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Ask HN: Quitting Job to Launch a Startup
29 points by joanna_ on July 24, 2019 | hide | past | favorite | 29 comments
I am learning Python. I want to quit my current job and start a business. I have a few ideas.

I am looking for your advice on how not to fail, learn and launch a profitable startup.

What are your advice, and good sources of learning?

In short, how to start a successful startup?

Top things I learned doing this successfully:

1) Find a customer. Don’t worry about your website and your logo and blah blah blah. Find a customer and solve a problem for them. Then worry about the other stuff. The best way to find customers early on is connections and taking to people, not google ad words or search or whatever. Call someone you know and solve their problem.

2) The initial problem you solve might not be the problem you end up solving. That’s ok. Keeping solving problems for people and eventually you’ll hit on one that works.

3) Have happy customers. Do everything you can to make your customers happy. Don’t worry that what you’re doing doesn’t scale. If it’s totally manual that’s fine, but make them happy. Answer their calls. Connect with them. Your first customers are everything. They establish your reputation.

4) Don’t do it for the money. Do it because you want to do it. Maybe you’ll make a bunch of money. Maybe not. Starting a business is not about money. It’s about the experience.

5) I actually didn't have my business going before I quit. That's pretty common advice, but I didn't follow it and I'm glad I didn't. Trying to balance a job and a startup is really hard. If you can get your living expenses low and you don't have dependents, I'd suggest just quitting and throwing yourself off the deep end. That way you basically have no choice but to get things going. Even if your business isn't making enough money yet, you can pick up consulting work to make ends meet.

6) Decide what you want to make it. You don't need to raise VC money and make billions. If you had your own business that paid you, say $150k/year, that's success. Maybe one day you could scale it, and make millions, but pick your metrics of success. Don't feel like a failure because of money.

Good luck! It’s hard. Keep going.

No 4 really annoys me. You should absolutely do it for the money. The main objective of starting a business is to make money. Other objectives like "making the world a better place" or "be your own boss" are just bonuses.

Honestly, if you really rationally break it down, starting a business rarely makes financial sense when factoring in the risk. If you want to maximize guaranteed lifetime income, having a job w/ a high demand skill (That can remain in high demand) is probably the way to go.

>> "making the world a better place" or "be your own boss" are just bonuses.

Bonuses if they really happen, delusional till then!

currently struggling with 5), I think I will give my business a real shot this year

Your first sentence:

    > I am learning Python. 
Your second sentence:

    > I want to quit my current job and start a business.
Later in the thread:

    > I am not good at sales. Should I learn selling...?

Advice - pick one thing, get really good at it and take things slowly. You can't go from having no engineering experience, no business experience and no sales experience to all of sudden doing all three successfully.

1) Start your business BEFORE you quit your job

2) Make sure you are good at sales BEFORE you quit your job (and that you've sold stuff)

3) MOST businesses fail because they don't have enough revenue, not because of product or people.

Resources/ books:

* The E-Myth

* All the stuff written by the Basecamp guys

* Jim Collins books

* Creativity Inc

> 1) Start your business BEFORE you quit your job

I absolutely second this, but I would add a crucial section 1.5.

1.5) Also secure a seed-round to kick-start your company to test the for market fit. Then hire a few employees.

If after the seed-round it is either profitable or succeeds in the market and gets more investment, then it makes sense to quit your job and work full time for the startup.

This assumes that OP wants to get VC money, which might not be everyone’s cup of tea. If anything, you’ll have much more leverage in negotiating a VC deal if you have actual paying customers.

No one is going to give you a seed round with you still in your current job. At that point you would be all-in if you raised a seed.

I got my seed round from acclaimed angel investor FF&S

Friends, Family & Savings

Don't let startup cash kill your idea before you give it a chance. Creative people can test an idea for next to nothing.

I am not good at sales. Should I learn selling or hire someone who is excellent at selling things?

From http://paulgraham.com/ds.html

"There are two reasons founders resist going out and recruiting users individually. One is a combination of shyness and laziness. They'd rather sit at home writing code than go out and talk to a bunch of strangers and probably be rejected by most of them. But for a startup to succeed, at least one founder (usually the CEO) will have to spend a lot of time on sales and marketing. [2]"


"[2] Thanks to Sam Altman for suggesting I make this explicit. And no, you can't avoid doing sales by hiring someone to do it for you. You have to do sales yourself initially. Later you can hire a real salesperson to replace you."

This advice is great not just for bootstrapping your own startup, but for selling yourself in life (interviews, dating, etc).

You HAVE to do sales and if you have to ask this question, don't quit your job.

Maybe don't quit your job just yet.

Start trying to build your ideas with the coding skills you have. It probably won't be the thing you build, but working on a project to learn to program works better in my opinion, as you'll work to achieve something tangible instead of learning in a void.

0. Read Cal Newport's "So Good they Can't Ignore You":

Book: https://www.amazon.com/Good-They-Cant-Ignore-You/dp/14555091...

"Talks at Google": https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qwOdU02SE0

Newport addresses career change strategies, how to build good careers, etc.

1. Read Marc Andreessen's Archive:

Link: https://pmarchive.com/ HN commented collected links: https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=19739943

It is a collection of tweets made in a nice format, then an ebook.

Andreessen addresses a lot of topics.

2. How to Start a Startup:

Link: https://startupclass.samaltman.com/

3. Startup School (CS183F): https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5ZXU84_sGXo&list=PLoROMvodv4...

The list is last uploaded on top position, so first video is on the bottom "How and Why to Start a Startup". Haven't watched the series except for the ones on "How to Find Product Market Fit" and "How to Build a Product II" and some of "How to Build a Product"

You should gain more experience in programming before quitting your job.

Instead, during your free time implement one of your ideas and break down the feature set into a simple MVP. Come with a timeline, implement, learn, and see if you can stick with the plan. Once you end up building the product, next you will have to work on finding users (sales, marketing) and convincing them to keep using your product and pay for it.

If you have persevered for this long and also maintained your job, you really have the passion and discipline needed to build on your vision. A lot of times I have noticed my friends (FAANG) talk about various idea, get excited for a day/week but never build it out.

PS: I quit (ex-FAANG) a few years ago to travel, relax, learn foreign languages and now currently working on some SAAS side projects. My 2 cents, you need to have a lot discipline along with tons of motivation, and inspiration to keep fueling the energy to work on your ideas.

Don't quit your job. Work on your project in your spare time. First of all your idea will probably take minimum 3-4x longer to gain traction than your most pessimistic guess. If/once it gains traction it will probably take significantly longer to be profitable than your most pessimistic guess.

Work on your project in your spare time and only think about quitting your job once the idea is verified by actual customers. I spend 3-4 years burning through savings without getting any traction. I have since started another project which will be done in my spare time. Having to deal with both money and start-up related issues at the same time is not preferable.

Lots of good advice from a wide spectrum of HN. I am currently going through this as we speak. I am at the very early stages of Customer validation phase. I have mouths to feed and and hence need my job to keep me alive while I go through the whole startup phase. If you can get your hands on these two books, can’t recommend them enough; Ready Fire Aim- teaches you the mantra about selling first right from the get go. Also lays down actionable strategies to find your customer, how to sell them, how to price your product. Running Lean-Ash Maurya. Think of it as an amalgamation of Lean startup by Eric Ries and 4 steps to Epiphany by Steven Blank. Again the emphasis on customer development aka idea validation. You need to solve a problem that is worth solving. If you don’t have a problem that a customer wants solved, you don’t have anything to sell. Simple. The guy offers a lean canvas which you can use to develop your business model. Worth checking out.

Beyond these books, a few resources worth following are GetLatka, product habits by Hiten Shah and anything by Patio11 who was doing SAAS way before SAAS was even a term. One of the very early advice that Ash Maurya gives in his book is tat all the early stages of the startup phase can be done while being fully employed. ESP, the product/solution fit. Once you have validated the problem after countless customer interviews, you can start working on the actual solution to the Problem that you just validated and iterate on the build, measure learn loop. By the time you get to this stage, you are already a team of 2-3 early cofounders working out of an office space and ready to take in some external funding. When you get to this stage you can confidently quit! Good luck. EDIT MVE- minimum viable employment. Find a place that can employ you for your existing skills, pay market which provides you with the necessary resources(time) while you are involved with customer validation(problem/solution fit).

"how not to fail"

Don't do this to yourself. You cannot guarantee immediate success when starting out especially when you have no prior experience running a business. The first thing to keep in mind is that failures don't matter as most likely you will fail at a few things anyway. The important thing is to learn from failures and keep moving forward. This is not a motivational speech but the facts of business. So if you keep a defensive attitude, you will be disappointed.

Mindset is hard to change but you need to work on it. Don't think about failures but only look at how you can keep working towards your goal of a business. Not my quote but for every 3 pointer that Michael Jordan scored, he missed 100s others which no one will remember. So it is ok to fail but use the failure as another step towards success if you believe and work towards it.

Ok now some more practical advice :)

- Learn to Sell. If you cannot learn how to sell, you cannot run a business. Forget about everything else. To learn how to sell, learn how to listen to people's problems and issues and see if you have a solution for that. Start with anyone you know. Selling is not just making money but convincing someone.

- Do you really want to quit your job or can you start this on the side ? I personally would favor going all in but only when you are ready to an extent. Are you really ready for going cold turkey ? Perhaps not yet. Can you start on the side ?

- So you have a few ideas. Ok that is a start. But ideas need execution. And to execute, you need to identify your target market/customers. It may take a lot of trial and error to understand your specific target market. You need to start looking into validating the idea by starting small and executing the hell of out it.

- Start with a niche. Very focussed. If you try to sell to everyone, you will sell to no one (and no, amazon did not start that way. it took years before they become the amazon of today).

- Are you willing to risk it all at some point ? Are you scared of failing ? If yes, you may want to reconsider being in business.

I hope this helps you.

Keep learning, ideas are easy it's about executing on your ideas and making sales.

Keep your day job and keep learning, start a small project you can complete with your current programming skills and learn selling, marketing.

Check out the StartUpsForTheRestOfUs.com podcasts, start in the archive. Lots of good info on stair stepping with small projects up to a SaaS.

Follow your dream but keep your day job for now.

Also check any agreements you signed with your employer regarding IP who owns what you work on outside of work. Don't work on or even visit websites of your projects from work. Don't share your dreams with co-workers/employers.

I developed a working product as a side project, and I am now trying to sell it by working on it part-time and keeping my full time job (actually tring to keep find of strict 9 to 5).

There are positives and negatives about my situation:

+ no risk for my family (except I am very busy)

+ I can actually experiment my product at my current jov (kind of customer 0)

+ my employer (large european corporation not in the IT business) was actually surprisingly willing to let me work on a side project, and did not bother me with IP.

- So far, I did not manage a single real customer (though company only started 2 months ago). I may have a better result if I was full time.

https://www.startupschool.org/ is a good place to start.

My advice to you is to keep your job. Work on your startup as a side project and gradually build it. If it takes off and starts to generate as much as your day job, then make the transition.

Survivorship bias will skew the success of startups. Success is far less common than what I originally thought.

Take a look at the $100 Startup book it has some good points to consider.


Give this a read. Literally a step by step to get a successful company off the ground.

Unfourtanly we developers think often we can build something and they will come and use our software. The truth is pretty harsh, it is mainly about selling your software. You need to get comfortable talking to people, reaching out, cold emailing/calling them.

> In short, how to start a successful startup?


> advice on how not to fail

don't go together.

You're going to fail. Boy, you're going to fail. Again and again.

But that's fine. Only charlatans will say you can go from zero to success in a straight line.

The most important thing you can do is anticipate this in advance and keep going. Each failure is an opportunity to be less wrong, and that's when you will begin to see success.

So practical advice:

1. It takes a day or so to build a webpage that communicates your idea and collects emails. Do that and publish it to the usual places. Ask for and measure the feedback. Listen to what people say.

2. The technology does not matter. The value you bring does. I mean don't choose something awful but also don't get caught up in the minutia of what framework to use. As long as it works, nobody cares, least of all your customers who depending on the business may not even know (and certainly don't care) what an if statement is.

3. Think in systems. Online business is like lego: you connect a lot of systems together and, voila, you've (hopefully) built something of value. Write down what your systems are - backend, frontend, customer support, payments, customer acquisition, monitoring. Write down how your business operates as if you were going to wake up with amnesia tomorrow. It's important.

4. Go to Producthunt and look at the sea of new apps released today. Dozens. Hundreds maybe. If you can't at least match them in design or value, don't start. The days of Bootstrap themes are over. You need good design. Luckily you can simply inspect element and copy what works.

5. Marketing matters. Find out where your potential customers hang out and show them how you're going to solve their problems. Reddit, Youtube, Quora, Twitter, wherever....search them out and give them your product for free. Take their feedback and iterate. You're looking for the first person who says "I love this". Once you hear that, you know you're onto something.

6. Work hard. Your evenings and weekends belong to your business now. You've just given birth to a baby with a bleak chance of survival - do everything in your power to nurture it to good health. It's going to be exhausting and demanding but you're a parent with responsibilities now, that's irrelevant.

Good luck.

indiehackers is a community for people with exactly this interest. the podcast is a great place to start; i always recommend this episode: https://www.indiehackers.com/podcast/043-pieter-levels-of-no...

Rule of thumb, don't move before either: * 1K users for B2C (and high enough growth) * 3 big clients for B2B

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