You May Not Have to Quit Your Day Job

If you haven't yet launched your new business, I have some advice for you.

It's actually not my advice. As I'm a little conflicted about it. Let me explain.

The advice is to start your new business as a project. What that means is that you don't quit your day job. You don't raise capital. You don't focus 100% of your effort on it.

Rather, you work on it as much as you can in your spare time until it either becomes something, or it doesn't.

The advice comes from Bambi Francisco, the co-founder and CEO of who I spoke with earlier this week. It's not only her advice having founded a company, but the advice given to her by Mark Pincus.

Pincus is the serial entrepreneur who founded Tribe in 2003 and sold it to Cisco Systems in 2007, and is now the founder and CEO of Zynga, a large social gaming company. You can watch Francisco's brief but informative interview of Pincus here.

So, the point is to start your new business as a project. Obviously, this depends on your choice of business. If it's a restaurant, there's not much of a project to be had. But if it's software, for example, you can start developing it and see if you are able to start creating features that people want.

And once you can prove that the project is developing into a viable business, you create a real company for it.

This "project" concept also reared its head when I recently spoke with Eytan Elbaz, co-founder of Oingo, the company which later would be purchased by Google and renamed as Google AdSense.

Elbaz and his co-founders were developing their novel software while still holding full-time jobs. After a little while, they were able to develop a working prototype. And then, Elbaz showed it to an angel investor (who interestingly was a client of his at his current job). It was only upon the angel investor writing them a check that they decided to leave their full-time jobs and really launch the company.

So why am I conflicted about this advice? Well, there's definitely something to be said for the entrepreneur that is so passionate about their business that they're willing to fully launch it from the get go.

To leave the comfort of their current job and take all the risk. In these cases, I like that the entrepreneur can't blame their current job for limiting their time. They fully immerse themselves in their business, and give it their best possible shot. And in many cases, this total commitment is what drives success.

The key here is probably that everyone's situation is different. The young entrepreneur might have an advantage in that it may be easier to leave their current position and jump 100% into their business. Conversely, the older entrepreneur with the family and mortgage may be less able to shoulder the risk of foregoing their current salary.

The choice is yours - take the leap fully or partially. Each can result in success.

The only choice that I truly hate is doing nothing. Too many people sit with great ideas in their heads but fail to act on them. And then, when someone else successfully executes on their idea, they say, "Hey, that was my idea."

To them I unfortunately say, "Who cares - it's the entrepreneur's willingness to commit and execute on the idea that really matters!"
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Anjanesh says

When it comes to software esp internet related, it not possible to know the exact outcome of the project - in most cases. Moreover, however big your idea may be, executing it can be daunting esp if you cannot create it yourself. Hiring people to work for your idea at the initial stage is a tough part. Most successful internet entrepreneurs are the creators themselves.

delicious was a result of a full-time employee's side project which got famous and sold to Y! for $15-$30 mil. But bookmarking wasnt new. delicious was better.

YouTube was one of a kind and its creators knew there wasnt any competition at the time. So they could jump boat.

FaceBook was a playground, first created in college campus for its students.

Twitter is a result of an accidental entrepreneurship.

Most of Google's services are lab-based, in beta or under research. And most of them stemmed out from its 20% side-project policy.

During the initial phase, you will be more dedicated (or rather focused) to a side project than going full-time on it because you wouldn't worry about other things like income, security etc. It would clear your mind off from other factors (fear factor) which you normally would have if you turn your side project to a full-time business.

Off lately many companies now have started following google's policy in some way or the other by not stressing employees to work ONLY on company related business.
Posted at 1:55 pm
Dave Lavinsky says

This is a great point Anjanesh. Thanks!
Posted at 11:08 am
Dave Lavinsky says

I just received this great question.

Do you have any suggested strategies or checklists etc that one should evaluate prior to making the leap to quit the day job and go 100% entrepreneurial?

My answer:

Savvy investors try to mitigate risk. So when they look at a venture, they look at the key points where the risk level goes down.

For example, once the entrepreneur successfully creates a prototype, the risk of the venture goes down. Likewise, once the entrepreneur gets their first Beta customer, their first paid customer, their first strategic partner, etc., the risk of the venture failing decreases.

So with regards to a checklist, I would suggest creating a bunch of milestones that would need to be accomplished on your path to success. Then, figure out which milestone you need to get to in order to convince yourself and/or investors that it's worth you pursuing the venture full-time.

If you are able to reach that milestone, take the leap. If not, continue it as a project.
Posted at 11:16 am

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