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Danielle Morrill
Danielle Morrill

It’s always refreshing and educational to hear startup founders come clean about a company’s struggles. Referly co-founder Danielle Morrill did just that with her latest blog post on how her startup turned into a walking zombie.

“My greatest fear as a startup founder isn’t to fail, it is to become a zombie startup,” she begins. “Kind of like in the 6th Sense when Bruce Willis doesn’t realize he is dead and tries to have a nice dinner with his wife, there are startups out there who are still “operating” but might as well not be.”

Morrill, who previously worked at Pelago and Expeditors International and was an active member of the Seattle startup community, goes on to write an authentic reflection about how her Y Combinator-backed, ten-month-old company “died.”

“It’s not the kind of dead where the website goes dark and everyone gets jobs somewhere else,” she wrote. “But the idea that we started with turned out to be the wrong one, so we killed it and yesterday I acknowledged publicly to ourselves and everyone else that we have to change our course.”

She has some good advice for figuring out if your startup is set to become a zombie. Morrill writes that first, you need to “acknowledge the reality of your situation,” and then from there it’s a “very personal and contextual decision.”

Here are her signs of a startup that’s about to die:

  • You don’t want to get out of bed in the morning
  • You don’t want to go out in public for fear you’ll have to explain what you do
  • You haven’t hit 10% week-over-week growth on any meaningful metric (revenue, active users, etc)
  • You’re working on the same idea after 12+ months and still haven’t launched
  • You’ve launched a consumer service and have less than 2% week-over-week growth in signups
  • You’ve launched an enterprise service and have less than 2% week-over-week growth in revenue pipeline
  • You are the CEO and hole yourself up in the offices so you don’t have to talk to employees and can read TechCrunch
  • You’ve hired consultants to figure out revenue, culture, or product in a company of less than 10 people
  • You’re at SXSW right now reading this post and trying not to cry

Oh, and to get the “full effect,” of the blog post, you’re supposed to listen to this classical song while reading:

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