Let’s get this out of the way up front: Working part-time while you’re bootstrapping your startup is ok.
“You’re not really committed to your startup unless you’re spending 100% of your time on it.”
It’s a common statement, but not a black and white truth.There are two situations that relate to the above proclamation. One in which I agree, one where I disagree.
Scenario A: A startup has received funding and has the ability to pay employees and founders a VERY basic salary. (For this scenario, I agree with the statement above.)
Scenario B: Pre-funded startup with bootstrapping founders who work part-time (consulting, contract, etc.) to keep their basic bills paid while they still work their asses off to build a new company. (For this scenario, I disagree with the statement above.)
But wait! How do you get to scenario A if you don’t have enough “skin in the game?” Let me say something that many people are too afraid to say: Many startup founders will go 3-6 months without working to create the theatre that they’re 100% committed to their company. And they bank on getting that funding in those 3-6 months because they can afford to survive that block of time. They’re not necessarily putting more time in than people from scenario B; they just don’t have incriminating evidence to point to the contrary. These people are perceived by many to be “better” entrepreneurs to invest in.
Humans are funny creatures. The more time we have to work on something, the longer it takes us to do it. Trying to artificially accelerate a startup’s progress by putting founders in an economically fragile place seems like a very dangerous approach. And I’m not going to mince words. That is exactly what the strategy is for people who make the statement I outlined above. And unfortunately, that strategy leads to many negative side-effects for both sides of the equation.
It leads to rash and sometimes unethical decision making.
It leads to founders losing passion in the product they once loved.
It leads to destruction of creative thinking.
These aren’t statements that can only be validated or invalidated by a serial entrepreneur or a VC who has been in the business for 10+ years. These are conclusions that any logical person can make.
I’ll say it again. Working part-time while you’re bootstrapping your startup is ok. If you’ve saved enough money to go a year without working, great. But if not, and you put in 15 hours a week on side projects and then 75+ on your own business, it’s fine. Investors are not input-driven people (or rather, the smart ones aren’t); they care about output. It doesn’t matter how many hours you work on your startup as long as you’re building a smart business on its way to success (that doesn’t burn itself to death through negative cash-flow).
My advice, which I will follow for my own path as an entrepreneur? Don’t work full-time, but don’t shy away from small gigs that keep you afloat. Don’t go after investments from people that expect you to starve. Find the investors who aren’t looking to flip a house, but rather, the ones who want to rent it out for 20 years making an excellent profit. They exist—they just don’t get written about as often because that story isn’t as sexy.
Instead of promising an investor a 10x return that has a high likelihood of being 0x. Promise them 7x that has a much greater chance of success due to you not devastating you and your family’s ability to survive in the present or the future (due to debt).
Ultimately, I know there’s no right or wrong answer here. I just want people to stop believing that part-time work is the wrong answer.
Now get back to work, slackers…