Focus on one thing at a time, or nothing will get done. Pick your head up every so often to make sure that one thing still makes sense.

The tough part is defining “still makes sense”. Highest chance of monetary reward? Highest quality of life? Biggest opportunity to make a difference? Highest chance of adoption? Of course, you can’t predict a single one of these outcomes, so you’ve got to take a guess.

My preferred outcome has even changed over time. When I graduated school, I was more interested in doing something that would lead into a career, and the flexibility to still pursue music. I joined a web startup in the music industry that allowed me to focus on a new skill set, network in the music and startup industry, and keep my Athens, GA lifestyle. So it was a mix of future thinking + passion project + freedom + balance of life.

  • It had very little monetary reward.

  • It had very little chance of adoption (in retrospect - if we knew this going in we wouldn’t have done it).

  • It had very little chance of ‘making a difference’ in the world.

  • It made sense for me, for my personal goals, desires, passions

This first startup was an idea one of us had and just thought about incessently, thus transfering that passion over to the rest of our team and birthing the startup (We’ll call it SongRankings…I’m not the sole owner of the project so don’t want to tarnish it if I can help it. That would not be helpful if they aren’t ready to cut the cord! )

As we all know, things change. Goals change, life situations change. Many times, it becomes necessary to cut the cord on that startup that at one time or another was your whole life.

When you should cut the cord:

Let’s take SongRankings as an example. The project started in 2008. One person was full time, 2-3 others were part time co-founders. It costs maybe $30 a month to host, at times going higher, maybe $60. It costs ~ $15 for a domain name a year. To keep it alive now, in 2014, it costs a few hours a month in social media and communinity / brand management, plus the technical expenses. It also costs brain power that distracts all the founders away from their current jobs / startups / meditation retreats.

I propose we cut the cord, but I’m only 1 of 4.

To make it more objective, let’s define when a startup should be powered down, taken off of life support, put in the recycle bin and ctrl-click + empty recycle bin.

The cut the cord checklist. If you answer ‘yes’ on, let’s say 5 out of 7 of these, then it’s time to cut the cord.

  • There’s no full time project leader, and there’s no plan for a full time leader in the next 12 months ( without leadership, it’s probably not going anywhere )
  • It doesn’t make enough money on it’s own to pay it’s own bills ( $40 a month for hosting * 12, 24, 48 months of a dying idea…that’s a brand new xbox you gave up, and maybe a new TV, soundsystem and comfy chair! )
  • It takes time from your other project(s) / job ( sacrificing for something that isn’t going anywhere is not a good sacrifice )
  • Someone else is doing it better ( the need is being met elsewhere )
  • You never achieved product market fit ( the users don’t care )
  • You don’t lose sleep over this idea anymore ( if you don’t want it to be in existence, then who’s going to move this idea forward? )
  • There’s way too much technical debt. i.e. if you picked it back up, you’d have to re-write the code. Maybe it was written in Rails 2 and we’re now on rails 4. ( Might as well drop this projet and if you pick it back up in the future, re-write it then ).

That’s a good start. Now, to send this to the other founders…

nice read(s): If you want to be successful, be inconsistent