My Minnesota: He quit the start-up grind – for 4 hours

  • Article by: JAMES LILEKS , Star Tribune
  • Updated: August 3, 2013 - 5:30 PM

You always hear about the people who come up with a great idea for the Internet — you know, a smartphone app that vibrates nonstop when your milk expires, or a website that lets you track how much you spend on expensive coffee, then deletes itself automatically so you don’t feel so bad. Sell it to Yahoo, make a million: That’s the way you do it.

Meet Lucas Rayala, 35, who made some waves a few months ago when he took a look at his popular, innovative, groundbreaking project and said: Hmm. This, or life? This, or happiness?

He wrote a piece for the popular tech site TechCrunch about yanking the plug on his start-up, and became something of a legend: the guy who walked away. But where to?

We caught up with him on an afternoon after he’d had a meeting about the Next Thing.

With guys like Lucas, there’s always a next thing.

How did that start-up flameout happen?

“It was called Altsie, a way for small business to quickly set up a live theater experience. I was working with a variety of indie filmmakers and distribution companies — they fed me films, and I set up the ticketing online so people could show up at a bar or restaurant and watch the movie. A date night! A meal and a film. I blew all cylinders to keep it running; I was looking for investments, working my job full time.”

It was going well, but add a new marriage to the mix, and …

“I was sitting on the couch at 1 a.m., trying to come to a decision. As cool as the idea was, I love my wife a lot and didn’t want to put her through another year of this. It was heart-wrenching to end it but a huge relief. Doing a start-up,” he adds, “you learn a ton of things about yourself. Things you thought you were good at, but maybe you’re not.”

The clichéd version of the story has the entrepreneur disappearing for a year to regroup in a small Mexican seaside village, sifting through the event for Life Lessons. But:

“After Altsie, I took three, maybe four hours off.” He has a new project now. Is it a social media photo app that lets you share pictures of cupcakes? No. Will it change the world? He laughs.

“Sure. It’s called Hipshout. It’s a digital flier you can hand out and pass around.”

Any more details and others might steal it, so you’ll have to wait.

Anyway, if it’s not the next big thing, something else will be.

“I have a hundred ideas,” he grins. “Ideas are a dime a dozen.”

James Lileks

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