Building a startup part-time is like raising a baby whenever time permits. You feel the guilt and discomfort from the lack of proper time allocation to this equally as important responsibility in your life but your hands are tied. Who else is going to feed the family? Who’s going to secure our retirement and kids’ education? And the list goes on. So what’s the deal, give up? Absolutely not. Here is how to make it happen.
Set A Target
Know your magic number. What will it take for you to dive in full-time? 10 paying customers? 200 active users? $1500 in revenue a month? The target should be realistic, achievable, shared and agreed by your family and team members. It will not only get you motivated but also help you avoid wasting time building products no one needs. If you don’t quantify it, you won’t know when you get there.
Next step, sell the product the moment you start, that is, without a product. Braintree’s founder Bryan Johnson asked 10 potential buyers, ‘If I started my own credit card processor, would you switch to me?’ six of them agreed which generated about $6,200 a month. For him to quit his job, support himself and his family, he needed at least $2,100 in monthly income.
Should you promise a flying car?
In why startup strategy isn’t only about innovation? I argued and showed that not every growing and profitable company is innovative. There are different startup strategies that can be equally rewarding. Some ideas are just not viable part-time. Pick your battles.
In product development, nothing is more efficient than controlling your own destiny. What this means, for an extra layer of time and cost efficiency, focus on products you can build. Team building is inevitable but initially, for testing and validation purposes, you would be better off relying on your skills. Scott Smith, developer of Qualtrics’ foundation, built the initial version of the product after returning from chemotherapy each day. Ryan, his son, joined and hustled to sign 20 customers by the time Scott recovered. So,
Sooner or later you will need a team. You might as well start with one. The right co-founder/partner, will help you get a lot of weight off your shoulders. Whether it is for motivation, efficacy, or risk sharing, individuals with complementary skills and shared passion are invaluable to the venture. And keep in mind that not finding a co-founder is not the end of the world. You have 4 more options that can complement your skills and address your needs, if interests are aligned.
Manage Time & Grind Smart
If you can learn one little thing from this post today, let it be this: build the value people want you to build. That is,
- When they pay you for an imaginary product.
- When they can’t live without a defective competitor product.
- At least 80% (great opportunity) of 50-100 potential buyers deliberately tell you they need a solution.
- At least 60% (good opportunity) of 50-100 potential buyers deliberately tell you they need a solution.
- When they use your horrible first version.
For this to happen, you should grind smart. Smart startup grinding works by taking educated steps centered around users’ needs and not a mission to prove a product no matter what it takes. No matter how much time you allocate to the startup, use it to validate the need and viability of the solution to serve this need, namely, product-market fit.
As I work with busy entrepreneurs all the time, I spend most of my time saving their time and money. I do so by focusing on three things: customer persona, customer needs, and hypothesized solution(s). Taking small, quick and non-scalable steps for validation before product development is the method I endorse.
In sum, whether turning ideas into solutions is something you enjoy doing from time to time or want to pursue as a career, starting up part-time is possible. As time is limited, use it wisely. Many argue otherwise; building a startup is very time consuming and demands all your time, attention and sometimes more than you can offer. This depends on the type of solution you are building but in general, based on experience, you can initiate and validate but not scale part-time. Like the busy business men and executives I work with, by the time we reach scalability, a team of passionate members with complementary skills headed by a leader take over while the founder serves as president, board member and/or investor. Something we refer to as serial entrepreneurship. For those who seek full startup commitment, in addition to ensuring a fit between target needs and proposed solution, target revenue must be exceeded. Either way, you will have hard time scaling part-time.
What else helps or helped you initiate and validate a startup under limited time?