Part Time Company Incubation

Even though I’m mostly an amateur, a lot of colleagues that are considering starting companies ask me for help and advice. I try to do the best I can, and I try to refer them to the professionals rather than count on me too much!

But one thing which comes up a lot is that someone is working on XYZ Widget idea, and they are working on it in their spare time. I’ve even done this myself. They’ll have some great idea that they are very excited about, but they just don’t have the confidence or security or timing to be able to quit their real jobs.

In my limited experience, I’ve never seen this work. It doesn’t work for me personally (I’ve tried!). Maybe you can find a few ideas that are interesting and explore them some, but if you really want to develop those ideas into something real, you have to do it full time. Competition changes quickly. If you aren’t working 100% on fostering your idea, then your competition will pass you by.

Recently, one colleague was very excited about a new startup idea. He and a couple of partners were getting really serious. He was going to quit his job, and in the meantime, take some simple job (like a car salesman or something) just to cover the expenses. He was already planning on taking about $250K in loans to start the business and expected it would be about 6 months before he could start seeing the company produce revenue. The plan was good – except for the part time job part. If you are taking loans or getting investments already, why not take an extra $3K per month (or whatever is appropriate) so that you can pay your mortgage during the incubation period? Overall, this would represent less than $20K, and yet it would reduce stress, free him to concentrate only on the company, and also be more stable. He agreed, and is making good progress on that route now.

Whenever I hear of a company that has part-time management, its a major red flag. It tells everyone (customers, partners, investors) that the leadership of the company isn’t 100% confident that the idea will succeed. And a lot of time, it just comes down to putting it in your head that you will succeed. Keeping your old job as a crutch just never works.

Some others agree this is a bad idea:

Anyway, if you are going for it – really go for it. Take an extra $20-$50K in loans to do it right. You may lose in the end, but you were already taking that risk anyway. I think this really is a case of nothing ventured nothing gained.

But I’m no expert!

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