I am consulting again this week. It will chew a week that I could have done marketing for AR with, but the invoice will make things much easier for me. Partly it will pay for some work to accelerate AR's revenue growth, and partly it will pay for a mini-vacation with my girlfriend to meet my family. (If that suggests mid-term plans not often associated with startups, well, what can I say, I'm quirky.)
As many have pointed out, though I did consulting work, I never let it "take over" (well, at least not for more than a couple weeks at a time). However, I have seen the angel fundraising process "take over" the life of a startup for a few months, and often with a $0 eventual outcome.
While you're building your product, consulting can help you:
(1) Live to fight another day
(2) Learn to sell/negotiate with real customers
(3) Get experience managing people
As someone having done the consulting thing, I've found that it has made me/our team better business people/entrepreneurs. Of course, it can be a tough balance b/w consulting effort and product/startup efforts, but there are always trade-offs/choices to be made.
Is the definition of a startup going full-time into a project that is not yet profitable? Not many of us have that luxury.
Is it a product? 37 Signals did OK with Basecamp in between consulting gigs.
My solution has been to ignore the syntax and just worry about building my empire, one sale at a time, whether it comes in the form of client revenue or product sales.
I really think it's less about "startup" than it is about having a vision for yourself and the world.
Ironically, the various funds of Nassim Taleb suffer the same problem: collapsing because they could not survive to the moment when their strategies would be profitable.
I see what he is saying about the consulting helping parse.ly succeed, but I do not see him prioritizing it over the startup. I believe you can do other things & should if you have to, but minimally. Other things often become the thing, because of the decrease in focus on the original thing.
"no one ever gives you money when you need it!"
It's true, most people are bandwagoners in life & even more so when it comes to investing funds. Which of course builds up the "F U" mentality in those vested in a venture toward tardy supporters. But at the end of the day cash is cash...
"Fact: America’s broken healthcare system is harmful to entrepreneurs."
I won't even get started on my health insurance woes...
Well written post and Thanks again for sharing your thoughts
"""The trouble with consulting is that clients have an awkward habit of calling you on the phone. Most startups operate close to the margin of failure, and the distraction of having to deal with clients could be enough to put you over the edge. Especially if you have competitors who get to work full time on just being a startup.
So you have to be very disciplined if you take the consulting route. You have to work actively to prevent your company growing into a "weed tree," dependent on this source of easy but low-margin money.
Indeed, the biggest danger of consulting may be that it gives you an excuse for failure. In a startup, as in grad school, a lot of what ends up driving you are the expectations of your family and friends. Once you start a startup and tell everyone that's what you're doing, you're now on a path labelled "get rich or bust." You now have to get rich, or you've failed."""
In this essay, his opinion seems less absolute than the other one. I could summarize as, "Accept consulting as a means to an end, not an end in itself." Indeed, that is the advice I heeded so perhaps he's right after all!