Tag Archives: Startup

The Trough of Sorrow

Weekly Visits to Cost2Drive (past 18 months)

Trend-line Turns Vertical on Cost2Drive.  Are We There Yet?

Over the past few weeks something remarkable has been happening with visits to Cost2Drive.com, our popular fuel cost calculator website.  They’ve begun growing at an accelerating pace leading us to wonder if we’ve broken through some type of barrier, emerging from the infamous ‘trough of sorrow’.

Paul Graham, the essayist and hugely successful founder of Y Combinator, has a  chart that he uses to depict the process of a startup.  The process, which some refer to as the startup curve, defines the typical phases of a startup.

Paul Graham: The Process of a Startup

According to Paul a startup goes through a number of phases, beginning with the novelty phase where there is a huge spike of visits generated via a great deal of press attention and by being the ‘newest cool thing’ on the market.  This phase is fleeting, however, and quickly descends into a lengthy period of despair that he calls the trough of sorrow.  If you’re lucky enough to emerge from the trough of sorrow and survive the inevitable crash of ineptitude eventually you’ll find your way to the promised land.

I first heard of this startup curve from Brian Chesky, the CEO and cofounder of Airbnb,  a Y Combinator company now valued at over $1 billion.  As I listened to Brian share his own version of Airbnb’s journey from early success to near death to eventual funding, I was immediately struck by the similarities with C2G.

When we first launched Cost2Drive.com back in the fall of 2008 we went through the novelty spike Paul depicts in his chart.  Hundreds of bloggers from around the globe were blogging about us and we ended up with over 170,000 visits in our first month.

Blog post on launch of Cost2Drive.com (I have no idea what it says)

There were thrills and high fives and an abundance of enthusiasm as we watched our daily visits go from 50 per day to 25,000 almost overnight and at one point my engineer cofounder determined we were getting hit 167 times per second!

Blog post on launch of Cost2Drive.com

And then it just evaporated.

Had we known this was the typical process for a startup, perhaps it wouldn’t have been so painful, and in reality I’ll bet less than 1% of all startups actually get the type of traction we saw at launch and I wouldn’t give it back for the world.  But seeing it all disappear was like getting sucker punched in the stomach, and thus we descended into the trough of sorrow.

Blog post on launch Cost2Drive.com

An interesting point about Paul’s chart is that the trough of sorrow is actually the longest phase.  In fact it conveys that the majority of a startup’s life is spent wallowing in the trough, suffering through wiggles of false hope and the crash of ineptitude (yes, we had our version of this as well).

For us the trough has been a long one, and its not yet clear if we’ve emerged or if this is just one of those diabolical wiggles of false hope.  But even if it is it’s still tremendous growth and for a startup growth is the essence of  survival.

CarTripper Wins Week 2 of Search for Next Big Thing in Tech!

Places First in Bloomberg TV – TechStars Startup Competition

A week ago we were informed that our vision for evolving Cost2Drive into a new kind of trip planning application for car travelers was one of 5 startups selected by Bloomberg TV and TechStars in their quest to identify the “Next Big Thing in Tech”.  We were of course thrilled with the news, and what followed was a chaotic, nerve-wracking week that culminated with the selection of CarTripper as winner of Week#2 of the competition.

CarTripper Wins Week #2 of Startup Competition

As a weekly winner we’ll vie for the top position against the 9 other weekly winners at the culmination of the contest.  The winner will not only be featured on Bloomberg TV but will also automatically become a finalist for the TechStars NYC winter program, a program that is reputed to be “tougher to get into than Harvard or Yale.”

This exciting news builds on the  momentum we’ve been feeling since this beginning of the year and we can’t wait to reveal some new products we’ve been working on in the coming weeks.  These reflect some of the most requested features by users of Cost2Drive.com along with a few others that…well…we just thought you’d like.

Thanks to everyone that voted for CarTripper in this week’s competition, and it wouldn’t feel right to close this post without acknowledging some of the other  startups we competed with, especially Home4Dance which put up a valiant fight right to the end (leaving me with more white hairs on my head than I care to count).  I’m a big fan of the arts and love what they are doing so I’m glad to see they are back on the slate for week 3 voting.  You can check them out and vote for them here as well as view the video we submitted for CarTripper.

Home4Dance put up a tenacious fight

One other competitor from last week that my wife really liked was Clique, a social dating application (should I be worried?).  For some reason they seemed very underrepresented in the voting given their logical approach to the very lucrative dating market so you may want to check them out as well.

Although one may think the startup world is full of cut-throat competitors that hate each other, the reality is there’s a tight kinship and empathy that develops among entrepreneurs and so we all want to see others succeed.  With that let me tip my hat to our other competitors from last week’s competition (Bean Sprout and Voyurl) and thank Bloomberg TV and TechStars for putting together this program.

Happy Driving!