I tried to start a startup and failed. Now I’m making a game about it!
“Say what?” I hear you ask? Alright let me get a little more specific…
About 3 years ago I started to build a SaaS product called NeuroMine. Initially my goal was learning: I had just been introduced to the world of cloud computing and Azure which made my brain buzz with ideas of what’s possible. NeuroMine was born as a service for performing machine learning in the cloud. The goal was to simplify some ML tasks to a point where anybody could plugin some data and run with it. This may actually not sound that original, but back then there really weren’t many services around doing this sort of thing.
While I would like to think that this started as a fun project for learning, to be honest with myself I always wanted it to eventually become a business. Sure, I learnt a ton of stuff along the way (Neural Networks, Azure infrastructure, Angular JS, and much more). But ultimately I wanted NeuroMine to be more. And with that, I made the most critical mistakes any entrepreneur can make: I built something that nobody wanted. I created a solution (and quite a sophisticated one if I do say so myself), but never actually found the problem it was going to solve.
I tried lots of things over the past year and a half:
- Targeting specific niches like the retail market
- Cold emails
- Setting up a meetup group (perhaps my most successful endeavor)
- Trying to partner with my employer, Readify
- Applying for grants and winning one
- Attending conferences
Ultimately, despite some interest from people, I never got any real traction.
A Moment of Clarity
As hard as it was, I knew I had to let NeuroMine go and let myself explore other things to do with my time. I mean, it was really hard. I started exploring other startup ideas, this time determined to find a real problem to solve before writing a line of code. I looked in my network and spoke with teachers, musicians, builders, town planners and engineers. Ultimately as exciting as each of these were, I couldn’t find anything that I thought was a problem worth solving. Not to say there aren’t problems there (I’m sure there are), just not ones that I was confident anyone would pay me money for to solve, or that was equipped to undertake.
I was getting quite frustrated and sad about the whole situation. It can be paralyzing not being able to build something that has an audience. And then suddenly it occurred to me…
You see, growing up I had always been a hobbyist game programmer. In fact back in 2012 I released a game called Connectorium on iOS. And when I thought about it, that was the first time that one of my side projects actually had a meaningful audience. I sold about 200 -300 copies of it, and once I made it free another 2000 people downloaded it. It’s tiny I realize, but it was still something! Instantly it was clear to me what I want to spend the next few months on: Build a game. Build a game about building a startup!
I had the idea about a week ago and literally started development the same night, using Unity. I have some concrete ideas about the main gameplay mechanics which I’ll be sharing over the coming posts. My goal is to document the journey early and often and get as much feedback I can get. I also plan for this not to take years. I’ll be pushing to have a playable version in a few months.
If nothing else, I’ll get to play the entrepreneur I wanted to be 😉