Insight Article: Discotech
Successful startups and entrepreneurs will tell you that finding success isn’t easy. There is no hard and fast formula to finding success — the journeys are varied, and often the only thing they all share in common is how difficult they can be.
We sat down with Ian Chen, co-founder of Discotech to ask him where his journey has taken him, and if he’s learned anything during his time as an entrepreneur, it’s how to deal with the inevitable setbacks.
The Discotech Story: Full Time Entrepreneurship, Growing Pains, and Perseverance
Discotech was originally formed by Ian and three of his friends from UC Berkeley. The idea came when they would go clubbing on Friday nights in some of LA’s popular venues — they realized that surely there had to be a better way for venues to connect with prospective partygoers.
They began developing Discotech on the side, working together to create mockups of the app to set meetings with large nightlife venues in LA to explain and pitch the idea to them. As they continued pitching and received verbal commitments of support, all four founders agreed that there was a very real possibility for their idea to disrupt the nightlife space.
All four founders quit their jobs and began working on Discotech full time.
They ran the first three or four years of Discotech incredibly lean, operating solely on bootstrapped funds and $400k of angel funding, hustling hard to start building the product and growing their business.
Before long, one of the original four co-founders burned out from the hustle and ended up leaving the team, and they ran into the standard growing pains that most startups encounter. They had a hard time gaining traction and faltered in maintaining the momentum they had built.
Their largest setback came when they were raising their next round of funding. They’d been working to raise $1 million in funding and had approximately $900k committed, but one of their largest backers fell through at the very last minute, causing the round to collapse, causing another of Discotech’s founders to leave.
The team was forced to decide: were they going to give up then or tough it out for a while longer?
Chen recalls that they “had already committed so much blood, sweat, and tears” to the Discotech cause that they decided to tough it out until their next busy season in the coming summer. “We had hopes and dreams that we didn’t want to give up on.”
It was this passion combined with a fear of failure that pushed them through the lowest point of their entire journey.
After putting in two and a half years of hard work and dedication, the Discotech team made it to the coming busy season and picked up the traction that they needed to keep going.
Their secret to making it that far? Perseverance.
“In our case there was no pivot,” Chen says. “We just worked hard, continued to make improvements, and delivered good experiences to the customers that we had.”
After recovering from their lowest point and making it to new highs and memorable milestones, Chen and the Discotech team have learned a great many lessons in entrepreneurship and sustaining their business.
Don’t Give Up
Chen acknowledges that this bit of advice may be biased based on his experience, but if you really believe in your business and what you’re doing (and other people sincerely believe in what you’re doing too), then you’ve probably got something worth pursuing.
One of the most important things he’s learned is how to deal with setbacks and disappointments. Entrepreneurship is inherently full of risks, and you have to be prepared to know when to take them.
He’s found that success is a combination of good, hard work, perseverance, and maybe a little bit of timing. If you’ve put in enough time and work and you play it smart, you’re probably going to find a light at the end of the tunnel.
Choose Your Team Wisely
Other entrepreneurs have told us as much before, but the people that you choose to man your startup will be some of the people you spend the most time with.
You need to find people that you can work with who simultaneously share your passion and can keep you accountable. In the case of Discotech, only two of the original four founders remain: Chen and one of his best friends, Mark Wu.
They persevered and kept pushing for Discotech’s success not only because they believed in the product that they had created, but because they didn’t want to disappoint each other. Their friendship and camaraderie had been one of their biggest motivating factors in pushing them to continue taking risks.
Don’t Get Lost in the Hustle
A startup is only part of your life, even if it feels like it’s all of your life and more. But life will still go on outside of your startup, and you need to strike a healthy balance between living life and working as an entrepreneur.
Finding the balance between the hustle and being able to step away from it all could mark the difference between making it through the long-haul and burning out too quickly.
“Being an entrepreneur is a choice,” Chen reminds us. “At the end of the day, you’ll still be you.”
Find Help and Get a Mentor
Don’t be afraid to reach out to other entrepreneurs for help. There are many successful entrepreneurs out there that are incredibly supportive and want to share their advice.
Everyone has been through the struggle, and they want to pay it forward or back. There are entrepreneurs that are willing to give advice and mentorship without wanting anything in return, and Chen has found that there’s a lot of empathy in the entrepreneurial community. They’ve all been there before, and they can share what’s helped them out of similar situations.
Discotech is the OpenTable for Nightlife. Our free to download mobile app and website make it easier for customers to discover events, reserve tables, buy tickets, and sign up for free guest lists at nightlife venues in different cities.