I gave up

I first shared this blog post as my Facebook status. For more frequent updates, you can follow me on Facebook.

This is the news I haven’t particularly looked forward to sharing…

I’m no longer working on my startup, Giveit100/Waffle. And starting today, I’m looking for my next design gig. If you know a SF startup in need of a jack-of-all-trades designer, hit me up.

So… what happened? I resigned, I left, I quit – whatever way you put it. But really, I gave up. To all our users and to everyone who believed in us and helped us along the way – Thank you. I’m sorry I let you down.

Giveit100 will still remain running. People can still use it. Eventually, when we can no longer justify paying server costs, we’ll move it over to Instagram. We’ll give plenty of notice for people to download their videos before that happens.

For the better part of a year, my co-founder Finbarr and I tried to make Giveit100 work as a business. We couldn’t – not without turning it into the kind of business neither of us wanted to work at (a B2B sales-driven marketing agency). We got users – lots of users – and lost them almost as fast. Sure, we were masters of getting press, but we hadn’t built a product that could keep people around.

For a few months I had this sinking feeling that Giveit100 couldn’t work as a startup. If you saw me at that time you probably remember I was extremely stressed. It’s not fun to realize that your grandiose dreams that you maniacally believed in – aren’t going to work. Successful startups, the ones who make it – all make life easier in some way. Giveit100 wasn’t making life easier – it was instead capturing a very difficult behavior. It was more a social movement, a mass art project. If we’re measuring success by lives affected positively, I think we did pretty well. But as a startup, it failed.

So we pivoted to Waffle. After a few weeks the novelty wore off, and I realized I wasn’t excited about photo messaging. I didn’t think Waffle was fulfilling.

So I failed to find something that could satisfy both conditions: 1) I was obsessively passionate about it and 2) we could turn it into a business. Finbarr’s much better at prioritizing #2, and he’s continuing on with the company. And I’ve found #1, or rather have known it all along but I’d put it aside to work on Giveit100 at the time.

#1 is an unreleased dance project. I’m estimating it will take me about 2 years of practice for it to be ready. Working as a designer again, instead of as a founder, will let me dance more. Pretty freaking excited about that.


  • You and your original video inspired me. I still watch it for a pick me up sometimes. I tried to give your startup a gofor a little while and though I couldn’t hang with it, it inspired me to start drawing again and it actually helped me break out of my engineer brain jail cell. ( i am a marine engineer ). I now look for little ways to build in aesthetic and creativity in all my projects.

    I look forward to following you and your passion for your dancing i also inspiring. keep it up

  • I never thought I will read this,
    :) (a smile).

    First, let me say, I salute you, your guts and your effort.
    Seeing your video and your blog, how you change from Product Management, to a designer, and then to entrepreneur, struck me a lot.
    You are younger than me but did a lot and have a lot of experiences.

    I think I almost read all of your blog at that time. Hahahaha..

    Your start up indeed excites me, I even ask this on Quora

    I guess now I must salute you again, how you can admit your defeat and move to the next phase.

    Wish the best for you.

    Notes :
    Tell us if you happen to have a chance to go to Indonesia. It will be a lovely chance to meet you.

  • Thanks to our local newspaper featuring your idea of donut selfie, i came across your blog. I love your idea of giveit100 but unfortunately it has to come down to this. Have you thought about monetize your website so that it can self sustain because honestly from me, your idea is great and it encourages people to learn something new throughout their life time. It’s very positive and noble idea.

  • I’m sad to hear that you are no longer working on GiveIt100. I must admit I was one of the people that fell off using the site toward the end of my 100 days, although I finished my project. GiveIt100 is a great idea and it would have been so nice to see it take off!
    Good luck finding a job that uses your awesome skills and creativity. This may be a bit random, but you should check out this job… StyleSeat is located in San Francisco and they seem like they’re an amazing company on the rise.
    Best of luck with whatever you do next!!!

  • I’m sorry to hear, Giveit100 was an interesting project.

    Good luck in your next gig.

    Btw, thanks for your articles about learning design. They have been really helpful.

  • I was really sad after reading this, then I watched your video about your journey with giveit100, and now I’m REALLY sad. Well, just as long as your happy in recent decision, I guess I should be happy too. By the way, I thought that giveit100 was an incredibly awesome idea. Watching the video really made me realize that no matter how hard achieving my goals in life may seem, being hard isn’t the equivalent to being impossible. I can do this, I just need to give it 100.

  • Hi Karen,
    Just my two cents about Give it 100, instead of running in into a B2B sales business, why can’t we run it like Wikipedia. There is no ads or anything on Wikipedia that generate profit, however, they still survive. Why? Users’ donation!

    Indeed, Give It 100 wasn’t making people’s life easier immediately, but Give It 100 gives people a better life in the long run, it change users’s behavior and creating long-lasting influence to their lives.

    Kindly Regards,

  • Giving up is not equal to failure! I lost everything I made in my 1st startup in my second startup :) – and am having to start again. Its very disheartening and disappointing – but I found your blog today and it really gave me the push I needed! Keep doing what you love and you’ll get there soon xo

  • Hi Karen,

    I just came across your blog for the first time today, as I am transitioning out of management and focusing on my photography and design goals. The way you communicate is not only effective, but honest. Thanks for sharing your dreams and outlining how you got (and/or are) getting there. I’m sure many other unknown faces feel the same way.
    Best of luck,

    Kara Barnes
    Seattle, Washington

  • Hi Karen,
    I came across your blog over a year ago when i googled “teach myself to design websites”.
    i didn’t know until now you were behind giveit100 or that you’re the girl who’s learninf to dance vid went viral. I came looking to see what happened to the blog that inspired me to let go of my fears and learn to design again. I know you’re not here to change the world, you’re just living your life and sharing it, and with that you HAVE changed millions of lives. I just want to say thank you And wish you the best in whatever you choose to do. Whatever it is, you’ll be great, because you’re not a quitter, even if you decide something isn’t right for you because you wanted to do it for the right reasons . That’s being brave.
    stay brave :)

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