One day last month, the seven employees of Everpix gathered at their co-working space in San Francisco to discuss the company's impending shutdown. Wayne Fan, one of the co-founders, opened a mock-up of the screen that the photo storage service’s customers would see once the company announced the news. The screen described the refunds that would be offered to the company's 6,800 paid subscribers, assuming Everpix could come up with the money. No one knew if they would.

The immediate concern in the room was a forthcoming bill from Amazon Web Services, which hosts the 400 million photos stored with Everpix; the team estimated the bill would be about $35,000. "Our AWS bill is going to be due on the third. We’re not going to be able to pay," said Pierre-Olivier Latour, who had the idea for Everpix four years ago after a vacation left him struggling to organize the hundreds of photos he took on the trip. Behind him, a poster advertised San Francisco's minimum wage of $10.55 an hour, which he had been paying his employees for the past month. "Amazon is going to reach out to us saying, 'Your card doesn’t work.'" He paused. "So that’s going to be fun."

In two short years, Everpix has gone from a dream shared by two French graphics experts to one of the world's best solutions for managing a large library of photos. It attracted 55,000 users and earned enough each month to cover the cost of the service, if not employees' salaries.

But while its talented team obsessed over the look and features of its product, user growth failed to keep pace. Starting in June, Latour tried to raise $5 million to give Everpix more time to become profitable. When those efforts faltered, he began pursuing an acquisition. Everpix had tentatively agreed last month to be acquired by Path, according to a source close to the social network. But Path's executive team killed the deal at the last minute, leaving Everpix adrift.

With the service's remaining lifespan now measured in days, Latour scrambled to find a home for the product and his team. He worked on one potential deal for a so-called acqui-hire, in which the team would stay together at a new company while the product shut down; and another for a true acquisition, in which Everpix's core technology would live on in some form. He also tried to negotiate a last-minute, product-saving infusion of cash from an investor who loved the product.

The question in the room was whether any of it would come in time. The bills were starting to come due, and there was no money to pay them. Silicon Valley prides itself on being a place where great ideas win, and yet here was an excellent product teetering on the edge of oblivion. "It feels like we're going 100mph into the brick wall," Fan said. "And we're still picking up speed. But we don't know if the wall is going to be there."