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Launching a startup requires a good idea and a whole lot of passion. But how do you execute on your idea when you can’t leave your day job just yet?It takes tons of self discipline and smart strategising.
“Many investors will want to speak with former employers as a reference,” says Chris Altchek, who kept his day job at Goldman Sachs before launching PolicyMic. “If you’ve let your side project get in the way of your full-time commitments, you may be hurting your chances more than you think.”
We spoke with Altchek and four other entrepreneurs about how they managed to pull this off. Here’s what they had to say:
There’s no way around it — you’ve got to sacrifice
“Whether it’s your job, or whether it’s your family, it is very difficult. It’s all about long hours. There’s the whole thing of finding more time in existing busy lives. Those who manage to do that are really successful.”— Eric Lagier, founder of Memolane, a tech company that builds web activity timelines
Work through your lunch break
“Spending time on Wikifashion allowed me to relax from my work at the treasury. I’d take my laptop into work with me and spend my lunch breaks at the local cafe working on pages, emailing brands and helping out new contributors.” —Madeline Veenstra, co-founder of Wikifashion, an online hub where users and brands can share fashion industry information
Invest your salary — but don’t use all the money right away
“This is something that comes from my own mistakes: don’t leverage your income from your day job to do unnatural things early on in the life of your part-time startup … Constrain yourself financially so you can focus on getting as much done without wasting your valuable resources. Save that money instead so you can put it to good use when you actually are financially constrained.” —Willis Jackson, founder of ShownHome, a developer of software for real estate professionals
Respect your current employer, and remember that your reputation matters
“Don’t slack at your day job because you’re pursuing another passion. Your current employer, and what he or she thinks of you, matters. Many successful entrepreneurs go to their ex-bosses for seed capital. Many investors will want to speak with former employers as a reference. If you’ve let your side project get in the way of your full-time commitments, you may be hurting your chances more than you think.” — Chris Altchek, co-founder of PolicyMic, an online political news source aimed at user engagement
Get an intern so you can work on the important stuff
“Get an intern by emailing the career centre at the college you graduated from.” —Dan Schawbel, founder of Millennial Branding, a personal branding firm
Pitch your opportunity to prospective student interns by showcasing what the work experience can offer them. They’ll get a chance to be an important part of a fledgling startup — something they can get excited about — and you’ll get a chance to have some breathing room and more time to work on the tasks only you can do.
Build up vacation time and book tons of meetings
“One thing I did when trying to get my last startup off the ground was to build up vacation time, and then book two days next to a weekend and get as many meetings scheduled as possible for those days … I found that it was difficult to really make progress in all of the essential activities in the evenings/weekends.” —Willis Jackson, founder of ShownHome, a developer of software for real estate professionals
Find an equally-passionate co-founder
“Find an equally passionate partner with a complementary skill-set. Jake, my co-founder, inspired me to work harder and kept me accountable when the going got tough. Similarly, get as much feedback as possible from friends, family, and experts. Don’t be worried about someone stealing your idea. Its success lies in the execution. Your idea/product will only survive if you iterate it quickly. ” — Chris Altchek, PolicyMic
Consider telling your boss
“If you have the kind of boss that genuinely wants to see you happy and successful in your career, they might be more willing to be flexible with you. I was able to alter my work schedule so I could attend a young entrepreneurial breakfast group twice a month.” Willis Jackson, ShownHome
Check out your company’s IP agreement
“Many companies, in the employee contract, prevent employees from working on anything on their own. But at the end of the day, ideas cannot be held back.” — Eric Lagier, Memolane
Intellectual property agreements some companies ask new hires to sign can be sticky. Know the parameters of yours. If you work your own ideas, your employer could technically still have the rights to them. Discuss your thoughts with friends and advisers, and see whether there’s enough there to make tangling with your contact worth it.
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