What It Feels Like When Your Startup Fails

Pinnacles_Night_Sky_-_Flickr_-_Joe_Parks


There is relief in knowing it’s over. It’s a kind of relief you could never anticipate. Not at the very beginning, in the middle, or as the end draws close. When you begin to sense that your startup is really falling apart it’s typically too late to do anything about it. That feeling begins somewhere deep in the pit of your stomach. The closest feeling I can imagine is the sense of panic that the sky might be able to fall down. As the pieces begin to truly fall apart the panic builds. It creeps up when you least expect it, and it settles in to ride out the end. It’s the uncertainty that will really get you though. Until you finally make the decision, and finally draw the curtain. Then there is relief, which will come as a surprise but will be welcomed with open arms.

And then you can move on.

That One Time I Was In An Ad Campaign For Yelp

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This was easily one of the funniest things I’ve ever agreed to do. I had no idea I’d be showing up around the globe (Paris, Munich, Hamburg, Berlin, Boston, Seattle, etc), but these crack me up so I’m going to just leave them here. The experience was really fun, and unlike anything I’d done before. Woke up at 5AM, started shooting at 6AM, had my hair and makeup done for each location, etc. They had me bring my own clothes and then styled them, which was my favorite part. How often do you get to have a professional take a spin through your closet? This was also totally worth doing for the hilarious text messages people have sent me as they’ve encountered these ads in various locations- (for some reason all the people I know passed through Berlin this summer). Thanks to Jon A. (previous SF Yelp CM) for reaching out to me to do this. :)

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I Drank the Birthright Kool-Aid, and It Tasted Like Manischewitz

very grape-y

One month ago today I bit the bullet and actually went on the dreaded Birthright trip. I know- I’m about as surprised as you are, given what you could call my original dead-set hesitation to participating in a radically propagandistic venture. It turns out that a mix of guilt tripping from my non-Jewish friends, being able to go with my best friend, and the prospect of riding a camel was enough to get me to call my own bluff.

So I went.

Lina and I spent approximately 48 hours in transit between San Francisco and Tel Aviv, where we were suddenly living on a bus with 38 extremely East Coast Jews (and later eight Israeli soldiers). Talk about a trip.

The next ten days followed my gradual transition from (basically) refusing to participate, to almost entirely giving in and participating (aside from my iron clad distain for dancing in circles). There was an assortment of hiking, shopping, eating, busing, and listening to great tales of history from our tour guide, Ariel. Oh, and the not unexpected, light-hearted doses of propaganda. It does make sense, to be fair. You, an 18-26 year old with a Jewish relative somewhere in the family tree, get to go to Israel and do all sorts of crazy shit for ten days, for free. All they ask in return is that you come back to Israel, marry a fellow Jew, and have Jewish babies so our people don’t die out.

Seems totally legit to me.

In all seriousness, I did have a great time on Birthright. In addition to witnessing an onstage proposal (one of the most joyful, high energy moments I’ve ever experienced), I met some awesome people, I finally got to see a part of the world I’ve spent several years studying, and most importantly I got to do something crazy with my best friend. I’m hesitant to get too into the religious aspect of things, as I’ve always connected more with the cultural side of Judaism, and I think that still holds true. To be honest I like anything that gets everyone together for dinner. Also hesitant to get into the political side of things, except to say that everything looks different on the ground.

If you have the opportunity to go on Birthright I’d say go for it. Whether or not you need to have Jewish babies to repay the debt, well, that part is up to you.

joyful noises

Post-proposal celebrating

The Shuttle Buses Are Not The Problem.

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 Most of what’s being reported about the “class warfare” occurring in San Francisco is happening from afar. I’d like to zoom in for a second and point a few things out. First of all, while calling the recent Google shuttle protests “class warfare” sounds exciting and sort of SF does Les Mis-ish, I think this is taking it WAY too far. Let us not forget that the type of people who are drawn to the Bay Area are passionate individuals who love to take up a cause. For the most part the recent protests have seemed reasonable to me if not downright necessary. Gay marriage? Absolutely. Public nudity rights? Not for me, but hey, whatever floats your boat. But protesting companies like Yahoo and Google for running shuttle buses from SF to the peninsula is not the same as protesting for our rights. In fact, it’s just the opposite. Everyone has a right to live in the city. Riding a shuttle, in fact, keeps more cars off the roads.  For everyone who is enraged at the ruling that companies using Muni stops will pay $1 per stop, you need to understand the fact that the city isn’t allowed to make a profit on this, and that it is just a pilot program. It’s a step in the right direction.

What pisses me off the most is that I might be clumped in with the entitled tech startup stereotype because I work at a tech startup, but I’m still living paycheck to paycheck, and my only form of transportation is my bicycle. Housing rates are ridiculously high, but that’s because SF is an awesome city, a lot of people want to live here, and the amount of housing hasn’t increased at anything like the rate that people have been moving here. The shuttles are nothing more than a symptom of the tech boom.

So let’s not waste any more time talking about them, and instead focus our energy on finding ways to increase housing or make housing more affordable.

How I Ended Up On The Beach

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There are two kinds of people in this world. The kind of people who enjoy making cold calls, and the kind of people who don’t.

Having worked as a student caller for my college’s annual fund, I can tell you it takes a very special kind of crazy to enjoy cold calling. While some people find steady defamation and rejection to be motivating, I simply do not. My greatest frustration lay in the fact that if I could get someone on the phone, nine times out of ten I could get them to donate. Unfortunately, the chances of getting anyone to (happily) answer their phone between 5PM and 7PM, prime dinner/relaxation/ family time, were slim to none. Alumni were annoyed, even furious, at being disturbed and I in turn was frustrated beyond belief. Our sales manager could not for the life of her understand why we weren’t able to pump cash out of alumni the way students had in the pre-recession years. It was almost as if people suddenly prefered to donate online, on their own time. Shocking.

After a year I threw in the towel. Making a decent commission every once in a while simply wasn’t worth the hours of frustration, which I felt sedimented into my psyche long after work was over. I knew deep down there had to be a better way.

Fast forward three years.

I’m three weeks into a job with an awesome (super early stage) startup called Sales Beach. We’re automating outbounds sales, which means no more horrible cold calling. The opportunity to build a business from the ground up is fantastic, and more fun than I ever could have anticipated. My team is incredible, and I feel lucky to be working in a four person company that allows me the freedom to figure out which skills I want to strengthen, and which I want to gain. Who knows what the future will hold, but for now I’m enjoying working from the beach.

:)

Ps. check out my writing for the Sales Beach blog here.

Why I’m Not Ready To Drink The Birthright Kool-Aid

Whose Birthright is it anyway?

Today I got a text message from Birthright letting me know that registration for winter trips is now available. Registration and assignment for these trips is extremely competitive due to a limited number of spots, yet I took no action.

For those of you who don’t know, Birthright is a program that sends Jews under the age of 25 (who have never been) to Israel for free. Friends of mine who have gone on the trip swear by it, and regale me with stories of adventures and partying. “It was so fun!” they say, “and it’s free!” My non-Jewish friends also harp on this point when birthright comes up. “It’s a free trip to another country!” I’m unsettled by the propagandic spin of the Birthright trip, during which the organization hopes participants will (in the course of ten days) find “nice Jewish partners to have nice Jewish babies with.” When I express my feelings about this friends retort with, “just go on the trip and extend your stay so you can see Israel on your terms.”

Sure a free trip to a foreign country is a sweet opportunity, but to be completely honest, I’m just not ready to drink the Kool-Aid.

As a child I attended Hebrew school twice a week, learning the merits of Reform Judaism and bagels. From ages 5-16 I accepted the explanation that Israel was the rightful home of the Jews, a place we were assigned in a religious housing lottery by (none other than) God, and a mystical faraway land accurately depicted in various Rugrats Jewish holiday specials. My basic viewpoint as a child was thus: Jews and Israel = good, people who oppressed them = bad.

Then I went to college.

I thoroughly studied the history and politics of both sides of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict from the ground up. Ironically enough, this resulted in my feeling entirely unqualified to form an opinion on the matter. Who am I to decide which group is in the right, and what does being right even mean at this point? From what I understand a vicious cycle of hate has been spiraling out of control (for a very, very long time). The worst part is that the situation seems to be largely perpetuated by government politics (and interests), leaving peaceful Israelis and Palestinians caught (literally) in the crossfire.

If you think you are ‘right’ about one side of this conflict or the other you will never be part of the solution.

Every day Palestinians are forced to wait hours in checkpoints while Israelis (and Birthright participants- ahem Americans) can move freely throughout the country, crossing whatever borders they please. I can’t help feeling like I’m being stared in the face by the sad and sick irony of the Israeli government treating the Palestinians with actions that echo the persecution of the Jews during the Holocaust.

Talk about bad karma. (Not to mention breaking the 6th commandment).

I may decide that I want to go to Israel someday, but when I do it will most certainly be on my own terms.

For those of you eagerly applying to the next round of Birthright my hope is not to discourage you from doing so. My aim is simply to encourage you to remove your blinders, to keep an open mind to the interpretation of history, and to stick to something more natural than Kool-Aid,

like water.

A Call To Arms: Unpaid Internshit

via canadiananimationresources.ca

via canadiananimationresources.ca

In case anyone hasn’t noticed, unpaid internships are bullshit. When I say bullshit I mean bullshit for everyone who is currently living life physically and financially independently from their parents (ie. as “adults“). For those individuals who can afford to live at home and continue suckling from the parental teat, unpaid internships are a cup of tea. I hope companies are aware, though, that they are self-selecting for the most pretentious and entitled among the recently (or not so recently) graduated talent pool.

I mean really, who are these companies kidding?

My recent experiences job hunting in the Bay Area have fostered enough frustrations to write about. I spent time and effort applying to two internship opportunities that sounded incredible. Neither of them specified that the internship was unpaid. I made it halfway through a phone interview for one before the interviewer quickly slipped in that the position was unpaid. I was more than a bit surprised. What was even more surprising was that the interviewer suggested we could “use a loophole” by having me enrolled in a class at a community college which I would “never have to attend” in order to obtain a $1000/month stipend. Which would be totally fine, if I could live off of sunshine and never pay taxes. 

Unfortunately, this is reality.

The other internship I’d applied for also turned out to be unpaid (having learned from experience, I inquired about payment via email). Though unpaid the position would offer “oodles of good things including lunches, tickets, breakfasts, and a well-stocked fridge.”

Too bad my roommates wouldn’t be stoked about living in an apartment made of cardboard.

So what’s my moral? I promise this isn’t solely a rant about job hunting. I honestly believe that by offering unpaid internships companies are cheating themselves out of worthy talent. Much more troublingly, they’re teaching us Millenials to undervalue ourselves, and our skills.

Work experience should not come at the cost of self worth.

At the end of the day I might be able to squeak by working an unpaid internship and living off of friends couches. But I’m going to hold out until I find the right company that will value my work with proper compensation, and you should too.