Pivotal lessons learned by a founder who burned through 1 million funding

An eBook of unspoken and tough startup lessons from building products, to driving initial growth, to dealing with investors.

Why wrote this

My name is Jessica Leo. In early 2019, I was flattered to get a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to be hired as a startup CEO to turn a failing company around.

It was a tough challenge. It involved firing all customers and letting go some employees to set us on a new path. We came up with new ideas, searched for product/market fit and we grew ... all while I was learning as a first-time founder.

18 months and 1 million funding went by, while we had growing traction, I didn't see a future in what we were doing, so I decided it was time to put a "period" to all this.

It was a failure on my part. But I learned A TON from user interviews to validation, from initial marketing to getting #1 positions for keywords, from fundraising to relationships with shareholders, from making slow decisions to regretting ...

I learned the hard way, and I recapped the lessons in this eBook to share with all the first-time founders out there.

“It's your place in the world; it's your life. Go on and do all you can with it, and make it the life you want to live.”
Angel Cunningham
“Remember that not getting what you want is sometimes a wonderful stroke of luck and genius.”
Johanna Watts

Deep failures no one talks about

Startup stories are glorified. We talk about success and secret sauce, yet not enough mistakes and failures are shared with you, especially when it comes to investor relations.

Never run a business without being the major shareholder
Never listen or get distracted by investors
Never stop being critical about your own growth

Learn and avoid dead ends

As a first-time startup founder, I made all these stupid and terrifying mistakes. Although I believe the best learnings come from your own failures, you can definitely reference my mistakes.

You want to fire the wrong talents fast
You want to push for Marketing, not just Product
You want to be 100% on getting to product/market fit

Actionable tips for you

Each mistake led to a reflective lesson within myself, and I made sure to come up with actionable steps to move forward. I want to share all these with you.

The proper way to do validations
How to scale up growth with my fav channels
Use system thinking to grow your startup

Based on true story, this eBook is divided into 5 parts


A Million Dollar Opportunity


The Stressful

Early Days


Validating and Building Phase


Refining and Scaling Phase


Shutting Down and After Thoughts

18 months of lessons - 14 chapters - 70 minutes total reading

Who Jessica Leo is

"Jessica here. I grew up in Luxembourg. I love tech, creating things that people enjoy, helping people and sharing knowledge. That's why I'm writing this.

Something you should know - every plot in this book is real, and that's also why I want to tell it under a pseudonym. This means names, characters, locations, descriptions are all modified.

I debated about sharing the story under my real name, yet I want other first-time founders to know the context of my failures and lessons. If I were to share with my own name, I'd be cutting out a lot of crucial parts because I respected everyone who was involved in this startup journey of mine.

My intention is to 1) share my lessons with others and 2) if the lessons are useful, make a few bucks to validate and convince myself that I could create something people want. Thanks for reading!"

- Jessica

Written with ❤️by Jessica Leo. All rights reserved.

You can also follow me on Twitter or Indie Hacker.