When your startup fails | TechCrunch

ShelfLife founder learned it doesn’t always go as planned

start a startup like an idea, a presentiment. Maybe the founder sees a pain point and thinks he can solve it with a little technology and change an industry, but it doesn’t always go as planned. That’s what ShelfLife founder Lillian Cartwright found when she launched her startup. When the economy turned around last year and venture capital dried up, Cartwright was forced to shut down her company, taking the painful lessons she learned and moving on to whatever comes after her.

However, when he started out, Cartwright believed that the beverage industry was ripe for digital transformation. While in graduate school at Harvard a few years ago, he came up with the idea of ​​starting a strong seltzer business. He soon realized that sourcing ingredients was more difficult than he imagined, and he began to envision a business, a two-sided marketplace where businesses could find ingredients, negotiate a price, invoice, and pay, all in one convenient place.

It sounds like an idea an industry trapped in paper and manual processes would embrace, but Carwright would realize he may have moved too fast, especially on the accounting side of the business.

When you think about digital transformation, it’s easy to forget that long-held manual processes can be difficult to change. For a startup targeting an industry that’s still mired in paper phone calls, faxes, emails, and bills—even if digital is more efficient, even if it can save money and time—it’s not always easy to change workflows. entrenched in the company.

“I was having a hard time understanding the supplier landscape, figuring out who would supply our juice concentrate, citric acid, cans, labels, everything. By talking to other brands about what some of their issues were, I started to realize that there was an opportunity to open up this process and give it more transparency,” Cartwright told TechCrunch+.

At around the same time that Cartwright was struggling with his mineral water business idea, he had a summer job at Bessemer Venture Partners, scouting e-commerce markets. Without really knowing it at the time, he was laying the groundwork for his startup idea.

The business launched in February 2020 just as the pandemic was taking hold, perhaps a harbinger of things to come. But from the beginning, everything seemed rosy: he managed to raise more than $300,000. He used that money to find a more technical co-founder. Ultimately, he partnered with John Cline, a seasoned engineering manager, who had worked at eBay, Blue Apron, and Google before joining Cartwright to help build ShelfLife.

So far, so good

With Cline in the fold, they began building the platform. The following year, it grossed another $2.7 million. The platform began to come together. The future seemed bright.