Hello Iris & the Trough of Sorrow (May-Oct 2020)


Nina here, co-founder of Hello Iris. You might remember me from such things as our daily posts on LinkedIn with my co-founder Niloo Ravaei, where we shared the ups and downs of a founder’s journey.

We’ve been away from the LinkedIn game for the past few months since we decided to stop doing our daily posts in May. We never really explained that decision (partly because we thought we’d come back to them eventually), and I’d like to fill in some of the gaps!

And also announce something that might be a little bit exciting ;-)

We started doing our daily posts back when Hello Iris was a dating app. We wanted to build a culture of transparency, honesty, and vulnerability in dating. But rather than demanding that from our customers straight up, we wanted to start by modelling that behaviour ourselves. So we started sharing daily insights into what building a company was really, actually like.

We talked about the good (“We’re getting strong interest from investors! We got into Techstars! Customers are validating our idea!”), the bad (“Our accelerator application was rejected! The hiring grant we were hoping for fell through!”), and the ugly (“I took 3 days off and alternated between crying and staring at the ceiling! Niloo and I got into a huge fight in the middle of the Techstars room! I’ve woken up with stress-related body pain for the past 3 weeks!”).

As we pivoted away from building a dating app, the connection between our mission and the goal of the daily posts kept getting weaker. We still thought they were interesting, but we kept them going out of habit more than anything else. And then at one point, we just stopped.

Looking back, we realized that we’ve spent most of this year in the trough of sorrow. We wanted to leap into the “right answer” from the start rather than trusting that we could make progress one step at a time. This translated into us pivoting at lightning speed when we didn’t see the immediate results we wanted.

The product would change, the messaging would change, the branding would change, and we’d keep starting from scratch. This made both Niloo and I feel burnt out, and more and more alienated from the company and what we were building.

It manifested as anxiety, sleeplessness, oversleeping, fatigue, irritability, detachment, and probably a dozen other things we didn’t even notice. It was very bad while it was happening, but also something we both assumed we just needed to “power through”.

You hate your life and everything to do with work? Cool man, that’s startup life.

It’s been reeeeaaaaally nice to come out of that. To do a ton of customer discovery calls (like back in the dating app days!) and have other people confirm that the problem we’re solving is a real one. And to recommit to doing the things that we’re motivated and driven by, rather than the “right thing” the “right way”.

Since coming back to life and doing our customer discovery calls, we’ve been hearing how much people enjoyed our daily posts! We’ve had complete strangers tell us they’ve been following our journey since the early days. That they checked the updates regularly and felt invested in our success. Who went out of their way to help us and support us even though we’d never met, because they felt like they knew us.

We had a lot of doubts about whether the level of transparency in our daily posts was too much. We see a world where success is shouted from the rooftops and vulnerability is only shared when it has a happy ending. How would people perceive a company that shared all its messy, unsolved problems? Lots of which never found solutions, never led to any deep insights besides, “Sometimes you’re dumb and you make mistakes.”

I wanted to look cool! I wanted our company to look cool!

But what we heard was that people resonated with our story. They appreciated being able to see the messy parts, and it felt real and accessible. Like a real company run by real people :-) And most importantly, that it made them feel like it was something they, too, could do.


We’re bringing the daily posts back! Same level of insight into what building a company is really like (with the good, the bad, and as always… the ugly), now with ~LinkedIn Stories~!

Follow Nina Iordanova, Niloo Ravaei, and Hello Iris on LinkedIn for the latest, starting Tuesday, Oct 13th.

Heeeeeere we go again!

Finding better ways to bring people together. Co-founder at Good People ✨ wearegoodpeople.co.