Founding a startup on the side of your day job. Lessons after helping a dozen weekend warriors.
The conversation usually starts in secrecy.
pssttt… hey, before we continue. I need you to sign this NDA and a blood oath that you won’t tell a soul about my new company. I don’t want my job to know…
I speak to a dozen of these individuals each month. I always chuckle when they ask me to do the opposite and bring awareness to their project.
It’s a mixture of fears…
what if my job finds out and sues me 😨
what if I get so successful my job finds out and fires me 😱
what if someone at my job tells my boss I’m trying to further my career 😵
I wish I were making this up, but I get these common remarks. It’s amazing what golden handcuffs can do to us.
Key takeaway: Nobody cares. Use it to your advantage.
Let’s course correct some mental models if you’re considering building on the side
You’re not competing with your company. They may fund you before firing you. If you’re interested in who your company considers competition check out their 10k
What you’re doing is a hobby at most. You’re not making any real money until you leave, at which point it becomes real.
Ideas are cheap, and you’re not a top-secret spy. We all have a world change 100 million dollar project. Don’t let trying to keep it a secret hurt you. The biggest momentum killer to side projects is not telling anyone and holding yourself accountable.
If you’re scared of your job, time to bail. Nobody should associate fear with their primary revenue source. If anything, be fearful you only have one revenue source.
Communicate your vision from a distance. An almost shameless plug here for a consultancy I may run that helps ambitious founders launch their products… but I’ll spare you (unless interested!) But seriously, don’t let your job get in the way of your career. Position someone to run point on your vision. It’s the best way to keep traction and a safety net. If it works well, great! Take the jump. If it doesn’t also ok, starting a business is a learning lesson, and I’m sure cheaper than an MBA.
Founding a project “on the side” is officially a thing. It’s riskier not to have an additional revenue source brewing.
It’s also better than looking for a second job. If you need a second one, you need to rethink the first one. Better to create the position you want.