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Summary:

There is a well-established rule in our business that you can’t really found a company part-time. Moonlighting sounds great, but it’s a bit like being half pregnant. At least, this is the conventional wisdom, some of it very well-informed. (Paul Graham: “The number one thing not […]


There is a well-established rule in our business that you can’t really found a company part-time. Moonlighting sounds great, but it’s a bit like being half pregnant. At least, this is the conventional wisdom, some of it very well-informed. (Paul Graham: “The number one thing not to do is other things.”)

But I ran across a great post this morning, courtesy of VentureHacks, by repeat founder Tony Wright, who suggests it is possible to launch your founder’s ship with one foot still on the dock — with one caveat: your goal must be to “prove whatever you need to prove as quickly as possible, so you can dive in full-time.”

In Half-Assed Startup: How do I start my company and keep my day job?, Tony offers 7 Tips for how to do this. Tony’s current company, RescueTime, is a Y Combinator shop — which means Graham must agree with some of what Tony has to say! We list Tony’s abbreviated tips below…

but do check out his full post here.

Tony Wright’s 7 Tips for Part-Time Founding:

1. You need a co-founder and some cheerleaders.

2. Pick a day or two per week where you always work, ideally in the same room as your co-founders.

3. Have a boat-burning target: What will it take for everyone to dive in full-time? 5,000 active users? 10,000 uniques a week? Funding?

4. Pick an idea that is tractable. Every startup is a hypothesis. If your hypothesis is, “we can build a better web-based chat client”, that’s something you could test quickly.

5. Understand that your first version is probably going to suck. Read David Rusenko’s article, The importance of launching early and staying alive—David is a founder of Weebly (Y Combinator).

6. If you’re going to screw off at work (everyone does), spend it getting smarter about the stuff you don’t know…. Get brilliant at SEO (it’s not hard). Write a lot more (blogging helps). [WE AGREE!] Think about virality and research the heck out of it.

7. Be sure you own your startup…(Thanks to Ivan from TipJoy for this final suggestion.)

  1. 2. Pick a day or two per week where you always work, ideally in the same room as your co-founders.
    3. Have a boat-burning target: What will it take for everyone to dive in full-time? 5,000 active users? 10,000 uniques a week? Funding?

    Probably my favorite two items. Have a set day so you’ll always be making progress and have a set goal so you know when you’re done (and can reward yourself).

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  2. “Tony’s current company, RescueTime, is a Y Combinator shop — which means Graham must agree with some of what Tony has to say! ”

    Heh, Paul Graham might agree with a bit of it. He’s pretty darn adamant that doing ANYTHING other than your startup is a bad idea, I think. He’s got a great essay on the topic called “How Not to Die” ( http://www.paulgraham.com/die.html ).

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  3. I’d take a pretty careful look at your employment contract first.

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  4. Well, of course he would think that doing anything but your startup is a bad idea. Having a job and doing a startup means you’re self-funding, and self-funded startups are in direct competition with Paul’s funding model.

    Also, from the frame of reference of any investor, if you’re only working half-time, the investors aren’t getting as much value out of you. But just because this is true, let’s not make this into a “rule” about start-ups.

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