I'm on my last year of University and about to go to Sweden for 5 months as a part of an exchange program.
Unfortunately, my one-man startup is in a critical stage. My startup has about 40 paying customers, and it's in a niche market. Unfortunately, my competitor is more established and is aware of my existence. In fact, he already copied few of my ideas.
Moreover, my competitor has more features which I will not be able to develop once I go abroad. My absence will put my competitor 12 months ahead of me.
Lastly, my startup is in crucial need of marketing.
I don't want my startup to die again because of school. I used to run a Woot.com copy in Canada when daily-deal concept was almost non-existent. I had to shut it down because I was too distracted from the school life.
I doubt I can hire anyone because I'm still operating in the red.
Could I please get any advice on how to deal with this?
That is a very interesting question.
Why are you assuming you'll be unable to run it from Sweeden?
I believe you've already explored this, but is it really impossible to run it from abroad?
What if you would only to "half-run it" for 5 months?
Instead of hiring someone, why not get partner that would be able to continue the business for the time you're abroad? You stated you required some marketing, maybe a marketing person can make a positive difference. As for keeping up with your competitor, you can outsource the development of some new features while your're abroad.
In a situation where it is really impossible to run it anymore, I would consider to exit with a sale.
Is your established competitor a possible buyer, or your 40 paying customers are not an interesting number for them?
Can you find other possible buyers?