Throwing in the towel and new beginnings
Donald Jun 22 Updated on Jul 17, 2018
If you ended up here from jogral.co, while the content in this post is true (Jogral the brand is going away, but Jogral the business is not), I'm temporarily redirecting to this post for the time being. The old website, however, is going away.
Starting another business
In summer 2016, my wife had a critical medical problem that resulted in 2 weeks of going back and forth to the emergency room to find absolutely nothing but some vague suggestions that may help in a problem that may not exist.
The job I had at the time was well-paying--until you look at health insurance, then you realize how people can get so close to being bankrupted by the mere act of trying to get better. So, I decided my long-term goal of finally starting another business got accelerated.
But, I had nothing I could think of. I didn't want to make custom software for people, because it was miserable for me and rife with under-appreciation across the industry. I tried consulting, but I hated selling (if we use the definition you find from sales coaches, social media, and other "one-size-fits-all" strategies) and had no real contacts (too many sales meetings ended up being a waste).
Then, I tried to make software, because one thing I really enjoy doing is mentoring and teaching, so I made an LMS around that. Organizations didn't care unless it was very cheap or I could do some consulting above, which usually translated to, "Can you build me this app?"
My experience at Jogral
These forays became what I called Jogral. I tried all the steps to try to get business: focusing on a niche, partnering with other businesses, doing talks--you name it!
The talks I did had a total of 1 attendee, none of the niches worked out, and the partnering was a lot of wasted time.
What was the biggest realization, though, was that I hated all of it. I hated writing code, I hated thinking about technology and the business and blah blah blah. The only reason I was even doing a tech consultancy/software company was that I've done it for so long.
But it wasn't what I wanted. I was tired of someone telling me "Everyone should want what you're selling," just to have them not understand or not be interested in how their routine costs them money. I learned a lot about human nature, and I got even more jaded. Nobody wanted what I had to sell, or if they did, they just disappeared after paying for awhile.
I hated technology. I remember when I got that job I talked about earlier, I was shifting from a developer role to a sales one. I didn't miss opening an IDE at all. Sometimes for a demo I wrote some code, but it was the best kind of code: code I only had to write when I wanted to.
The truth is that tech was my fallback. My first business was doing Japanese-English translations. I made money, but it wasn't really working. I was 19, and I couldn't afford to grow the business to where I was at least breaking even. So I joined a tech company.
When I sat and thought about my career journey, I realized that this was a fallback for me. Not something I wanted to invest I was "passionate" about.
Then I thought about my compensation over the years. What has a tech career done for me? Barely keep my head above water. The stories of huge salaries and equity you can cash out on never happened to me.
Add to that, I was a young, bitter, jaded tech worker with 2 young kids that I didn't even want to deal with because of tech. Not until I started Jogral did I really start being the husband and dad I wanted to be.
Tech has done more harm than good for me. A common talking point is how unwelcoming it is to non-whites. While I think the conversation requires nuance, I can tell you I've absolutely had to deal with racism in tech. This is just icing, though. The primary reason tech is "unwelcoming" to me is less to do with systemic blah blah blah and more that it is often unrewarding and doubly so when you realize you don't need to be a "good person" to run a tech company, meaning anyone from an upstanding citizen to a carcinogen of a human being can found a company and have it be successful.
Practically, I decided to try a few more things before ending Jogral. I did recruiting for 2 months, but I wanted to really sit and think about what I want to do that I'll be more willing to do something laborious (like selling).
I don't have a fully developed solution, but I have thought about what I try to do no matter what's happening.
In the process of all of this, I've found satisfaction in cooking (although I've been doing more baking, which wasn't what I intended, but I'm enjoying it) and learning languages and cultures.
Last year, I started learning Modern Greek. (I learned Ancient Greek in college.) Like I did when I learned Portuguese, I started cooking Greek food (although I made Brazilian food when I started learning Portuguese). The fondest memories of my career have been not just the training, but working with other markets and cultures. I launched the digital presence for a Japanese subsidiary at one company, trained Canadian and Australian teams, too; I worked with (mostly) a Brazilian subsidiary at another.
I've always wanted to journal my experience learning a language and what's going on in a culture, and I've started that this month.
Nearly every day, I take my notebook and write down an idea--any (non-tech) idea--of something I could do. Right now, I'm working at a tech startup, which has definitely helped, and that's given me the opportunity to think about non-tech ventures. It's been rewarding, because it's helped me think about my values and what I want. Doubly better, the startup shares a lot of my values about how a tech company should be, and it's made it easier to still work in tech.
There's quite a few options for me. Jogral didn't take off, but now I don't feel guilty about it.
My earlier businesses I learned lessons mostly about business. With Jogral, I learned lessons about me. Jogral became a lot of things that just didn't do it for me, and I had a lot of people pushing me to keep it going. Granted, a number of those people had an incentive to keep me going, (I was paying them.) and I got to think about that during my post-mortem.
I don't know what I'm doing next yet, but I know I can choose. Whatever it is, my goal is to focus on my interest in languages and cultures. Whether that means import/export or something else, I don't know, but I do know it won't be my fallback.
It'll be my first choice.