This week, I turned off the life support for Backpack, my three-year experiment into bettering K-12 education through consistent communication between student, parent, and teacher.
You won’t find much on the internet about the app. It only gained substantial traction in the last eight months of its life:
- Backpack received a grant from the University of Sydney Union’s startup incubator.
- The inaugural Lenovo Choice Award for student-led innovation was won by Backpack.
- The app was listed on Product Hunt, and received media attention both locally and internationally.
- Multiple VCs asked me to pitch Backpack, and ultimately I raised funding from muru-D (the startup accelerator backed by Australia’s largest telco).
The consequences of my decision to shut down are large (at least, for a startup). Backpack was beyond the MVP stage — it was already generating revenue from real customers, and stopping now means I am throwing away $100K+ of secured contracts and pipeline opportunities. That’s not to mention the financial and technical debt incurred during the product’s late-stage development, and the company’s now-damaged reputation with former customers.
Backpack didn’t fail because the problem we were chasing was non-existent, or because the idea was stupid. There are plenty of mothers that have no idea what their sons and daughters are doing at school.
It wasn’t due to lack of resources or market demand. It wasn’t even because I had lost two founders in two months, bringing the app’s development to a major standstill.
I pulled the plug on Backpack because I wasn’t doing it for myself anymore.
I started Backpack as a high school student, building an iPad app that helped me organise my studies. This is a very simple premise; one that can be easily understood by many.
By the time I entered muru-D, Backpack was no longer the student-led, student-focused app it once was. Now, I was promising continuous reporting for parents, integrations with other tech systems for teachers, and automatic notifications for school administrators. I didn’t even know what I was selling anymore.
My time was being spent developing B2B relationships that I hated working on, and trying to deliver value to stakeholders that I share zero empathy with. I was trying to please everyone except for the one group that I actually gave two shits about: the students.
“Bespoke integrations with your 1990s-era software? Sure, we can do that.”
During the first week of muru-D, I was asked the following questions:
- “Where do you see yourself in 10 years time?”
- “What gets you out of bed in the morning?”
- “When three years pass, and everything is going horribly wrong, why are you going to stick around?”
I couldn’t answer any of them.
Six weeks later, and after dropping Backpack, I now have a strong understanding of where I want my company to go, and what motivates me on a daily basis.
My biggest takeaway from Backpack is that, although startups are constantly changing in the search for new customers, you should never build something just because others are asking for it.
Soon, I’ll reveal my new project to the world. I’m excited to be starting from scratch again, on a B2C product that will genuinely impact people’s lives.
Plus, I get to build something for students again 😊
This article was originally published on Medium and republished on Aeona with permission from Giorgio Doueihi.
Aeona decided to bring this post to our audiences because we strongly believe that entrepreneurs should be driven by a purpose that deeply aligns with themselves. This purpose pushes us to jump out of bed every morning and tackle the mountains that we have to climb. Without this purpose, we’ll be lost in the clutter of the modern world and be living our lives without direction. So always take the time to think back to your ‘why’ and make sure you clarify your mission.