Down a tiny alleyway, barely wide enough to fit the procession of delivery vans, BMW SUVs, and Audis that creep through its protected and shadowed asphalt, we were lighting cigarettes, drinking the house Shiraz, and sipping black coffee. It was early — 3:00 pm — and we had the entire afternoon to drink and to talk and to be, and there was nobody to nudge us for the time or glance at their watch.
We were at a café called York Lane, a wine bar in the evenings and a haven for the Startup tragics and government staff and tech “visionaries” desperate for their last round of funding.
The crypto startup had been running on fumes for months. They’d been desperately short on cash, after a failed ICO, and they were broken and broke and bewildered. We drank together because drinking was the last thing we could think of to do. I had given all I could, edited pitch decks and written strategies and tried to help.
We were all hanging ourselves, running out of rope and hoping against hope that we could manufacture a gubernatorial pardon. We were all fucked and we could see it in each other’s eyes and smell it in our shared desperation and taste it in the increasingly cheaper rounds we bought as the minutes ticked by and our runway ate itself.
The product had been there, the team had believed, and the stars had not aligned. The bloggers had told us to avoid having a plan B, to believe in ourselves, to stay on our laptops when the bourgeoisie had retired to the bar and the understanding was that somehow it would all work out. We were lied to, and we lied to each other, convinced that the bleeding hands that clutched the life rope could hold on in the midst of the tempest and the raging storm.
The crypto startup’s ride was over. It was over for the dreamers and for the believers who held equity in a breath of nothing and a sparkle of pixie dust too abstract to reliably evaluate. The startup dream was over because we had failed. We had failed in the same class as Steve Baxter’s social skills, we had failed in the same class as 90% of the social networks from the early 2000’s, we had failed like Pets.com.