It isn't. Depending on your interests you may be fine working in a larger organisation- if you stick at it for a while (the same amount of time it would take to establish a startup) you may be able to call a lot of shots yourself and really start owning your job. Or maybe you'd enjoy the kind of research-like position that only a larger company can provide. Maybe you'd be best suited to a non-profit. It's all down to you.
I don't think the prototypical engineer is truly suited for startup life, and neither is the prototypical business guy. Both of those jobs need to typically work within an established framework, while a lot of startup businesses are about busting out of a framework or completely inventing your own.
There's absolutely nothing wrong with not being a millionaire/billionaire. Yes, you can't have your own island, design and commission your own uber-boat, or provide flu shots to an entire city, but a lot of people seem to be able to find happiness without those things.
Personally, my end-goal regardless of success is to teach a high school web/game programming course, or whatever is popular to learn at the time. The only reason I'm not doing that right now, is that I'm curious to know whether or not the drive inside me to build things is a part of my ego or my destiny.
They're very intertwined in a way that you won't be able to separate. The best way to find out whether you should do it or not ISN'T to not-do it, but to do it.
(Exception: When it involves potentially hurting other people irreversibly.)
I'm 29 now, but when I was in my early-mid 20s I had no problems working a day job and then coding nights and only sleeping a few hours. It's more painful than having no responsibilities, but you have that sort of energy when you're young so make the most of it.
Nowadays I'm actively rejecting promotions, more staff and more responsibilities as I've reached a point in my career where the pay is good and takes only 40 hours on a normal week. That leaves a lot of room for side projects whilst still laying a good financial base for the future.
So I agree with the OP's response except that you should consider waiting until you have implemented your idea and have a proven, consistent revenue stream from it before you up and leave. It may take a year to get to that stage, a bit of pain - but nothing worth doing is easy.
Funny. I seem to recall similar words being uttered elsewhere in the not so distant past.
I agree wholeheartedly, but would also add that creating a startup on your own is not the only option. If your dream is working at a startup, go work for one! I know many people (myself included) who have found enjoyment and fulfillment working at a small startup without having to actually start one.
If, of course, your dream is to found your own company, by all means do so :)
My go-to phrase here--and one that seems muted in the tech community--is that "there's more to a startup than the founder."
Of course, there is more to these choices than just financial considerations.
The latter makes a lot of sense to me, especially as a reason to quit a salaried position in an established company. So, I'm not sure it's fair to say that you prefer startups; it sounds like you just prefer to work with who you want and on whatever you want. There's much less risk there, versus what I've seen "startup" defined as, particularly because you've already worked well with your partners in a previous successful venture.
(P.S. - Hi George! I'm glad to hear you're having fun. CodeCombat looks very interesting.)
The fact that I'd worked with Nick and Scott before was a huge determinant, I'm not sure I would have been willing to leave my great job for an unknown team.
Hopefully we can get CodeCombat off the ground faster than Skritter, but who knows. I posted that link in the article and our poor Nodejitsu server suffered inordinately and we realized our design is atrocious. Keep on iterating. :)
Don't quit your job to pursue a startup unless:
1) You have a customer base lined up and some income is all but assured, or...
2) You have enough savings to get by for at least one year (including insurance) and a skill set or network that would enable you to jump back into a similarly desirable job right away.
Quitting with just an idea and strong cofounders is a recipe for disaster, stress, and misery. Remember, building is fun and easy, making sales isn't.
First whittle down what you really need to start (often times it's a lot less than you originally thought) and examine whether you really have to quit. If you are building something that your employer could lay claim to due to your employment agreement, it's a little more tricky, but if you are careful it is pretty easy to get around that.
Even if you have low living costs, you should still consider opportunity costs of not working. A consultant making $100k per year who takes two years off to do a failed startup has effectively lost $200k in income.
I'm single and 22 so doing this for a few months brings in enough to float me for ~year, not including the savings I had from the BigCo job I recently left.
The real bonus, IMO, comes from the fact that your former consulting clients are your most likely bet for job prospects if/when your venture fails, assuming they like your work of course.
This way, you won't feel like you have too large a safety net.
The other thing was that I got lucky on my first startup and have a bit of income coming in from that, which means the cost of failure is pretty small. As an econ major in college, I'm well aware of the opportunity cost of not working, though, which did weigh heavily on my decision.
People prefer this because it is safe, and affords a nice lifestyle. Starting a company offers neither, and those who pursue startups incur massive risk. The overwhelming majority fail. Entrepreneurship is incredibly dangerous and trying, and is neither optimal nor tennable for most. Encouraging people to blindly quit their jobs to go take part in what is essentially a lottery in which the odds are stacked tenfold against you is ridiculous.
Don't just up and quit your job right now. Think long and hard about what you in life. You'll probably come to the realization that you don't want to subject yourself to the tribulations of entrepreneurship.
Second, if you're truly "sick" of so many people promoting entrepreneurship, have you considered spending less time at a news website hosted by a startup incubator?
My wife and I have considered moving back to the Bay area (professional growth and general quality of life) but likely won't because of housing costs (I don't think buying a starter home for 600K in Sunnyvale is a responsible thing for us to do).
Agree. You missed the option of having a side-project that pulls 20k-30k a year without much additional effort after launch. You can have your stable job, too!
Obviously you shouldn't do anything to shorten your personal runway if you plan to make a startup. Big houses and mortgages and expensive cars are out, even if you don't plan on quitting immediately.
Some of my bias may be showing here, because I'm fairly satisfied with my life and work at BigCo right now.
1. You assume because a "korean immigrant" can do something, that it must not be intractable (hard). Immigrant entrepreneurs are usually highly motivated, especially the kind who start small businesses. I would rescind that comment.
2. You are comparing a dry cleaner to a startup. The failure rate of startups is several order of magnitudes worse than a dry cleaner. Figuring out the potential numbers for a dry cleaner is simple math that you can base on the local population, income/employment stats, and # of dry cleaners. Most startups would kill for that kind of estimate.
Or he assumes that integrating yourself and your family into a new culture, quite possibly while learning a new language, are both difficult problems which the OP would have the benefit of not having to overcome.
I'm all in favor of doing work you like. If you are happy working for a larger employer, you're probably a lot better off than some crazy guy like me wanting to run a startup. :)
At the time I bought my home, I'd never thought that I would be in any position to create/run a business. I was a naive kid, and in hindsight I'm on the fence to whether or not that was a good idea or not. So, packing up my things to move over to Cali isn't going to be that easy. But whose to say that creating a startup is easy?
I believe I have a great idea. I really do, but the risk to just leave it all behind is daunting. For me, I would (and am) doing as much research as I can. That's why yCombinator is such a great program. They will help you out as far as the world of the startup. I missed this round, but am planning on entering the next one. By that time, my work on my site will be that much more polished and "ready".
I would love to leave it all and wish I had, but I was in no way ready for that at 24. Staying allowed me to move up the ladder, and really learn my craft very well. I would've been a terrible developer 5 years ago. I'm a firm believe that its never too late. Yes, I'm spending every waking hours thinking about code (both at work and for my site), but I have a feeling it will pay off.
I started getting fed up and have decided that this place needs to be filled now or I just need to get rid of it anyway I can. I've been lightly thinking about doing that for a while, but now that I have a working prototype online (and may more to come), I need to move a lot faster.
It is maddening. But, I suppose that the start up life can be this way. The ultimate goal is to be able to get this thing off the ground, so that's something I just have to do. I just want to get rid of this thing and focus on building this product. It is my first home, but now is the time to part ways with it. I will be making calls this week on how to move forward.
I'm in nearly in the exact same boat, but I've started to see some movement on the career front in just the last few weeks.
It took much more than those few weeks to get there, though, and a lot of little things over time to change course. You can find my email in my profile if you want to exchange notes.
I haven't quit my job yet but I get similar responses when people hear we are selling our house. They do not understand and think we are crazy. Thank goodness I married a woman as "crazy" as me.
The only thing you can't get more of is time. Cherish it and use it wisely while you still have it.
+save your money, don't buy tv's cars and homes. specially when you are in your 20's (i still am, I threw a minimum 20% of every paycheck into savings).
+Debt, and any such thing that anchors you is a NOGO.
+only debt to take if ever is for a business, and only when cash is the only barrier impeding growth. (and if this is the case most VC's will gladly give you money)
Going into debt to purchase capital that has the potential to pay for itself and make a profit in the long run is [not as] bad.
Saving to buy things debt free regardless of its purpose is the best way to go. Those that [can] delay instant self gratification tend to be the ones best off. Short term pains for long term gains.
Good thing I didn't, because I'm using all the cash I would have spent on that car to get this new company going. And living frugally, you can stretch out the value of a car a very long time. Plus, the car is a constant monetary drain, starting a company has the potential to make money eventually (although statistically I imagine most startups are a net drain on a person's net worth).
Work at a great company and your own projects on the side. Seems like the best of both worlds.
Ever since starting to read HN a few weeks ago, I've become interested in learning Ruby, Rails and general web development. I love where I'm at now (which is not hidden but easily found via my name and profile link) and the fact that I can spend my free time on weekends learning for the sake of learning, without the stress of having to make an income from it.
There is a great quote from Who's Your City that states you need an additional $133,000 in annual income to make up for the happiness from seeing your friends and family on a daily or weekly basis. That's a big jump for those quitting to move halfway across the country.
The quit-to-startup culture is certainly enticing but there's really no reason many of us can't have the best of both worlds without quitting a great job at a great company.
Is their dream losing it's luster when it becomes a reality?
In hindsight the risk was actually staying at my job, where I would have stagnated and not had the amazing experiences I've had over the last year and a half.
Most people, even with an entrepreneurial spirit will choose comfort over risk and reward. That's all fine, it's just for me I find comfort to be the cousin of death. Comfort in the sense of not worrying about how to live is good. I'm talking about comfort in regards to losing purpose in life. Living a lifestyle where you're kind of just "wingin' it". Those are traits I don't foresee myself having regardless of whatever dollar amount I'm worth.
Some don't understand passion and don't know how to put an appraisal value on it. Your previous co-workers might have found you to be wreckless or not taking life seriously, when in fact you're taking life far more serious than they are.
I think you're doing the right thing. Forget the safety net, it's going to slow you down. It's going to keep you from pushing yourself to the limit.
I wish you luck in your endeavors and..."Stay Thirsty My Friend" :)
I felt I got the same treatment as the original poster did (quiet pity & the why's) but I didn't care it was/is low risk and if worse come to worse I will get a job again if I feel things really aren't going the way I want. One of my friends even asked, "do you like money and want to get rich so much that you are willing to leave your job that is stable and go out on your own". I think the assumption for everyone who doesn't know about the love of working with tech is that its done just for the money only not because its so fun and challenging to some of us.
I responded by saying that I actually like money less then he did because I was willing to go for 2 years (if needed) without stable income or money to do the things I like (within and outside of tech), the way I figure, this shows less of a desire for money then someone who wakes up everyday hating what they are doing just for the money when they don't have the kids and a wife ?!
One of the advantaged that I didn't realise about quitting was other then being able to do the work that you want to make $$$ (work that replaces your 9-5) you end up with much more time because you are able arrange your time appropriately and the time wasted on ridiculous meetings, coffee breaks, friday drinks the 2hr total train ride everyday and the complete drain at the end of the day that just leaves you wanting to veg-out after work and not do anything was no longer there. At the moment after I get a piece of work done and I am happy with it I move onto the next thing whether it is a "work related" task or "something fun" (like going to the beach for instance).
When I had that additional time the one big issue I had was trying not to feel guilty about not working on the tasks that I was doing to replace my previous day job and force every bit of work in any free time BUT once I was able to get over this I managed to pick up a new sport a new language and learn many things that I feel has enriched my life so much more.
What i kinda learnt is sometimes you quit work because of the usual HN reasons, to do a startup, work for your self but for me specifically because I didn't have to waste so much time I ended up discovering lots of other things that makes life awesome. Unless i really need it and things go south in a big way, living life with much less salary as before but with this additional freedom is so much better. I guess its good to enjoy this whilst you can for those that can because when kids come along being a responsible adult things will obviously have to be different.
As you say, I too find the freedom liberating, but more than that, I find it exciting to work on problems that are personally interesting. To have skin in the game is the best way I've found so far to keep my work interesting and engaging. The fact that I can define my own work-life balance helps too. :)
The real truth about being an entrepreneur, and a tech founder is that this shit is really fucking hard. I mean, harder than opening up a pizzeria and simply operating it with a 6% margin on gross (which makes for a good living). Startups are very, very hard due to how you have to invent everything. Even if you are copying some other team, you have to create your own systems. That is the main reason most people don't even manage to launch. They had never realized that sales and marketing need to be systemized before they can work. That you can't simply run ads on adwords and get good traffic. They don't know how creating content marketing is tough, because it takes time, and a good understanding of what the market wants to read about (something even marketers get wrong).
It used to be that some person could simply throw some PHP at it, and get going. Not so much. With money, comes competition. And bubbles create an over-abundance of money, hence an over-abundance of competition. I've learned to think small. Rather than trying to build the next big thing (an attitude I would carry), I now want to build the next small thing. So small, that it goes unnoticed that most people here. Though small != small profits.
And did I mention work? In a regular job you clock in, do your thing, and clock out. If anything comes up, it will have to wait for tomorrow (or Monday). In a business, if you don't act in a timely fashion, you can end up getting DDoS'ed (like it happened during the whole Pycon fiasco), and simply get taken down by a bunch of dumb shits. Being a business owner means that the business is always in your mind, no matter what. If you are vacationing, it means that you log in every couple of hours and see whats going on. Employees? Try getting an employee to answer their phone while on vacation.
So, don't quit your job unless you have a steady stream of clients, and your business is profitable. Don't quit for an idea. Don't quit if you got accepted into some incubator. Because good jobs are a rare thing. If you have one, keep it. Its worth it.
But who am I to even say all of this? To turn you away? I talk and interact with founder-types every week. They are mostly lost, because they don't know what the fuck to do next. No money, and no future prospects. Lost and trying to make sense of things. They ask for help, and I sometimes do give then a push. But I know, deep in my heart, that they will never make it. Not due to their idea, or talents, but due to how unprepared they are for the reality of business. I've done more than a dozen, and I still feel like a noob. I make the same dumb mistakes, and still think a bit too positive. Though experience has taught me to be way more careful, and not trade-in a good, steady paycheck for the chance to become the next big thing.
Life is not about being on top, but about being on top of your game. Your own game.
Your comment about good jobs being rare is definitely not lost on me either. It would have been so much easier to quit if I didn't like my coworkers or the company, but they both rocked.
I actually just finished writing another blog post today (hasn't been published yet) about bootstrapping your first startup and shooting for small but profitable.
Of course this is based on living alone, living with my parents or something like that would likely work out cheaper.
Unless you meant that it made it to the home page. ;)
Either way, best of luck. Definitely a good suggestion to try something a little scary while you don't have much in the way of obligations, yet.
Thanks for the kind words, I was telling my wife that I'm looking forward to making all new mistakes from my first business!
I go home, relax, read, hangout with the family and work on really interesting open source & side projects .. I can't imagine how I could be much happier ..
IMO if your goal is to start a business start planning things out and take the risks you need to only you have to not just when you can .. which is very situational .. i wouldn't just go and quit your job if it's not immediately necessary on a whim due to advice from a random blog.