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Hi Sam,

I'm a graduating college senior, and I've accepted a job at a very big company in the tech industry. Right now, it makes the most financial sense for me to join a big company and pay off my debt quickly, but at some point in the future I'd love to scratch that entrepreneurial itch and apply to YC.

How do I maximize my time at a big company to gain relevant skills to keep the possibility of a startup open in the future?

The best things you can do there are meet great potential cofounders, and get better at writing software.

Also don't get sucked into living an expensive lifestyle when you get that high-paying job--this has killed many people's once-promising futures.

This is good advice! First came my love for sushi, then the condo, then the BMW, and now I can't live poor anymore.

Which begs the question - how does one avoid living an expensive lifestyle in the bay/SF?

Cook all of your own meals. Don't buy drinks at the bars if you go out. Don't buy expensive shit, you don't need the newest iphone every year or name brand designer stuff. Get a roommate. Not rocket sciene

If you can get very efficient at it or you find the activity a source of leisure, then cooking your own food is a great cost savings. However, for someone in the tech industry the opportunity cost of not investing in themselves (i.e. coding, reading about code, meeting people, etc) for the same amount of time they are cooking (grocery shopping, food prep, cooking, cleaning, etc) usually isn't worth it.

To me cooking your own food seems like a penny-wise, pound foolish thing. Of course eating out healthily multiple times a day gets insanely expensive, so that's not really an option either. That's why I'm a big advocate of soylent.

Most meals aren't actually a huge time investment if you do them right. Make one trip to the grocery store a week (or two if you really need perishables like milk or fresh fish, but if you do that, just go in & out with a list). Make sure your apartment has a dishwasher. Get a (dishwasher-safe) food processor for chopping & dicing. Clean up while the food is cooking in the oven or on the stove. Cook big batches and have leftovers during the week.

My wife and I spend maybe 3-4 hours/week on cooking, but the key is that it's usually all batched up on Sunday (and maybe Wednesday) nights, so it doesn't interfere with work during the week. On weekdays, it takes 2 minutes to pop a tupperware into the microwave and dump it onto a plate. That's actually a lot faster than ordering Munchery or preparing Blue Apron.

And you lose one of the best things in life... love for food! Sometimes I think some americans have never known how good food tastes like.

In that vein, a friend once calculated whether the time saved by not brushing his teeth would be offset by the cost of dentist visits later.

I don't remember the conclusion, but after I reminded him that female attention would likely drop off in proportion to bad breath, he decided against testing the idea.

Seriously man, it's food. We all have to eat, what is so important that you can't give up a couple hours a week towards cooking good food and leisurely eating it. Your entire life doesn't have to revolve around the almighty Opportunity Cost.

    However, for someone in the tech industry the opportunity cost of not investing 
    in themselves (i.e. coding, reading about code, meeting people, etc) 
    for the same amount of time they are cooking (grocery shopping, food prep, cooking,
    cleaning, etc) usually isn't worth it.
I would argue that the time spent away from the technical side doing other things is a bigger investment in self than a few extra hours a week writing code.

Is this Soylent advocacy just a running joke? I can't imagine eating all my meals via a plain, liquid, meal-replacement.

It's an efficiency tool. Does every single one of your meals have to be "the best meal ever" where everything is made from scratch from ingredients you sourced yourself from the farmer's market? Of course not. There are definitely times where you don't care to enjoy your meal and just need some nutritional sustenance. Traditionally in those cases your options were fast food, or maybe some kind of protein bar. Soylent is a better alternative in my mind to those.

One pleasant side effect of the "blandness" is that it has made me really enjoy the meals that I do eat. I've noticed that the flavors pop a lot more. So now I have the best of both worlds.

Not to mention making your primary source of fat canola oil.

If it isn't, it damn sure ought to be.

It would be wrong to write off cooking as an opportunity cost of not investing in yourself. First, you have the opportunity to put high quality food into yourself. Second, the tasks of recipe creation and cooking are very, very similar to software creation tasks. You start with a language (raw ingredients, characters) and combine them into your final product.

Rent first: maybe SF doesn't have any places with cheap rent, but the South Bay does. There are outliers in the market: $800/mo for a room or $1200/mo for a studio.

Car second: if you get an old car then the repairs + depreciation can be ~$500 / yr.

Services third: look at your most expensive purchases (Are there things that could be bought cheaper?) and your monthly bills (Do I need Netflix and Comcast cable? Do I need Costco and Amazon Prime? Do I need that EC2 instance? Do I need the deluxe laundry service?).

Food fourth: budget $5-$20 / day, leverage free food from your employer if possible.


Im not Sam but I was similar to you (planwise) when I graduated. I would urge you to be very careful if that is your long-term plan, it is very easy to develop a lifestyle around a comfortable low-risk paycheck and say, "I'll do it down the line". 5-10 years can fly by very quickly in those situations, still at the same place doing the same thing. You will never have as much free time as you do right now, and if you have an idea you should pursue it with vigor. -Signed, an old man

To add to this: try to live like you are still in college as long as you can stand it.

If you have very low interest student loans, pay them off at the minimum rate and save the cash - you will need it to launch the startup. And if then your startup makes you poor, you can usually do income adjusted deferment on remaining loans.

Speaking as someone who has watched those 10 years fly by, this is excellent advice. It can be very tempting to get comfortable; you have plenty of time for that later in life. Struggle while you're still at your peak, take risks now. And for the people in my shoes...don't let those 10 years stop you anyway, we're dead when we're dead.

I had been a software engineer for 2 years when my friend and I got a year's worth of money to build a startup for an idea I had. The timing ended up not being right due to family reasons, so we ended up not doing it. It was really disappointing, but I knew it was the right thing for my family.

Four years later, I'm incredibly glad I didn't do it. I'm convinced I would have made bad technical decisions and doomed the company. I'm not a perfect software engineer now, but I'm worlds better than I was. Writing and deploying software on someone else's dime has given me invaluable experience, and I'm certain it's prepared me to be successful in my own company some day soon.

While at a big company, I'd still encourage you to work on side projects and see where they go. Doing that will give you even more experience in building an MVP.

I think the most important thing is to keep learning. Expand your skills, try/work on a lot of different projects (because bigger companies usually have dozens or hundreds of different products, teams, and roles), which means you can probably find an interesting problem and learn new things. Pick the brains of the more experienced engineers. Be curious. Don't really know how something works? Ask and learn! Meeting people and network. Who knows, maybe they'll be a cofounder with you or be apart of your team at your startup in the future. Work on side projects and expand your interests! You usually have the time to work on side projects or explore interesting problems. I think it's important to do them, experiment with different ideas. Don't have ideas? Keep a notepad with the problems you face everyday. Discuss your side projects and ideas with your peers/coworkers. Most startups usually come from a side project

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