The Hitchhiker’s Guide to Part-time Non-tech Founders

tech Founders

Is it possible to launch a startup while working somewhere else? It’s a question that many new founders face. You have new business ideas – ones that are most likely related to your current job or interests. Unfortunately, most people with these thoughts do not take action and the contemplation of starting a business never amounts to more than a dream. Check the hitchhiker’s guide to part-time non-tech founders.

While this is an unfortunate truth for the majority of potential entrepreneurs, a handful of them do actually take the plunge and become successful, full-time entrepreneurs.

When I started my software development company, I had a full-time position at Motorola. It took me a few years of working on my own business part-time (and gathering enough courage) to leave my regular paycheck and commit to my own business full-time.

Now my company is devoted to helping entrepreneurs execute dreams by creating online businesses from the technical side. During this process, I’ve realized that the majority of our customers are taking the same steps I did: starting a business while working regular hours somewhere else.

After researching this topic, it shouldn’t come as a surprise that the failure rate is higher for founders that are not working on developing their business full-time. Because of that most traditional startup ecosystems – Venture capital, Angels, accelerators, and incubators- will not take weekend warriors seriously. However, there are pros and cons to both scenarios and some have found success juggling both.

• Marco Arment developed Instapaper while working full-time on Tumblr. He has since stopped working at Tumblr and works on Instapaper full-time. In April of 2013, Instapaper was acquired by Betaworks.
• Joshua Schachter started Delicious while he was an analyst at Morgan Stanley.
• Mass Relevance is a social engagement platform, which was started as a part-time venture called Tweet River. The hard work and determination of the founders, Eric Falcao and Brian Dainton made it a thriving business. They recently raised a $5.5 million dollar Series A.

In these cases, the founders were weekend warriors also equipped with a technical background.

How can you realize your startup plan if you are not a technical person? There are a few options. You can always learn how to code, but if you already possess a decent skill set to launch a company, learning how to code is probably not high on your priority list.

Instead, you can walk a path similar to Kevin Rose when he started, way back in 2007. Try to find freelancers to program your idea and create a prototype. Before you go and find programmers though, you will need to create architecture for your application. Without this, things may not turn out as you had hoped.

At this time, you may also consider looking for a technical cofounder. There is a number of channels to take advantage of. Local meet-ups, as well as a number of founder-matching websites, are available. But before you start looking for a technical cofounder, you should decide if you really need one.

Sometimes people assume they need a technical cofounder regardless of the type of startup business. In many cases though, a technical cofounder is not actually needed and a web developer or programmer will suffice. This is especially true if you are considering developing a lightweight application. Since it is much more economical to hire a freelancer, this should come as good news.

There are also many organizations that would be willing to partner up with you to create your startup in return for equity. In the Chicago area, there are a few accelerators and incubators who can help founders from the technical side. Platform Venture, Wavetable, and Ensemble can help with creating MVP in return for equity or discounted rates.

The key to this option is that you need to convince your development partners that the idea is fundable. Many developers will look at this option as a seed investment in your startup. But before you approach a developer or accelerator, you must review questions surrounding one key point – what exactly you will contribute to the success of a startup?

Who will be acting as the product manager and defining progress as it is developed? Who will be calling initial customers to sell it? What can you bring to the table for marketing and PR? Do you have funds to use for initial marketing, ads, and services initially?

Also, be prepared to answer a crucial question: At what point would you be comfortable quitting your main job and working on the startup full-time? If your contribution to the business is the idea alone, good luck.

There are ways to create a tech startup while you are working somewhere else full-time, but you have to be creative about it. Creating a startup is hard; especially when you do it with minimal funding and work on it part-time. Others have tried and succeeded down this path, but many have failed. Examine your own personal skill set, current, and future business needs, as well as your available options to develop the best plan that will see it through.

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