“Why are we doing this?”

“What do you mean? Fernando, we’re going to change people’s lives!”

“No,” Fernando said. “Seriously, why?”

“I am being serious.”

“Sure, in some hyper literal sense, yes, our messaging app that restricts text to at least 140 characters is going to change someone’s life in that they’re not using some other social network anymore, but it’s not like this thing is going to fundamentally change how people interact with each other.”

“No one can focus anymore. Sitting down for thirty minutes was too long, so we started watching four-minute clips online instead. Then, when those wasted too much time, someone came around and reduced them to just six seconds. And before that, who did you know that still bought entire albums? Why waste time discovering other tracks when you can just purchase the single track that’s topping the charts?

“Our app will force people to really think about what is they’re saying. We’re encouraging people who slow down and actually think.”

“Don’t hard sell me, Jordan. I’m your partner, not some investor. I don’t have millions in funding to give you.”

“That much is obvious,” Jordan said. The two of them laughed, but only briefly.

Fernando continued: “People still spend thirty minutes watching sitcoms. We’re even willing to spend hours binge-watching dramas that are twice as long. And you and I both still buy full albums. As flattering as it may be to think otherwise, we’re not two lone holdouts here. They still bundle tracks into albums because people are buying them.

“And even if people flock to our app by the millions, they still use some other app to send the short messages that we don’t allow.”

“I really don’t know where this is coming from,” Jordan said. “Why suddenly bring all this up now?”

“I can’t distinguish life from work anymore. You and I share this studio apartment, and if we’re both conscious enough to make eye contact, then we’re talking about work. And if we’re not, then we’re hunched over our keyboards cranking out code. Our breaks consist of leaving home to go schmooze investors in hopes that we’ll get lucky.”

“We’re a start-up. What did you expect?”

“I expected this,” Fernando said. “But now I want to know why I wanted this so much in the first place. Do you know when the last time I went on a date was? I’m tired of rubbing one out in front of the computer.”

“I don’t know how that could ever get boring,” Jordan smirked.

“Okay, I’m exaggerating. But still, I need a woman. I need the conversation. Sorry, man, but you’re just not cutting it.”

“There are plenty of girls out there who are just as busy as we are.”

“I don’t want to be with them. I want to be with someone, I dunno, grounded. We can’t be both running around all day chasing… chasing what? I mean, what are we really after here? There are other ways we could make money.”

“Yeah, but this can make us rich. Not only that, we can make the money doing what we love, and with that money, we can do even more things that we love.”

“I want to do someone that I love.”

“So this entire conversation is because you’re lonely?”

“No, Jordan. I need purpose. We’ve spent years of our lives huddled up here working on what is, put bluntly, just another messaging app. I have friends back home that are already married with children. And I’m not saying I want marriage or children, but I do want that feeling. That feeling that life has a reason, that everything I’m doing has a purpose.

“Instead I’m here with you and a bunch of other developers who also believe that their apps are going to change everything, all of us getting off on how we used one app to find a good place to eat and another one to tell us what to drink, when really, we could have just followed our noises to discover a place with good food and then asked the bartender what’s good once we got there. Those apps don’t actually need to exist, and if they don’t, and ours doesn’t, then why are we all wasting away our lives? We can’t all get rich.”

“I’d tell you to walk away from this, but I need you, Fernando.”

“I know.”

“When we’re done here, you can use this experience to get a less time-consuming job elsewhere. People will be impressed that you helped put this brand on the map.”

“I know.”

“I don’t know what else you want.”

“I want out, and I want you to come with me.”

“What, why?”

“I can’t be the only developer here who feels this way. We can reach out them with advice on how to keep their life in balance. I mean all they really need to do is keep better track of their time. We could alert them when they’ve been working for too long and provide them with recommended things to do afterwards. And if they connect with friends, we could come up with things for them to do together. Over time we’ll hone in on what their interests are and provide even better recommendations.”

“How would we do this?”

“You and I have all the experience we need to make this app. We just need the time, which we don’t have because we’re spending our days slogging away on this thing that isn’t as exciting as it used to be. If we offload this on someone else, we could start up something new.”

“So instead of an investor, we need a buyer.”

“Yes, and after that, we can really get started working on something that will actually change people’s lives.”

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“Startups” by Bertel King, Jr. is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.