I never imagined how difficult it would be to share that Huma (Formerly Shake) is shutting down after two years.
We’re incredibly grateful to the customers who supported us, the thousands of students from around the world who signed up, the investors who believed in us and the advisors who guided us.
Three weeks ago I was faced with my toughest decision yet as founder and CEO: Put my health at risk and fly back to San Francisco in an attempt to raise additional funding or put my health first and take time off. Two years of blood, sweat and tears hung in the balance and for the first time, I needed to put myself first in the decision process.
“If you don’t have your health, you don’t have anything.”
I was staring founder burnout in the eyes as I struggled with depression, anxiety and panic attacks, each exacerbated by mental and physical exhaustion. I no longer recognised myself and it was time to face reality.
An important realisation was that my burnout was a symptom of our failure, and not the cause. We shipped our MVP a year too late, we waited too long to raise funding, we didn’t raise enough when we did, we were clueless about marketing, our go to market strategy wasn’t solid, we rebranded two weeks before official launch, etc…
Mistakes like this create additional work and obstacles for the team, and can easily take your startup off course. As a result we never emerged from the “struggle” during those two years. There is only so long you can operate in survival mode when the responsibility falls on one person, and unfortunately it took its toll on me.
On a sunny afternoon in early May, 2014, I left the office with a freshly sealed envelope—one which contained the company incorporation documents that were about to make my startup journey official, as a first time entrepreneur. I stood in front of the mail box and thought to myself “This is it… there’s no turning back now” before letting the envelope slide away into darkness.
The emotions I experienced in those initial weeks were a cocktail of excitement and fear, and before long they became one. I had just quit an amazing job, leaving behind a six-figure salary and lot of security, all in an attempt to solve a problem I was obsessed with – was I crazy? Sure.
The vision for Huma was simple. We wanted to help students find jobs they would love, in companies that would love them. To do this we would need to create a two-sided marketplace for students and hiring managers, which would match candidates with jobs in a friendly and personal way – similar to what OkCupid do with dating.
It’s been an incredible journey, one I am only beginning to put into words, but there’s no time to wallow in self pity. Looking back, I had the blind ambition I needed to risk everything knowing the odds were against me — and I’d do it again.
As long as you can still grab a breath, you fight. You breathe… keep breathing.
Despite our shortcomings, I’m proud of what we’ve achieved. We built a team of 4, raised over $300,000 from investors in Dublin, Hamburg, Munich, San Francisco and Silicon Valley, brought a product to market, had paying customers, students who were successfully hired, executed a full rebrand, established US and Irish operations, received a lot of great press, designed an incredible looking product, and much more.
More and more people are talking about their personal struggle as entrepreneurs and founders. If you’re going through this or have been through it I’d love to hear from you – hello[at]kevinholler[dot]com or @iamkevinholler on twitter.