If you want to create one, then it should be for an idea that you really believe in and that has value. Because you're going to have bad days--lots of them--and want to quit. And if you don't believe in what you're building, then you will quit, and it'll all be for nothing. (Plus, if you believe in what you're building and it fails, you won't regret it later.. you'll at least appreciate what you learned.)
The fact that you're asking at all, tells me you should probably stay at your job. If I (a random 3rd party) needs to convince you to do a startup, then forget it. The idea must not be very compelling--it certainly isn't to you.
And if you're thinking that is the path because you've read a bunch of success porn.. you're in for a rude awakening.
The probability is that your startup will fail.
However, you would not have failed as an individual if you're passionate about what you're building, and enjoyed building it, whatever the eventual outcome.
I've worked for startups a few years now, and as many HN commenters here have said, you WILL have many bad days. You'll see crazy shit once in a while, so it's almost always easier to answer your question by starting with why NOT to join a startup.
Justin Kan has a good writeup on this: https://www.atrium.co/blog/work-at-a-startup/
Read it, and then read it a second time. On your second pass, put more thought on the "what if the startup fails", as one tends to overestimate the upside (riches etc.) without weighing out the downside of the risks involved. Unless you feel "yes, this is what I sign up for" very strongly, you probably shouldn't.
Just to wrap this point up, here's why I'm where I'm at. I've "roughly" figured out something I can live with in my career. Working in a big company with big bureaucracy, slow processes and being told to do something insignificant kills me, and I'm better off working at startups and hopefully start something my own later on, despite the potential downsides.
If you want to learn, grow, and be a big fish in a small pond, go for a startup. It's fun, frenetic, stressful at times, and you can have as big an impact as you want. If you have dreams of $$$, stay at a public company that can shower you with cash and RSUs.
If you don't, and if you're luckier than most, you might get stuck working on an idea or in an industry you really don't care about, just because you wanted to play startup and, like the poster above said, you read up on a bunch of success porn that's telling you that startups are the sexy, right thing for you.
Then you'll be stuck between a rock and a hard place, hating what you do for years, but not being able to leave because of all of the sunk cost, the shame of abandoning the team of people you've brought on board and convinced to chase a dream you don't really care about yourself, the reputation hit, the VCs who sunk all that cash into you, and the carrot of a potential, however tiny exit dangling in front of you. And the years keep adding up as you're chasing that carrot, still dreaming every day of getting out, but somehow that exit just never happens. If you're lucky/smart you'll find someone to replace you, but then they might kill the golden goose and you're still left with nothing, but at least you moved on, so that's a silver lining.
Fall in love with the problem and with the mission, that way, even if you fail or have a pretty rough time, at least you're working on something that truly matters to you. And "doing a startup" can't be the mission in itself, that's a recipe for disaster. It's one of those situations where even if you win, you still lose.
"Real" money comes after product development, market fit testing, market penetration, iteration, supporting early adopters, building market presence, etc.
"Virtual" money comes after product sketching, roadmapping, pitching to VCs, and cashing out (ideally before the 'market fit testing' stage.)
Edit: Oof, unpopular opinion apparently.
So, your mileage may vary.
Me personally I've done both, and I think I prefer a small, public company where my RSUs are worth something that I can sell. I don't need multi-millions, but I do need money to survive in the Bay Area.
However, I've had lot of fun and mostly enjoyed my career being kept on my toes.
I peek at Blind every now and then (and take everything I read with a grain of salt) but main takeaway is that there are plenty of people at FAANGs who pull in a good amount of money but are completely miserable because they have allowed themselves to get wrapped up in a rat race where all they can think of is their next raise/promotion within some arbitrary leveling system to measure their self worth against.
Also reminded with how money is not happiness with the crazy story with Jussie Smollett staging his own hate crime because he was depressed about his salary of $1m a tv season.
At the same time it's still a great place to work at as long as you find the right team (especially team lead).
In my own experience, i jumped into the entrepreneurial journey right after my graduation. Was it a well thought out decision. No of course not. It was a kid chasing his dreams. All cliches aside sometimes dreams don't feed you. But if you ask me "do i regret", i would confidently say No. If you choose to be an entrepreneur, no one or no book in the world can prepare you for the shit that you are going to face and 60% of the time you'll have bad experiences. So why choose it over a well-paying job? That's a question you might have to answer. And that answer will change over time. If you go with it, be prepared for the following
It not fun (As mainstream media portray it to be).
Every morning when you wake up & your rational mind will ask you why? be prepared with an answer.
Embrace the uncertainty and learn to survive on hope.
And finally, save some money at least to survive for 3 years. Live frugally
I left my large company job 7 years ago to found my own company with a friend. We initially tried our hand at a saas product then figured out we were too green at the business side of things to make it work (read we had no idea how to sell) so moved on to web-dev consulting.
Consulting has been a huge slog, we made every mistake in the book we could (and learnt from them) so we were making meagre salaries for a number of years. However we (lucked out and) met some great people who wanted to start new Saas products with us and could take care of selling and marketing while we build and product manage.
Now we've made our way back to boostrapped-saas-product-land much wiser than before. Been at it for a year now so not quite ramen profitable yet. I am poor AF, my cofounder is poor AF, we are late 30s/early 40s now.
The only reason why we come to work each day is because we have products we believe in, customers who we want to help and employees who we love (and wish we could pay more).
This has been made possible by understanding wives and families too who are happy to scrimp now for a shot at a future they believe in too.
There's no point in focusing on the money/wealth that I didn't earn over the years because I took this path and I made a choice to. What matters is the here and now. That's not to say I don't plan for the future but I boiled it down to a simple trick to keep me going - is there progress? Is your trajectory up or down? If up, no matter how small or slow the progress is, keep grinding away another day/week/month. We're slowly adding customers, slowly improving our product to be indispensible to our current customers and getting paid on a monthly basis for it so there's a pin-hole of light at the end of the tunnel. I've already paddled half way across the ocean, I just have to keep going on.
I've found this to be the most dangerous type of thinking. It's always going to take longer, go worse and be harder than any of your best estimates. When you don't meet your dates or metrics, that's when you'll lose your motivation.
The key to keep grinding away relentlessly on a project is to improve habits and systems for making progress. The creator of Dilbert wrote a great book about it:
Personally I don't consider myself successful, but because of the advice to stop making goals I'm failing faster, staying motivated and getting stuff done. So hopefully eventually it will pay off.
Software engineer and founder are two different roles, and it takes time to transition. Don't expect to be wildly successful in any short period of time.
Launch quickly and try to get users and talk to them. Try to make your first dollar quickly. This will help you learn about business, marketing, product market fit.
I believe that starting a bootstrapped SaaS startup minimizes your risk and maximizes your outcome. It's relatively easy to make money and become profitable, compared to other kinds of startups. Once you're profitable, it's hard to die.
Lastly, bring a designer with you from big co (assuming you're an engineer). People want to use well designed products, and simple UX coverts better.
On the other hand you already appear to be living the alternate dream talked about often here on HN - good job at a tech giant at least if it is one of the FANG and not one of the older school tech giants.
My own experiences would indicate that one should not underestimate the likelihood of market failure. When we say "high risk high reward" many of us focus much more on the second half of that phrase and discount the first half. We assume that we are smart enough to avoid the risks and persevere till we reap the rewards. And, sometimes we are, but often we are not.
Just the other day I ruminated with a friend that I almost certainly would have been a lot better off financially picking a boring but useful domain and getting really good at that rather route that I did take. Focusing on R&D, innovation and a couple of versions of startups. On the other hand I feel like my life has been pretty interesting.
There isn't a binary choice between Big Tech and Startup.
The corporate coding lifestyle can be without a doubt an existential mind fuck. It partially depends on your mindset and job responsibilities though. If you care about the purpose of your product, you aren’t some product managers code monkey, and you are making money that isn’t the worst thing.
That being said... FOR ME I have learned that the concept of retirement is a joke. It’s not all that great and at least for me people feel better having a meaningful purpose. Even if your purpose is make believe I think it’s neCessary. So I wonder about the utility of doing something you hate for 30 years just to end up “retired” and miserable anyway. That’s what I’m trying to do, I don’t want to retire but I don’t want to sit in front of a computer coding up some app UI for someone else. but I have a family on the way so we’ll see how it goes.
I think maybe optimize for that purpose you have in mind for yourself rather than starting a business just for the hell of it. If you are getting paid 500k by google to prosecute child pornographers that’s likely going to make you feel better than starting your own 1 man SaaS business running email marketing....
As an option, I'ld explore a side-hustle first, see if you like doing that enough before going all-in. Your goal for side-hustle, 20k MRR or gross margin monthly (ecom). Choose a metric that's real. If you can't hit it on a part time basis, you probably won't make it on a full time basis (for venture style startups that is. If you're targeting lifestyle growth levels, you can always do that part time. So what if it take 3x longer because you spend 2 days a week instead of 6 on it. ).
Run it like a startup, eg. hire folks, pay for them (out of your salary), manage them, build out specs/build stuff/etc. Do all the things you would need to create a startup. Low risk, a little expensive as an experiment, but if you didn't leave your posh job, you can afford it. eg. it's a 100-200k experiment, but that's 'ok'. You'ld have certainty.
Sabbatical: yep. definitely do that if possible/available.
Don’t bother with people saying you can only do this at a very young age. I’m 35, have 2 small kids (ages 2 and 4), and no household income right now. You don’t need to risk anything important to try your own thing. I wrote about my risk taking attitude here: https://medium.com/@dvassallo/freedom-from-success-54ca98fd6...
Using levels.fyi and the sde 3 title, it looks like the average for that position in San Francisco is $482,000/year.
Can confirm the same situation in Europe (Germany). With that said, I'd advise against joining a startup. In Germany, even with stereotypically strict laws favoring the employee, startups are extremely abusive.
- They will lowball you
- They will lie to you about all the "great perks", mostly free fruit. Very rarely do they offer stock options and if they do, the terms designed to screw you over as much as possible (e.g. if the company doesn't go public or get bought over in 5 years, the value of any options is zero)
- They expect you to work long hours, disregarding any "work-life balance" BS stereotypes about the way Europeans work
If you want to make a lot of money, I would look at investing (especially commodities now that stocks/bonds/houses are overvalued) instead of trying a startup. Most people get rich ($3M+) by investing and letting compounding do its job.
Doing a startup is risky, investing can be done in a relatively safe way.
If you really want a startup for some non-money related reason, you can do it when you have money in your bank account.
Get a software engineering job at a company thst has hardware engineering as well, it's usually easier to switch as an insider.
If you have put away enough money to fund your own idea or live salary free for a year (or amount of time you're comfortable with not earning) then go for it. If this is just some itch you're looking to scratch try changing team in your company first and see if you still want to leave.
This question depends on so many variables that you can't possibly expect someone to give you a clear answer.
If you have a current opportunity, it would be much easier to compare X with Y than talking about hypotheticals, so my advice is keep looking around for opportunities, and once one arrises think hard and then think again and then take the leap.
In the meantime, focus on becoming a kick-ass coder and/or product person and/or manager and/or fundraiser and/or marketer because these are all critical skills for building successful organizations.
I am currently a masters student doing a 4+1 year program in a prestigious school CS department. I know that if I go work at a big tech company, I will have no motivation to put in my 110% effort, so that's what influenced my decision to join a medium-sized startup. Besides, life is too short to be doing something you don't enjoy.
Validate demand: You should understand whether you can launch a very crude version/maybe no product but customers lined up to pay you for your thing which'll become ready soon and get some validation from the market. If you can't do this, what makes you think that you can do it after you quit? Stay at your job if customers are not ready to throw money at you. If you can see solid demand, you should validate yourself.
Validate yourself: Do you think you are mentally prepared? Do you have enough savings? You probably have the skills to create a product, but do you have the skills to create a company? Will you enjoy working on this for the next 5-10 years?
On savings: Do the math for yourself, but in order to be able to work without financial stress, you should have enough money for = ((number of months you foresee your startup to take off) x 2.5[correction for you optimism] + 3-6 months[It'll become hard to work stress free and irrational to continue if you don't have something solid, so better go get a job now]) * (amount you think you'll need in a month * 1.3-1.5[you are also optimistic about your expenses])
However, if you're somewhere in the middle, I think startups are a great learning experience. Go work at an early-stage startup that will pay you less than your current job and less than your market rate, but you get to experience a different style of company and style of work. Or save up money from your posh job so you can afford to not make money for a year and try starting your own company for that time. Or just coast a bit at your posh job and take that extra energy and put it into starting a side business.
Why don't you find an intersection between your idea or the reason you leave the big tech and the big tech itself? Then work it out with your manager to transition to that. It may take time but how different it would be from working on your idea, pitching it etc?
Why not opt for work of your choice in a big tech giant? Win-Win and even to win at startup lottery, eventually you need to reach the win-win stage!
She now works for a massive revenue, mid-size firm and ... mostly hates it.
At one time in my life, I worked for a company that would have been considered a tech giant of its time (one of the 100 most profitable firms in the US at the time), and it was OK-ish.
My opinion is that I would do it, if I had the opportunity to do it. If you can afford to take the chance now, then consider taking the chance now. You never know if you will be able to do it in the future.
It also depends on how much experience you have. If you've been working 1-2 years I'd say no way. 5 years: maybe.
But as others said its good to do when you're young. Combined with living in Thailand or something sounds great.
I have a consulting business that pays me handsomely. But I also have a side business that has paid for my monthly expenses the last 3-4 months. Would that be a good metric to jump ship from consulting and go full-time with the side hustle?
I wrote an article recently about my leap of faith and four pivots. The link is in my bio.