Endings and Beginnings

Endings and Beginnings

When I started Altair almost two years ago, I was fed up.

I was fed up with the state of startups—where end-users were being sacrificed to algorithms. Fed up with the state of content creation—where metrics were valued over mental health. Fed up with the state of streaming—where vulnerable and marginalized folks were being attacked with inadequate protection from their platforms. So I asked people I’d met over my two decades on the Internet to accompany me on a journey to try and buck these trends.

We set out to build Altair our way: not taking money from sources that would strongarm us into sacrificing our values, paying our team a living wage, and prioritizing our team’s mental health by not introducing crunch in the middle of a global pandemic. In the process, I made mistakes—many of them. We, as a team, made mistakes. But through all of that, our values and vision stood firm to a fault.

So with that said, I humbly stand here today to tell you that Altair has run out of money. We can no longer continue to operate in our current state without sacrificing the safety and values that we as a team hold dear. It is not out of the realm of possibilities to extend the runway by 3–6 months. However, the more significant, more mindful reason is this: we cannot, in good conscience, release a product meant to provide safety and security for marginalized creators knowing that the door could be shut on them within months. They deserve better than this.

To summarize, our burn rate is around $50,000 a month in our current state. Approximately $20,000 goes to pay for the time that RevSys has put into making a backend that we’re genuinely proud of, with the rest going to make sure my team and Altair’s expenses are taken care of. So these are the fixed expenses as we approach launch.

At launch, we would need to support both the technical infrastructure and you, our end-users, with additional folks, ultimately driving that cost up. Launching with anything less would be a disservice to the very folks we’re trying to protect, and forcing a launch would jeopardize the team trying to protect them. Using some tried-and-true napkin math, we would need double the amount of Visionaries we have—around 5,000 folks—to be $10 Altair Members to keep operating, as is.

In time periods to come, many folks will try and reconcile what happened here: how we could’ve run the company differently, how we could’ve spent less, how we could’ve launched sooner, or how we could’ve seen the writing on the wall sooner. But I can assure you that those possibilities would’ve strained or sacrificed one of my values as an admittedly naïve, first-time CEO.

Today, Altair as you know it ceases to be. Each of our team members will be transitioning out of their roles as full-time members of the team and will be provided three months of pay to make sure that transition into new roles is as smooth as possible. That is the least I can do to thank them for taking a chance on me and this vision.

Just a small taste of the flows Dave and Raul have worked on.

There is an earnest desire to continue. Much of the team wants to see Altair and our collective vision live. Dave and Raul have created and coded one of the most gorgeous-looking streaming sites out there. Jackie has put hundreds of hours into making sure our product spec was mindful and met the highest standard of quality we could provide. Cody made sure our backend systems provided safety and support for our end-users at the lowest levels of their codebase.

We don’t want that work to disappear, and as a team, we’ve discussed ways that our work can continue to benefit others. We’re exploring these fronts as the team transitions. However, please be mindful that situations like this are volatile, and there are many forces, both positive and negative, that can affect the options we have.

For much of this journey, Altair has stood alone in the shadows of behemoths. There’s a reason for that. Software as a Service (or SaaS) companies are a dime a dozen, but delivering video at the scale and quality that those same behemoths have done, is expensive and almost impossible to meet without a literal wealth of capital behind you. Methodically building systems that aim to protect rather than exploit can cut you off from revenue that could keep your business alive.

So the future of Altair was never certain.

From the beginning, we set out to answer the question of if this is even possible to do with the bar we set for ourselves: not taking venture capital, not choosing advertising or algorithms, building a team from the ground up, paying every team member a living wage, prioritizing the mental health of the group, etc.

The answer? No. Or at least, not in the way I originally envisioned.

But companies and entrepreneurs out there, take note. We hit a chord. We surfaced a need. A vision that folks are done with the status quo. They’re done being used as feed for an algorithm. They want to create without being driven into the ground by metrics or being offered the allure of status without meaningful support. They just want to stream and feel safe.

We tried, and in this form, we failed, and we are profusely sorry. Expectations were not met, deadlines came and went, and communication dried up. I take full responsibility for these actions, and I’m sure the team shares similar feelings.

We may not have been the right team to realize this, and we didn’t have the funds to continue our push, but we implore those with the experience and resources to fight this fight with us and with all the people who believed in us. While none of us quite know what the future will bring, I want to thank you for believing that content creation can be better and taking a bet on this team and me.

UPDATE: All Wefunder investments will be refunded within 3 weeks of the closure of our campaign, which is imminent.

  1. What happened to the Wefunder?
    We are in the process of spinning down the campaign and return all money invested. Wefunder, as a service, has been a thorn in our side from the outset. Our profile on the site shows that we’ve met our “goal” of $100,000. But we have not been able to draw any funds because Wefunder is holding less than that in their bank. We’ve also spent upwards of $10,000 in legal and accounting costs meeting the standard of reporting needed for the SEC while still not being able to draw any funds. We deemed that it’s not worth any expanded runway for the lack of support they’ve provided us. More importantly, I cannot in good conscience accept additional funding while lacking a clear story going forward. In that same vein, any additional funds that our existing investors have sent us is in the process of being returned to them.
  2. I’m a Visionary, and this isn’t what I pledged for.
    When pledging to support a project, in any form, the campaign doesn’t know your reasons for pledging. Maybe it was to support the team, or perhaps it was to reserve a username. I can empathize strongly with people feeling burned by a project and having no recourse. If you strongly feel that the expectations for your original pledge were not met, you may email a copy of your GiveButter receipt to [email protected] I will personally issue you a refund upon verification of the original transaction.