I am a dreamer guy from the heart of Europe, from a country not many people are familiar with — Slovakia. This story is about how I chased one of my dreams and how it got destroyed.
Goldee was a project I started realizing based on my dreams from childhood. As a 9-year-old boy, I was designing in my head and on paper some intelligent things, such as a vacuum cleaner that would clean the house instead of me, a bicycle that would make fresh popcorn, or a home that would cater to me. They were all fantasies of a child, but I didn’t give up on them, and I was moving closer towards these projects throughout my life.
Since I knew that my dream would involve Artificial Intelligence (AI), I applied to an engineering & technology university and earned a degree in AI. In my senior year, I was ready to start my own project. So in 2011, with my advisor’s help at the university, I researched the world’s most intelligent houses. I was shocked to find out that there was a big gap in the lighting sector. And Goldee was at its beginning.
I started with no experience, no money, no network. The only thing I had was my passion for my dream that was waiting to become real. I found other people who shared the same passion, and we started working on Goldee together. My parents provided us their old apartment where I grew up, and I was drawing the first designs of ‘my smart products .’ This apartment became our first office. We spent all our time there — we worked, slept, talked, and spent our free time behind the same four walls for more than a year. We were fortunate to find an angel investor who fell in love with our idea. The beginnings were challenging but also very exciting.
In 2013 we were drawing our first product — the Goldee App, which consumed many beers, walks, debates, and many sleepless nights. It was hard work but also much joy. It turned out that people loved the Goldee app as much as we did, which was incredibly satisfying. We moved to a real office, started working on a new smart light controller, and b egan preparing for our crowdfunding campaign. We achieved what we set out to achieve — to raise 100k in 25 days to have a market proof for VC investors to join our journey.
I believed in our dream until the very last day, even though we were gradually running out of money. We were forced to think of something to save the company, and I had to let go of half of the team to prolong our existence. However, the cruel situation we got into due to the lack of funds influenced the team’s morale, and people started to be emotional and stressed out. Some members couldn’t accept the fact that they were supposed to leave while others were staying. The stress and disappointment regarding the team’s downsizing escalated into a nasty situation. Some team members started manipulating others with lies, attacking and eventually hacking our server, spreading lies in the media. I became a national failure in one day. The manipulated story of Goldee’s end went viral. It became the most-read article in the most prominent Slovak economic media. It appeared on the national TV news, and many people started to talk rubbish about me, even though nobody from the public knew the real story.
It was challenging to handle, especially with no funds to support our venture and some team members’ emotional explosion. We had put all our money into development since after our successful campaign we didn’t once hesitate that we couldn’t raise more funds. Although we were just a few months into starting the production, we could not move ahead since we were still not getting any new investment.
After all the devastating events, I was forced to admit the end of Goldee, which was not easy. It was a long and exciting journey to see Goldee being born and having its first successes, and it was unfortunate to see it die, especially in such a painful way.
Now that I see it all in retrospect, I believe that this experience taught me a lot about business and people. After all this happened, one of my mentors told me: “You just grew ten years within one month — professionally and personally.” I took a step back in all that turmoil, which enabled me to see it all at a certain distance. I have learned many lessons the painful way, but I still have a lot of optimism and hope. I still am a dreamer. This experience didn’t change my personality; it just shaped my character and made me more mature. Now I have had an opportunity to look back to and see what we’ve done right and what we’ve done wrong, and view it all from a new perspective. I learned so much, and I want to share what I learned with you. My goal is to turn my bad experience into something useful for the rest of you.
Originally published at http://tomasbaran.com on May 26, 2015.