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Ask HN: What was it like to quit your job and focus on your successful startup?
162 points by mattbgates on June 21, 2017 | hide | past | web | favorite | 112 comments
For most people, dreaming about quitting a job to focus on a side project or a startup is a dream come true, especially if it ends up being successful. It can bring about so many emotions and fears all during that entire process... not knowing what is going to happen.. and what if it failed? Would it have been possible to return to your old job? So, for those who quit their jobs and were successful, how did it feel and what did you learn?



> What was it like to quit your job and focus on your successful startup?

1. Time became my most valuable asset. Everything was filtered through the lens of "does this save me time?" and so I optimized everything: The gym (worked out at home), shopping (got delivered), dating (used fleshl...joking! :).

In the words of Joel Spolsky, "Every day that we spent not improving our products was a wasted day".

2. I worked harder than ever before. My job was tough but output ebbed and flowed with meetings, management, plus the usual office time wasters. The startup workday is more straightforward: wake up, coffee, write code, listen to users, coffee, learn how to add value to the market, coffee.

3. Every two months or so I look back and shake my head at how lame the product was, how little I knew, and how inefficient my workflow was. Which is to say, I continue to learn at an incredible clip yet realize I still don't know a thing. I expect this trend to continue - if it doesn't, I'm not growing.

So, yeah, overall it's been An Incredible Journey™. My only regret is that I didn't start sooner.

It's actually a gift how easy it is to go from idea to product to business. To paraphrase Murakami, 'If you're young and talented (or can code), it's like you have wings'.

We're living in the best of times.


What process did you use to validate your idea? That's where I'm stuck. I have tons of ideas but I don't want to spend months and months working on something that people don't need or care about because as they say "cashflow is the lifeblood of a business".


Hey, excuse the late reply on this. Someone answered for me though: "Build something that people are already paying for".

In the world of software, there's almost always room for better so I'd change that slightly to "build a better version of something that people are already paying for".

You can find out what 'better' means by studying the product that people are already paying for, seeing what those people complain about, and resolving those complaints.

That's a good place to start.


I'm currently facing this problem as well.


Build something that people are already paying for.


Echo the same thoughts myself.

Like they say, the best time to start a startup was in 2014. The second best time is now.

For me, there was also some fear as the revenue was quite new. Although it was significant, the thought has never and still hasn't left my mind that one day it could be gone.

It's also made me quite conservative in how I use the cash flow to grow the company. I'm not of the camp where I pour every dollar back into the company but rather I should take it out and invest in other things.


Thanks for the great story. If you don't mind me asking, how did you come up with the idea and did you validate it before moving forward?

I've always had some ideas but haven't been able to gain traction. Eventually, I see other companies started to do well with almost the same idea so I'm a bit bummed.


> dating (used fleshl...joking!)

Lol


This might be slightly offtopic but I've been thinking of working on my own ideas for a decade now. I tried working on projects in the evening and weekends but there isnt enough time. Not only does it effect your social life but also effects your motivation and drive in general. After looking at code on a screen for 7 hours, last thing you want to do is go home and look at more code [I guess this depends on your age, i'm 32 now - not an night owl no more]

Anyway i started contracting last year for this exact reason, at around £300-400 day rate and now i've saved enough to quit and follow my 'dream', my last day is JULY 7th. I have enough savings to last me 2 years, sustaining my current social life. no frugalness.


I'm in the same boat as you and same age group. But I'm not sure if I can quit my job because it's a very nice job with a nice group of people. And there's no guarantee that if I go my own way, I will succeed. Leaving would be very difficult for me right now. I wish you all the best for your startup journey!


I think your approach is a good one. You're exactly right about working all day and then coming home and trying to work some more, the motivation is just not there. You need all your time and energy to focus on a startup.

I'm currently contracting and trying to build up a financial cushion so I can do the exact same thing.


Unless you catch lightning in a bottle, you'll need 4 years.


4 years for what? To find product/market fit? To become profitable? I presume you are referencing some rule of thumb that is not familiar to me...?


OP is not experienced. OP has no idea what he's doing. It will take him 1 year to realize the idea he chose sucks. 1 year to panic and freelance while he figures out what he's doing next, then 2 years to reach profitability.


Maybe that it always takes twice as long as you planned?


I think this is just a disagreement over the term "startup". For something like a new restaurant, or a mom and pop store to be profitable, it might take many years. But most actual startups are going to validate an idea quickly and either make money or not in a short amount of time.


You have examples? Every startup I've been with has been many years to profitability and the common names follow that pattern as well.

Some get traction, or maybe growth early on, but actual startups don't seem to "make money in a short amount of time"


I guess it depends on what you consider "making money" to mean. In this case, I felt we were discussing making the equivalent salary to the full-time job you would be giving up. There are certainly other definitions.

But overall, I think a startup's job is to validate an idea, then grow. If you can't make money at first, you probably don't have a valid idea. The next phase is pure growth--and I'm sure very few new businesses can make money AND grow at the same time.


Four years is an absurd amount of time to get to break-even (ie paying yourself an income that covers your bills and the company bills), particularly if it's a one-person bootstrap.

Lightning in a bottle is 1-2 months to break-even under the bootstrap scenario. 6-8 months is closer to reasonable depending on cost of living for where someone is living. Anything much beyond that time-frame means something is very, very wrong (or it's a particularly unusual business being formed, requiring years of build time).

Four years to get to a few thousand dollars per month in sales? I don't think so.


No, it's just being realistic. It took me more like 8 years to build up to a respectable salary. After the first 4 years I could pay rent and buy groceries but not much more.


You're one of my heroes, keep up the good work :)


This implies he must have had backing from other sources. Not encouraging for people who don't have that.


You do have that though. Same as I did. I was working contract and consulting gigs during those 8 years (and the 5 years before that while building out earlier, failed ideas).


Only after he made it.


Sounds like you're experienced, which is great. Tell me about the first business you started and how long it took you until you were able to live like you live today.

I totally agree that it's very easy to get to a few thousand dollars a month in sales. It's getting beyond that which is hard.


"Very easy" is an interesting way to put it.

How long did it take you to get to a few thousand dollars a month cheez? Out of interest, how far into your career was that?

I'm not sure I'd class getting to a few thousand dollars as "very easy", certainly do-able for a lot of businesses with a few months to a years hard work, but I wouldn't call that "very easy", personally.


Since you asked: it took exactly one month and about 4 years into my post-university career to get to a few thousand. A lot of it was right place, right time of course.

The one thing I did right was find the market first, then built a product for that market.


> £300-400 day rate

How do people earn so much?


Contract rates for Javascript developers in North West are £300-400, London contract rates are £400+ I've got a BSc and MSc and have been working as a Frontend/JS dev for the past decade. HOWEVER that is negligible, theres a lot of good self taught dev's out there that are contracting and in really decent positions.

Also theres more jobs than good dev's in England, i get job at least 10+ job offers on Linkedin in every week


As far as I know that's really not even a "fair" rate in the US at least. I.e. full time employees with benefits can pretty easily make more.


I earn that much a week in Canada...


Sounds like you are being underpaid! I would expect an entry-level developer to make at least $75k a year, which would work out to $300 a day.


300 CAD to GBP = £180


A 100k salary is roughly 400 per 8 hour day worked.


The biggest change was how much more free time I had.

When you're building a Nights and Weekends side project, you get used to stealing whatever free hours you can to work on the product. But you also necessarily build things so that they don't take up much of your time every day. If they did, it would interfere with your day job and that just wouldn't work.

So when you remove the day job, you find that suddenly you have this successful business that runs itself in the background and you can do pretty much whatever you want with your day.

Most people in this situation will immediately fill that time up with work on the product, and I did to some extent. But I also made sure to take a bunch of that time just to enjoy with my family. I eventually settled on 2-3 days a week where I was "at work", with the rest devoted to other pursuits. Both me and my wife are rock climbers, which is an "other pursuit" that will happily expand to fill the time available. We're also parents, so ditto there.

I also make a point of downing tools for a while from time to time. Again, because I can.

I took the kids out of school and dragged them off backpacking around SouthEast Asia for a few months the first year. We did a couple more medium sized trips this year, and I took the entire Fall and Spring off because those are the best times for Bouldering in the forest here. Again, work is happy to ramp up or down to accommodate because I never shifted it out of that ability to run on nights and weekends.

So now, I burst for a few weeks at a time on work stuff (with possibly a more relaxed definition of Full Time than most would use), then slow down and relax for a bit.

It's actually not so bad.


Could you elaborate on how you got your business to be successful?




For me, and probably for most, it's not a matter of quitting your job in order to work on your "successful" startup - if it were already successful then there'd be no issue at all. Rather it's about quitting while the startup is just beginning to look reasonably good, _in order_ to make it a success.

Since I've been working as a mobile developer, and also management consultant (my other career), it's always been extremely easy for me to find a new job whenever I needed, so there has been very little risk involved.

Still, it did require some savings, since our startup is very research intensive and will take several years before we see any revenue. We secured some basic funding now though, and things are looking good for the next stage too so I will only have needed 6 months or so of buffer.

In summary, my view is that if you're a reasonably skilled engineer or have some other attractive occupation, there is nothing to fear. The worst that can happen is really that your startup doesn't work, you'll go back to what you did before with a few months of missed income but with plenty of useful experience.

I don't think there are many situations or cultures where a failed technology startup attempt on your résumé would count against you in any way, in most places quite the opposite.


Your (and other) replies seem to assume that the startup is something you're already doing on the side, while employed full time doing something else. Is this really that common?? Most, if not all places I've worked assert IP ownership over anything you do while employed, even on your own time. That's 100% what keeps me from moonlighting and/or starting my own thing on nights and weekends, and keeps me from contributing/consulting for friends who want help with their idea. How do you have any confidence that your startup is really yours when you could get sued by a former employer the day you quit to grow it full-time?


Even if you signed a PIIA, double-check that it's enforceable where you are employed and is as far-reaching as you think it is.

For example, the California Labor Code stipulates that regardless of what an employment contract or PIIA says, an employee owns the copyright and patent rights to his inventions if the invention is made entirely on the employee’s own time, without using any of the company’s equipment or technology, as long as the invention (a) does not relate to the company’s business, or (b) did not result from work performed by the employee “as an employee” of the company. Washington and other states have similar laws that override any contract you might sign with a company.

An attorney in your jurisdiction familiar with this area of law can give you all the answers you need in just a few minutes for a nominal fee.


Your last line is very important. In PA I was able to get a full write-up on the NDA/ IP portion of my contract for $150. If you are planning on making something potentially profitable/ valuable in your spare time, $150 is peanuts for peace-of-mind.


In Europe that is not an issue at all, I've never heard of this happening here, only in the US. I don't understand how it's even possible for employers to have any opinions on or ownership of ehat you do on your spare time.


I did it twice. Both times I failed but I don't regret it. I felt very good when doing it. I lost savings but it was a good live experience.

On the second time I created this plugin: http://plugins.netbeans.org/plugin/61050/pleasure-play-frame... I tried to make a living of this, I only sold 5 licenses of 25 dollars per year and to develop this plugin took me 2 and a half months of hard work.

Didn't have a problem getting a new job both times.


Out of all the people I know, software developers are generally the most allergic to spending money on software.


Thanks for sharing a down to earth experience.


I gave the following talk exactly one year ago right when I decided to quit my academic job to focus on my "startup dream" (now https://cocalc.com): http://wstein.org/talks/2016-06-sage-bp/. It's a year later, and the quick summary is that I feel basically really, really happy to be working on this company. It's exciting to be successfully hiring and building a team of people who work very well together and can focus 100% on a specific problem, unlike how things worked for me in my part of academia (pure math research). Though stressful at times, doing what I'm doing now is much less painful than trying to build a company while doing another fulltime job (namely teaching at the University fulltime) -- that really sucked. I'm extremely glad that customers are paying us and investors funded us enough that I can do this.

Having the luxury to focus on one thing, rather than juggling several, is much like having an office that is neat, tidy, and uncluttered. It feels good in the same way. At least by quitting a job and focusing on a startup, you have the option to focus 100% on it. Actually focusing 100% on one thing is a difficult skill in itself, even with the right circumstances; however, it's completely impossible (at least for me) with two fulltime jobs at once, especially jobs like teaching (which involve lots of public speaking at scheduled times) or running a website with paying customers (which demands, e.g., responding to DDOS attacks).


Well I ran a solo startup so my experience might be different from others but for me, it was like living a dream. While working full-time somewhere, I started this SaaS business and soon after, the monthly income kept doubling to the point I was able to quit my job knowing my living expenses are cared for. When I quit, it was like wow, the feeling of liberation just hits you so hard. I worked for 7 years prior to doing that and now I was free. The feeling of being able to go outside anywhere at any time of the day, go shopping, or go eat at a nice restaurant, just relax at the beach, stuffs you just couldn't do when you are working full-time somewhere. It's like getting out of jail for the first time. That's what it was like for me to quit my job and focus on my startup.


do you mind sharing a link of your SaaS product?


Are you still doing that or back at a job?


This was almost 7 years ago and I sold the company in less than a year of operation. It wasn't like retirement money though, got about a year of break from work. I've launched a few startups after that and joined a couple other startups in the process. But nowadays, I just try to do consultant gigs. Looking back, I still can't get over how great it was though and I regret selling it too early. I also realized just how hard it is to launch a successful business and I was pretty lucky with my first.


Only asking for opinions from people who were successful is literally asking for survivor bias perspectives.

I dream of working for myself but I've never taken the plunge. My income from side projects is about 1/3 of the way to my minimum number to quit and go full time.

I do a lot of thinking about this, my number is the same as my financial independence / early retirement number.

One of the biggest things that holds me back is medical insurance for a family of 5. Having an employer offsets this cost a LOT.


Only asking for opinions from people who were successful is literally asking for survivor bias perspectives.

Possibly. But on the flip side, "only quit your day job once your business replaces its income" is a really good strategy for being successful.

That's actually a piece of advice I don't feel like I see pounded in enough. I see so many people "quit my job today to start a startup!" and I have to bite my tongue before I dump on their day by telling them what a terrible idea that was.

Then again, I personally did kinda quit my job before building my first revenue generating product, so pots & kettles and all that. I wouldn't do it again though.

Sounds like you're on the right path.


Oh that is very tough! I'm only in my early 20s, but I worry so much about retirement, probably one of my most deep fears! I figure the only way for me to get ahead is to be financially successful, either my startup makes it or I go to get my PhD in a cutting edge, lucrative compsci field.


I thought that too, and was fairly successful working for small companies and startups in the laser field.

Peers in government and the national labs outearned me. The key is expectation value of total lifetime earnings. In retirement, people with real pensions take riverboat cruises in Europe. People without have to worry about Sharpe ratios and PEG.


I chuckled at the thought of getting a PhD to be financially successful.


He's also in his 20s and worries about retirement money! The financial system will crash at least twice before he retires


To he able to deeply understand a science and be credentialed makes me internationally valuable, as opposed to having limits in just a single market. Sure I could just hop over to a big corp, but long term wise, I’m not sure if it’s sustainable building credible expertise from just working up the chain, that lifestyle could also disappear from the marketplace like tenured jobs; additionally I would love to be a top expert chosen to contribute to national policy or economical mattters. My model of financial success for the future depends on impact, specialization, incisive & collaborative science and a recognizable brand.


Just save and you'll be far ahead and get a job at google or someplace like that (a professional software company) OR go into finance.


I agree with some of the other's comments that time is the most valuable asset. Be productive! Also: 1) Most of the advice that you find online is not really applicable. I like the stuff that Sam Altman (yes, ycombinator) puts out because it most mirrors what I've experienced. 2) You need to do it yourself. Whatever it is. Just do it. 3) Funding is a game. Here on the east coast investors pretty much only fund the growth stage of a company after you have real traction and are virtually guaranteed some kind of success. You will need to fund your startup out of your own pocket until then! This is what they call "friends and family" because you will be hitting them up for money, favors, meals, places to stay, etc. 4) The tech is the easy part, as that is what you know. Marketing and selling is the hard part, as that is what you likely don't know. It is the part you should try to get help with if you can, but finding someone that knows what their doing is tough, so you can be sidetracked quite a bit. 5) The "do things that don't scale" is completely true. Reaching out one-on-one has been the most successful way to engage potential customers, even though it is very time and labor intensive.


I left my permanent position and was lucky enough to continue working on a contract basis to continue covering some of my bills.

I reached a point after about 4 months where I realised the journey to make the business profitable would most likely be a five year slog, and while the opportunity was there it wasn't a cause I felt I could devote 5 years of my life to.

So gave the software for free to the people that were helping with beta testing and went back to my job. I found the most positive thing was how it helped propel my career at my current employer as I got a better role, they seem to have more respect for me afterwards and I operate more independently now.

So I suppose if you can build some sort of safety net before quitting that helps.


Thanks for sharing. Could you tell us a bit more about what were you building?


Last year I quit a great full time role to focus on my side project, EmailOctopus (https://emailoctopus.com). Haven't looked back since!

I didn't take the plunge until quite late on, waiting until it was making enough money to comfortably cover my personal expenses. No regrets there - growth was slow in the early days and if I hadn't had the luxury of a monthly pay packet, I probably would have given up before I got the chance to properly validate the business.

Transitioning to full time brought more stress than I expected, but the experience is priceless. In the past few months alone I've learnt more than I did in 3 years of employment.

Realistically, what's the worst case scenario? I'm a reasonably skilled dev in a strong market so there's not much to lose. If it all goes wrong I'll get another job with a load of experience (and stories!) under my belt.


Nice site, looks very useful for us. We need to send out emails to many students once or twice a year. Now that we have switched from on-prem Exchange to Office-365, this has become a challenge.


Thanks! Glad to hear we might be of use. Feel free to drop me a direct email if you've got any questions (jonathan@domain.com).


I never returned to my old job... Why would you go back? I did return to working as a contractor for a while. A lot of failed startup engineers become contractors.

I'm back working for a startup again now so I guess I'm just going back and forth.

I've worked for a few startups and none of them has had an exit yet but one of those I have shares in is doing relatively well.

Doing contracting work is a smarter decision in general. You can actually plan to make a sizeable amount of money and then watch it happen without taking any risks - It's all within your control. With startups, you might often feel that it's outside of your control, especially if you're not a co-founder.


I can tell you what it was like to quit my job and focus on a very-early-holy-shit-what-are-we-doing-startup. Was at a marketing agency for 10 years when I left to pursue my first co-founded startup. Made the decision after we got a little organic press and signed up 5k+ users in 24 hours. I had been looking for an excuse to leave and do something new anyway.

It was scary as hell (no revenue coming from the startup), fun as hell, challenging as hell. Had my savings all planned out to help support the adventure, but still had that daily stress of knowing every dollar I spent was not coming back anytime soon. That part wasn't fun. But I didn't have kids or a mortgage and knew this was my chance to do something of the sort.

10/10 would do again in a similar situation, though knowing what I know now, I might have launched a business instead of chased a cool idea.


Am 3-4 months in with concept. Have anchor client and consultancy partnership. The biggest and wildest thing is moving from someone with an idea to a visionary leader in a space. It's fundamentally awesome to take said idea, turn it into a offering and go out on the line with it. I have had nothing but wonderful experiences with others helping me out. I am 40, have 2 kids, a dog and a wife and a pretty good network which I have had to really 'work' (authentically) but the assistance from others, trust and good feelings are something that have made me believe in the human race a bit more! In corporate it's all protectionism and petty arguments AND a visionary thinker is not what they want! I am lucky to have found an excellent co-founder who is a great counter part. Definitely taking/balancing risks, going fast and working really hard (doesn't feel like work building your own thing though) however the finances have to be calculated and I have taken the consulting/product route which seems to be good but converting a service driven model to a recurring revenue model is the goal AND the challenge.


I am 2 months into doing this, it feels a lot like when I moved to SF, lot of things up in the air but very promising. I had a 6 month financial plan but it was hard to adapt to the lack of income and seeing my savings decrease month by month, so I'm doing contracting and TaskRabbit. I'm not really a ramen noodles person, so I make due with what I can get at the grocer.

I have a previous coworker who'd love to help me, but I don't want to babysit his work and I feel he's not valuable enough to the business. I would like another cofounder, but it doesn't bother me that I'm doing it all on my own, I have spent the last 10 years getting ready for this, so I'm more than ready. I am doing more than okay on my business alone, but I wish I had some expertise for a second opinion. I am really really thinking about going into an accelerator program or seeking angel investment, but I'm apprehensive about taking cash at this (or any stage). My biggest fear is actually having to get a real job again, I will do anything to prevent that from happening since that means my startup is dead.


I'm curious, do you mind sharing a bit about what it is you're working on?


An app to embarrasses an existing industry


I'm on my last day at my current job before taking the plunge to focus on my half successful startup! I'm going down in pay to about half, we're still losing money every month for me being employed. Our runway is ~6 months before our savings are out. Basically we have to double the monthly revenue that took 5 slow years to grow up to. Exciting and scary times!!!


Good luck! I hope it all works out. Scary times, indeed :)


Thanks! We were also able to cheaply rent a room at a shared office space, so it feels super real. :D


All the best - do you have a link yet?


Yeah absolutely. Our app is https://feeder.co. You can read a bit about our numbers on Indiehackers.com: https://www.indiehackers.com/businesses/feeder

MRR is ~3100 USD right now.


I'm signing up right now; you should charge more.


Thanks!! Absolutely. That is something we're wanting to implement as soon as possible. It's awesome to have 1800 subscribers, unfortunately the economics of that is not so sustainable. We still haven't decided how we are going to roll out such an invasive change, but hope to do it so people understand and are happy to continue their support.


Depending on your growth, you could just lock the early adopters in at the current price.

If that isn't sustainable, even a dollar more for the early adopters and $2-2.50 more for new adopters might work. Of course I don't know what your overhead is.


And sorry for double post... What do you think would be a fair price? Would love to hear HN's point of view.


I started my screenshot Saas product, Urlbox (https://urlbox.io) as a side project back in 2013. There were times I did think about shutting it down as the amount of time spent on it initially compared to the revenue growth was just too depressing! A whole 3.5 years later it had grown just enough that I could begin to take it more seriously and actually support myself full-time working on it.

As with everything there are pros and cons. The pros are obviously that you get to spend your time doing something you enjoy (hopefully), and can work whenever and wherever you feel like (this can also be a con!). The cons are that you will always be worrying about stuff like churn, whether servers will go down whilst you're away on holiday, how you're going to grow enough to support a family etc etc.

The long, slow Saas ramp of death really is a thing, and there are no silver bullets in terms of growth/marketing - just many small things that all contribute. I also always used to think 'if only I could just get to $x MRR then everything would be so much better and I'd be much more comfortable and relaxed', but when you do eventually break through that barrier you realise you're just more worried about how you are going to achieve the next one, so it's kinda never ending!

I also agree with other posts here that if you're already a decent developer in a good market, then what is the worst that can happen really? Try doing some fearsetting. I'm sure you could always find another job if your thing doesn't work out, but you do need to give these things time. I also failed a bunch of times with other startup ideas, one of which was also YC backed.


Quitting my job was great!

Let's just say that my mistake was that I was too afraid to hurt my co-founder's feelings. If we parted ways when we should have, I might have actually gotten somewhere. (Then again, I might have gotten nowhere either!)


I had my financial ducks in a row before I did my first startup -- I knew how much "fun money" I could expend getting the startup to work. Most of the horror stories I hear revolve around people who didn't do this.


Re: "fun money" - how much was that figure for you? (range is fine if you don't want to give an exact number)


Well, I'm single. So it was several years of living expenses at the time of my first startup, and it's FU money now.


I started doing this recently by quitting my job, and I currently have no income.

There is this assumption that one must build a minimum viable product that has to be released as quickly as possible, so much that it's become startup mantra. It's no surprise that a lot of these products seem to be technically shallow, everyone is reaching for low hanging fruit.

I feel rather alone trying to do something that I think hasn't been done before, or if it had, wasn't executed well. I don't think I could possibly commit to it without having strong motivation, which I struggled with while having a full-time job.

The biggest technical/social challenge I have is to make something that a non-technical user could easily get right away and make something with it. I think the automation of web dev is an inevitability, and frameworks were just a historical blip on this path. The same thing is happening to web design. http://hypereum.com


I think the whole point of an MVP is to validate the hypotesis you make about your users.

In your case for example, do you know who your users are? Are they entrepreneurs? Current software developers? Anyhow, who is going to use your service?

I'm not trying here to undermine your project since it indeed sounds pretty awesome, but to reinstate why the whole mvp movement has a reason to be.


For marketing-tech, sure it's a great model, but getting out an MVP as fast as possible doesn't always make sense. Sometimes it takes an order of magnitude more effort to get to "minimum" or "viable" depending on the product. On the contrary, a lot of developer's side projects just feel like things that any reasonably skilled developer could build given a few days.

The question of finding customers, is exactly the same as finding who is demanding software to solve business problems (i.e. not current software devs).


Getting an MVP out as fast as possible doesn't contradict an MVP that takes an order of magnitude more effort to build. It's just that the ASAP for the latter case is whatever amount of time that it takes to build it.


I agree with you about the complexity of a mvp. It indeed may vary. However a mvp is about testing an hypothesis, not building a simple version of a product.

Maybe an mvp for a complex product is just a landing page explaining features with a buy button, built in under 2 hours using optimizely.

Again, it depends on the hypothesis. So, in this way, I differ with you when you say getting out a mvp asap doesn't make sense. Because validating you hypothesis is what you want to make as fast as possible. But then, launching as fast as possible doesn't imply necessarily launching fast.


I don't use Mail on my Mac, and I know of many others who don't either. You should try using MailChimp for the marketing sign-up at the bottom of your page!


Thanks for the suggestion, but for a good reason, I couldn't be bothered to use some external service to do it, since it will be replaced with the actual product. Replacing that stupid mailto link is just another motivation to ship something :)


Just a reminder that life is pretty short, and worst case, you can probably just get another job and only be 6 months to 1 year behind your friends in terms of savings.


Yes that is the worst case for me, but also I really really do not want to kill my dream. I like work but I will live in the park with my laptop if it comes down to keep going (no joke).


I quit my job to start my own company last January. Its been fairly successful so far.

For somebody like me, and probably a lot of HN readers, its _actually_ a fairly low risk proposition because qualified, experienced software engineers are so sought after. Whatever you are doing, you will always be able to pick up a $1000-$1500 a day gig when you need to bootstrap your actual project.

My old boss has contacted me a few times to see if I want to come back- definitely do not want to.

You talk about "fear", and you talk about a "successful" startup. Here's the thing: You never know if a startup will be successful, and you just have to give it a go for the love of it, rather than any expectation of success. Don't be afraid- there are plenty of worse things in this world than a failed company.

Have learned a lot about bookkeeping.


How do you find your day gigs?

I've tried to do this, but the time required to do it (via reaching through my network) has really been a lot. More than expected. And, then I tried to go outside of my network, and I was just overwhelmed with the repsponses. I couldn't easily discern which opportunities were worth the time.

Is there someone I can hire to be my freelancing mentor?


mail me : eriklistserve at gmail dot com


email sent!


> For somebody like me, and probably a lot of HN readers, its _actually_ a fairly low risk proposition because qualified, experienced software engineers are so sought after. Whatever you are doing, you will always be able to pick up a $1000-$1500 a day gig when you need to bootstrap your actual project.

What on Earth are you talking about? If it were possible for most experienced software engineers to simply snap their fingers and get "gigs" like this, everyone would be doing it. Leaving full-time employment is extremely risky--that's why most people are not entrepreneurs. It's why financial advisors recommend you keep 3-6 months of expenses in an emergency fund, because it can take that long to find a new job should you find yourself in need of one.


Yes! I will probably quit my pretty well-paid job at the end of the year to (slow) travel and work on some SaaS ideas. Basically the worst case is that I have to call it quits and get a another job (if I'm unlucky with less pay). So if you don't have a huge family and/or literally no savings the risk is super low.


Care to share some tips on how to find gigs?


I landed a contract to develop a saas system before I really knew how to program for the web, I had some prior systems programming experience but had not coded for about 5 years. I quit my job to develop it and delivered but was never able to land another customer.

I still have the original client 3 years later and the company grosses about $3,500 per month and I net $1,250. It pretty much runs itself, requires maybe 2 hours of work every 2 - 3 months. I spent a little over a year trying to grow it from the initial customer with no luck.

Landed a job as a full stack engineer afterwards and I really like it. I am actively looking to start a new project but I will keep my main job while doing it. I had the benefit of a wife who makes a good salary to support me during that prior adventure (Still do :) )


I actually have a different take on this. I was building a side project 2 times in my past, to a point where there was some buzz around these side projects. And, I didn't have a job when I was working on these. However, as the products were nearing completion for V1. I got very good offers for contract work. I also had debts, so I took up the jobs. However, this led to the products failing to get any traction.

So, if you are planning to leave a job and have a good product which is getting you even half of the money you need. Leaving your job will only increase the chances of success. However, hanging on to the job while working on a product is going to be much harder.


TLDR - Sort out your finances first, startups are extremely stress inducing and even now with our startup at the point of break even, £1m ARR and 100% growth predicted for next financial year, I still currently earn less than I need to live but with the promise of a strong exit in the next 3-4 years if we hit our targets.

Previously I contracted as a full stack developer bringing in other developers on projects as and when the project timescales wouldn't have been achievable with just me. Running a software consultancy alone, dealing with all of the usual rigmarole of a business and performing proper client outreach was stressful, but financially and personally very rewarding (especially when you close a big deal completely on your own).

In order to get involved in my current startup, which at the outset was comprised of a designer, biz dev (CEO) and myself as CTO I had to cut off ties with my previous clients and dedicate all of my available time to the new startup. I had leveraged myself quite a bit running the previous consultancy as billings were growing year on year, so my VAT/Corporation tax accounts were generally paid out of job fees towards the end of the year rather than set aside throughout the year, leaving me in a negative cash flow position when stopping work for existing clients. Luckily there were some ongoing payments that didn't require development resource, so the small admin time required to invoice and chase up was all that was required, and enabled me to setup payment arrangements with HMRC to settle these liabilities over a period of time, out of this cashflow. Setting up these arrangements was very stressful, and I would strongly advise anyone coming into a startup to fully evaluate their financial situation before committing even if the opportunity seems huge.

Initial salaries in the new start-up were minimal (£1000 p/m approx), and it took a solid three years, extremely long working days, almost unmanageable personal stress and around £0.5m of funding before we're now up to an above average average salary, £1m ARR, a team of 15 and strong growth projected for the coming year.

Success is a subjective term and occasionally I have to refocus to see the light at the end of the tunnel, but with enough grit, luck and determination, it’s possible to tip the balance to a point where success is now more likely than not.


I've had two very different experiences starting a company.

The first time I was two years out of school with $12k in the bank, had a partner with a ton of experience, and a decent idea. We crunched for six months, launched, failed, and then tried to pivot. I ran out of cash a few months before the iPhone launched and had I had a longer runway we could have ported our app to the iPhone and potentially seen success.

A year ago and nine years later than that attempt, I've started a small video game company with another friend (justintimegame.com). Despite my life situation being more complicated and expensive to maintain, the prior nine years success combined with my wife's income basically lets me try and fail until I get sick of it instead of when the money would run out. Obviously I'm aiming for success, but the massively reduced stress from barely worrying about money let's me be much more open to experimentation while also being resilient to failure.

I don't regret starting and failing my first company however. It set me up for having a higher risk threshold and an interest in startups that ended up working out quite well for me.


I started up twice. First was a e-commerce market place and the second one was into mobile app development. Both failed. I was running them for around 4 years. Now I am back to a full time Job. I never regretted my failures since I learnt a lot from them and now I am working on my 3rd side project hoping to succeed.


So for me I left a job and worked on my startup that ended up unsuccessful. Fortunately during that time I met my current business partners and we have since made and sold a company that by most people's definitions has been a very good run.

Expecting to get it right is the failure we all make at some point (even when we say out lout "this might not work out" we still somehow expect it to work). Expecting failure to lead to something positive is the long game I'd urge you to wait for, it's hard to remain in a good mental state at times while you're working hard and feeling under appreciated, but that is sadly just what it's like.


The way I did it was to start freelancing so that I could pay the expenses with less hours and then use the rest of the time for sideprojects. Finally, one of my sideprojects (https://everydaycheck.com) shows interest and traction, so it's easy for me to just do less freelance hours and put more time into it, hopefully I can get to a point where I can work 100% on it.

I guess the "quit your job" problem only exists if you have major responsibilities, like a family, or paying debt back. Otherwise, it makes no real sense to consider it, the opportunity is too big.


Self employment is incredible when the money's rolling in, and terrible when it's not. I can't speak for a full fledged startup with funding though because then you just work for investors.


1. One day you are excited with the possible opportunities, then you are overwhelmed and then you are depressed. If you leave without a plan, it takes a few months to just get the mind straight. If you do have a plan - it falls apart and you still end up spending a few months that feel unproductive. I am not discouraging on having a plan - you must. But also note that you made a plan with an "employee mindset".

2. 6 month financial backup is usually not enough. I have heard many stories where people try going independent for 6 months, run out of money and start looking for a job. What happens is - entrepreneurship gets into you in that time and if one goes back to a job, I can bet they feel even more frustrated. You need 1.5 years of backup or 2-3 years of "frugal living backup". I struck positive cashflows in just about 5 months, but it wasn't good enough. I distinctly remember thinking "Maybe, I should have done this part time". Then I struck a mini-gold-mine at 8 months. Having a good backup will help you persist longer. I did not have a growth strategy that worked. But I focused on working and doing the right thing. Keep it rolling.

3. The biggest worry I had when starting was about providing "enough" for my family and any emergencies for next 1.5-3 years at any point in time. Unlike many stories, I promised myself not to wait until I go bankrupt or in a lot of debt - Nearing that is a huge red flag, where I would typically exit and take a regular job. However, taking a job is the last thing I want to do. That thing kept me money-oriented for a while and made me work on stuff that generated positive cashflow.

4. Would it have been possible to return to your old job? - Maybe, but I would not want to. I waited too long to jump ship. Infact, my experience on multiple "good" jobs is what is keeping me away from them. Once you taste entrepreneurship, its hard to go back

5. I do not consider myself successful. May be semi-successful, some people see it as success. But I have come a long way from fearing failures. Success may or may not last long. I enjoy the process and the tremendous personal growth it results into. I ensure my financial backup now gives me 5-6 years minimum to start afresh - if I have to. Do not undervalue the role of money - it definitely makes things easier.

6. This is my favorite quote about Karma. I heard it many years back (and thought it was impractical). Especially useful when I feel I did everything right but nothing works: "Karm karo, fal ki chinta mat karo" (Do your duty without thinking about results)

P.S.: I don't know about others, but I have restricted myself into writing lesser HN comments because it takes quite a bit of time/energy. This one is an act of impulse. How do other entrepreneurs feel about this?


If you're single, childless, and have a few thousand dollars in savings, quitting your job to focus on a side project or startup is very easy. You can achieve your dream in the next 24 hours. Here's the roadmap.

1. Give your employer your 2 weeks/1 month notice (depending on locale). Taking this step immediately is critical because the urgency and shock of the change will force you into being fast and practical about all the subsequent steps.

2. Create a monthly budget for yourself which assumes no income that you are not 100% sure about. So if you have interest from investments or a freelance contract that's a absolute guarantee you can include it. For most people the income side of this budget is going to be low or nothing. Your goal with this budget is to stretch your funds out for 6-12 months. The good news is that in 2017, the principle of geoarbitrage allows you to live on virtually any budget. If you live in the Bay Area your next step is going to be to move somewhere cheaper. On the cheapest end of the spectrum, I'll use Thailand as an example because I live here, you can get a basic apartment in the suburbs of Chiang Mai or Bangkok for $100-$500/mo, your initial arrival can be visa-free, and you'll live on delicious Thai food from a restaurant down the road for a few dollars a day. Network heavily with people in your intended destination before you even arrive because it'll make everything 100 times easier.

3. Now create a business plan for your new entity. The business plan should include a description of the product or service which you're going to market, how you're going to market it, what you're going to charge (start high), and any and all costs of development and operation including your own time. It should include monthly profit/loss projections (you're not allowed to use these projections in your budget, they are goals, not guarantees). The most important thing about your business isn't what product or service you initially offer. Once you have assets and control you can try anything you want. Until then the goal of your business is to make enough income that your assets are growing, no matter what that entails.

If you're leaving the country as a part of this process I would advise forming an LLC and opening a bank account before you go, as these things can be difficult from overseas. You'll be very busy trying to make money and living your dream so you don't want to have to deal with paperwork.

Prepare yourself mentally to work very hard for at least the next 6 months and do whatever you need to do to make enough cash. You will become practical and decisive, and you'll learn many realities about business, such as cash flow is king, very quickly. I got my start being nickel-and-dimed by agencies in India over Elance. It sucked and it was hard and it was 100% worth it.

There are many objections to this strategy which typically stem from risk aversion, or a desire to not worry about money. I would submit that if one objects to the risk, this plan is a personal growth opportunity: it will teach them how to handle stress, plan for contingencies, and so on. If the objection is that they don't want to worry about money, I would point out that money is just a way for people to quantify your value to them, and since no man is an island, there are great personal and financial rewards to be reaped from confronting this objection and discovering what other people truly value about you.

Doing step 1 first and now is the key. If your path brings you through Bangkok let me know and we'll grab a beer! I've seen many people succeed at this and a few fail. Your odds are better than you think.


one word: liberating




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