early mvp).

The blockchain related ideas are mostly not solving any real problems. These ideas very often completely redefine the thing like let's say DeFi as a decentralized banking. More futurism and ideology than business in it IMAO (currently). But I know it and now understand it better. And I think that in my case - I like it - to be a part of something what is rather movement than business opportunity.

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Richard Schloss

Actually, it's not a year lost if you learned something from the experience :)

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Przemysław Thomann Author

It's like I agree and disagree at the same time ;) Great experience from a big perspective. But still a lot of "wasted" time or at least time which could be spend in different way.

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Matt Curcio

I agree with Richard. You did not loose a year. You gave it 101%.

I know It is very common to not understand the value of doing something until a long time after.

Let me ask you, Would you blame a person that tried to sail around the world alone? Would you blame that person if they gave it 101% then the mast broke? Probably not. In your own way, you did the equivalent of sailing around the world.

It is the journey not the destination.

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Michał Męciński

Great story, and I can totally relate. I spent a few years building a startup with a few colleagues, luckily we didn't quit our jobs, but we talked a lot about it.

I think that the main problem is when you think that you can build a great product because you have the necessary technical skills, and then you "just" have to find some business partner who sees how great it is and is willing to invest money, find customers and do the rest of the boring work, while you can focus on coding. Unfortunately it never works like that and we learned this the hard way too. In order for your startup to be successful you would have to stop being a rebel and start wearing a tie; I personally think it's not worth it :).

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Przemysław Thomann Author

Thanks! A lot of smart thoughts. Definitely business is muuuch more than most (especially DEVs) think. In fact most technical people, programmers don't really know how the software business work. They can code but mostly have no idea how much work is required to sell this code (especially the product). Also if anyone likes to code - they have tendency to never-ending polishing the project - like me. It's completely not the way it should look like.

About the tie - I think now the success for me would be to find the balance and succeed. To do what I like but not the things against myself.

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insanenaman profile image
Naman Gupta

Takes a lot to quit your job and work hard for your dreams. I tried right after my degree but failed to do so but I learnt a lot. Thanks for sharing. It was motivating.

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Lauri Elias

Any company would be lucky to have someone with your technical chops and work ethic. It sounds like you were too easily talked into hypey bullshit : )

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Przemysław Thomann Author

Thank you :) The truth is that I was quite desperate in not really knowing what do and hoped to be lucky :D It's not the business work - and now I think that being lucky in most cases means that someone will "use you" after all.

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László Károlyi

At some places your sentences were hilarious to read in a good way (I've had polish colleagues before, so I know the unintentional but hilarious mistakes they make while speaking English), and I also like your enthusiasm and willpower.

However, you'll see as you get older, that you start to work smarter, not harder. I'm very suspicious of startups these days, because 9 out of 10 will fail within the first year, much worse they will leave you with a lack of purpose and a sense of wasted time since they have no well laid out future plans and provide nothing new of value in the first place. Yet they will try to lure you with buzzwords to "be a part of something great", which most likely will never happen.

But then again, as for your private endeavors: if you never try, you'll never succeed, so fail fast.

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Przemysław Thomann Author

I've translated Facebook posts from Polish to English directly in browser just for making screenshot (and I know sound a little wired). Anyway I understand what you mean with that English.

In my case I am still in blockchain and crypto and I still love that space. I think I would be much more disappointed and angry about that year if I've spent it on something what I started to consider as a lie or "waste of time" after all. But I believe purpose perception is subjective. Personally I still think that "tokens" can offer a lot but it's too early to utilize it and for sure it's not easy (cheap) topic.

According to 'fail fast' - I understand it much more now. Thanks for comment!

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Tomi Adenekan

I love the story. It embodied the quote " Do your best til l you know better, when you know better, do better. " It must have been tough, but also sort of rewarding. Loved it 😍

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jwe

„ lost 1 year of life „ if you say „lost“, do you mean you really learned nothing? 🙃

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Przemysław Thomann Author

In fact I believe readers will decide by themselves :) I think everyone has own measure of success/loss and this is why for some it may be success for some it may be failure.

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Phong Duong

Your story is great. I belive that you had wonderful experiences in your startup journey. I wish the best for your new startup

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alisherk

Wow. Thank you for sharing this story.

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BjornHollander

Awesome story, very captivating! Thanks for sharing! :D