Give First. Ask Second.

August begins month 13 in the life of Startup Services. I was born on the 13th, so I don't buy into the whole "bad luck" thing. But this month has forced a deep level of introspection, and it's left me with some questions to ask all of you. First, a little background is in order. (I'll try to be uncharacteristically brief -- mostly by linking to posts with other elements of the backstory).

In 2015, my life kind of fell apart. But after some months of deep thought, I chose the next path, which was to launch Startup Services on July 1, 2016. We did all the learning and pivoting you'd expect, and have been doing ok. There were two major milestones: by the end of 2016, the company had to be self-sufficient, and by July 1, 2017, it had to be generating enough revenue to pay us. We missed both goals, but the first by around $100, and the second by $4. Obviously, we kept going.

But it's still a struggle, and I've been troubled by that. Why aren't we turning away work? You can't set foot in a startup meetup or coworking space without someone lamenting their lack of technical resources, and here we are with an unused pool of resources and experience. Like any good founder, I explored this with both of my cofounders. With my therapist (see "My Other Co-Founder is my Therapist"), I was talking about my growing frustration and animosity towards the Boulder Startup community. For years I've been preaching and practicing "Give First." (Give before you ask for anything in return). I believe in it, but after all this giving, why wasn't I getting anything in return? He, as he often does, had me explain the idea in detail, then, also as he often does, asked an innocuous question: "When you ask for things, what do people say?" I sat silent for a minute or two (while thinking to myself that quiet introspection still costs $4 per minute), then admitted that I didn't know, because I don't ask.

So then Callan and I had a long discussion about the basic premise of the business. We stared at the Lean Canvas for a while. Everything seems to viable. We have happy customers along the spectrum from "I need a little website" through "development on our massive application was stalled." Despite constantly suffering from Imposter Syndrome, people keep doing little things that suggest that I bring some skills to the table. Either we have something great, and no one knows about it, or we've completely deluded ourselves into thinking we do something worthwhile. Either way, I realize there's only one way to find out. I need to ask. In fact, I need to ask you.

So here's my huge "ask second:"

Please take a look at all the things we do and do one of two things: If you think we're a good resource, introduce us to someone (or ten people) who need help with one of the things we do. If not (and, honestly, this is MUCH more important), please tell me why. As nice as positive feedback feels, we learn and improve by hearing what's wrong.