XOrigin: How Not to Launch a Startup

Written by Max Von Wolff, Founder XOrigin

May 2019. I am all set-up to compete at the Intel International Science and Engineering Fair 2019 in Phoenix (Arizona), the world’s largest science competition for pre-university students of its kind. For the past 2 years, I have been working on a self-initiated project aiming to improve short-term storm forecasting accuracies. It involved the Internet of Things, Machine Learning, Electrical Engineering, and sophisticated Digital Signal Processing methods.

I got the first prize in my category, Embedded Systems (🥳). But that only was the beginning of a whole new journey I could not possibly think of at this time.

Our First Product

Shortly after coming back home, I was convinced: Let’s turn that project into a product!

Our first product: RainTracker! Once you put it in your garden and it is connected with your WiFi-Hotspot, it measures rainfall and posts the data to an app on your smartphone. Plus it would warn you against severe storms. Cool, heh? Keep reading...

I knew I could not pull it off alone. I needed to find someone who is just as passionate and hyped about tech as I am. Someone who is driven but would still be willing to invest hard work into a project even if the odds were against us. The choice was clear: Florian, a pal from high school. International Olympiad in Informatics and Google Hash Code finalist. He has been helping me along my way and we both knew we would be a perfect fit to achieve incredible things. He would be concerned with software, data processing, and networking. I would compliment him with hardware development and managing business relations. Not even one month later, we founded XOrigin.

Another Startup Raised $ 2.8 M With Our Tech

As we talked with people about our idea, our hype started to fade. “Why would someone need your product?”, “Why would someone spend $200 on your system if they can just download a free weather app?”, “Your weather station network will never be dense enough to noticeably increase weather forecasting accuracies”. That hurt. As we lost faith, we started working on side projects. We lost focus. For months, we were in a phase of indecision. We were not even looking forward to talking with people. We were looking out for other ideas but quietly hoped for solutions that would bring our weather station to the market. We built high-end sales pages, ran ads on Facebook and Instagram. Whatever we tried, it just seemed as if nobody wanted our product.

After pivoting several times in only a few months, we finally gave up on RainTracker. Three months later, BOOM! An American company, WeatherFlow, launches a weather station that literally could have been ours and raises $ 2.8 Million on Kickstarter and Indigogo combined.

The eMail we received from WeatherFlow

Surprisingly they already reached out to us at the beginning of 2019. We are not claiming that they have stolen our idea in any way. They did an amazing job and we are glad that the technology we both were working on is currently available and set out to improve the lives of others.

What We Learned

That journey made us learn a lesson for life:

Don’t be stuck in indecision. Either give everything you got to make your vision come true. Identify yourself with that vision and have no doubt. Else, drop it all and move on. Doubt almost inevitably leads to Failure.

Learn more about XOrigin on our website.