Why I quit my startup even though everything pointed to it becoming successful

After my first startup failed because it didn’t bring in customers and no money (because we hadn’t solved a real problem), it only took a few weeks for my co-founder and me to launch our next startup. campuskraft was a platform where students could do short-term projects for different companies online without having to be hired there. The special thing about it was that all tasks could be done online from the computer and there was an above-average pay for the students. Alternatives students knew at the time were jobs like stocking shelves or delivering food. Typical projects on our platform were market research, trend analysis, data wrangling, and more. So we were able to give suitable tasks to any student, whether a computer science student or a business student. At our first startup, we worked for 12 months without getting a single client, let alone making any revenue. At campuskraft, we had our first client and revenue after 4 days. Our platform was extremely well received by our clients because due to the current situation, many companies are having money problems and can no longer hire new full-time employees and have therefore been looking for ways to outsource their tasks. In contrast to the known freelancer market, we were able to get the companies high-quality work for a low price, because we had screened all the students and had only the best in our talent pool. The weeks went by and we got more and more clients and made more and more sales. One thing that fascinated me the most was that our best working way to get new clients was word of mouth. We realized that we were solving a problem for both our customers and the students that no one had done before, in this way. After working on the startup for 6 months, we were already talking to investors. There was serious interest and we were just a few steps away from collecting our pre-seed round. 

I had been working towards this moment for the last 1.5 years. Even though hundreds of thousands of things could still go wrong, we had finally found something that solved a real problem and that generated more revenue than we had spent. But it was exactly in this situation that I decided to quit. The reason was not that I was afraid of getting serious or because it was too much work. On the contrary, I loved the sleepless nights and the 7 day work weeks. So why did I decide to quit the startup even though all the signs were that it could be successful?

The reason was that I wasn’t very curious about the topic we were working on. That might not sound like a reason to quit at first, but to me, it was a very clear sign. Nowadays a lot of people (especially young founders) strive to found a startup with the intention to sell it in a few years however, this is not my intention when founding a company. An exit should only happen in an absolute exceptional case. I want to found a company that exists in the long run and can grow into a big company. So since it was clear to me that I wasn’t very interested in the topic and that my interests lay in other areas, I knew that I won’t be able to build up this startup for years and that I won’t be able to put 110% of my time into it. In addition, it would not be fair to all stakeholders (co-founders, investors, customers, etc.) of the company if the CEO is not really burning for the idea of his own startup. This can go well for a few months, but not for many years. This decision is now a bit in the past and I had many opportunities to reflect on this decision and I am still sure that this was the best decision I could have made. Fortunately, someone has been found who wants to continue the company, so the problem of companies and students will continue to be solved, but not by me. I am now on the journey to follow my interests in neuroscience and brain-computer interfaces and am already looking forward to the next start-up. But then with a topic, I am burning for. Well now I have to go back to work…

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