Why I Killed My Startup: 3 Lessons I Learned

As an entrepreneur, it's essential to be honest with yourself and recognize when a project isn't working out.

Today, I've made the difficult decision to shut down TrailerWave, a project that aimed to create promotional videos for Shopify e-commerce stores. While it's a bittersweet moment, I've learned valuable lessons that will guide me in future endeavors.

1. Start with a Problem, Not a Technology

One of the main reasons TrailerWave failed was that we started the project with the desire to work with a specific technology (Remotion for video editing) rather than identifying a real problem to solve.

This approach was flawed from the beginning, as successful startups must address a genuine need, preferably one that the founders themselves have experienced.

We lacked a deep understanding of the e-commerce space and the specific challenges faced by Shopify store owners. Without this crucial knowledge, we were building a solution without truly comprehending the problem we were trying to solve.

2. Prioritize Distribution Channels and Customer Acquisition

Another critical mistake we made was not focusing on distribution channels and customer acquisition from the outset.

Instead of building a Shopify app directly available in the Shopify Marketplace, we created a standalone product that required users to manually input their Shopify links.

By neglecting to understand the Shopify ecosystem and how merchants interact with it, we didn't leverage this possible distribution channel and made it unnecessarily difficult for our target customers to discover and use our product.

Distribution should have been a top priority, as even the best product will fail without a solid strategy for reaching its intended audience.

3. Invest in SEO and Content Marketing from Day One

Lastly, we overlooked the importance of SEO and content marketing, which are essential for driving organic traffic and building brand awareness.

Our website was essentially a login screen with minimal information about the product or its use cases. Without a consistent flow of new visitors and a content strategy to engage potential customers, we relied solely on outreach campaigns, which yielded minimal results.

In today's digital landscape, neglecting SEO and content marketing is a surefire way to remain invisible to your target audience.

Why we Decided to Shut Down TrailerWave

Despite having had a couple of customers and some interest in the product, we were never able to create excitement around the product. We were never able to get the product to a point where it was self-sustaining and growing. Most of our marketing efforts were cold outreach, and we never managed to get any organic traffic to the website.

This lack of excitement around our product, combined with the fact that we are not experts in this field, made us decide to shut down the project. We were no longer feeling the intrinsic motivation that is needed for an entrepreneur to keep pushing through the hard times.

Moving Forward with Lessons Learned

While shutting down TrailerWave is disappointing, it has provided me with invaluable lessons that will shape my approach to future projects.

I now understand the importance of starting with a genuine problem, prioritizing distribution channels and customer acquisition, and investing in SEO and content marketing from day one.

Additionally, I've learned that it's crucial to be intrinsically motivated by the industry you're targeting. Attempting to enter a new space without a deep connection or understanding can be an uphill battle.

As I move forward, I'll apply these lessons to find a product idea that aligns with my interests and solves a problem I can personally relate to. By starting with a solid foundation and a customer-centric approach, I'll increase my chances of success in future entrepreneurial endeavors.

Keep following me on Twitter (@joaoaguiam) to stay updated on my future projects and learnings.

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