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How To Approach "Doing Your Own Thing" -- Startup Discussion And Feedback

This session is for wantrepreneurs (someone who wants to leave their full-time job and do a company) and early entrepreneurs. In the last two decades, more money and attention have gone to early-stage startups. It's easier and cheaper than ever to start a startup, especially if you're an engineer!

There are 3 paths to scratching the entreprenurial itch:

  1. Build something on the side
  2. Lifestyle or indie business
  3. VC-backed business (raising millions of dollars in venture capital)

Build something on the side

This is where you should start -- build something on nights and weekends while maintaining your full-time position. You need to prove to yourself that you have enough skill and autonomy to create something of value entirely on your own. No professor, no manager, no tech lead. The 3 most common paths to building something on the side are to (1) publish an app, (2) do freelance/consulting work, or (3) teach your skills. As documented in this blog post, teaching is the best side hustle if you have in-demand engineering skills.

Lifestyle or indie business

The goal with an indie business is to make a livable income with a small team selling a high-margin software product. I'd call the number as a project where you can make $100K+ annually. Founders in this bucket are working full-time on their business, but they likely have not taken any outside funding. One way to achieve this is to niche down enough and serve a neglected demographic, "courses for left-handed pickleball players" or "a mobile app for senior citizens in the Bay Area to find activities".

Businesses built with Venture Capital

Very few businesses fit this category, but you may not think that, since these few companies command the lion's share of time, attention, and money. These are companies that have a charter to take over the world, or at least to take over a market. In exchange for money, VCs will take equity in your company, and also likely have some governance power. The minimum benchmark to raise VC is usually a $1B opportunity with $100M in annual revenue, and there will be pressure to grow at 2x or 3x year over year for many years.

If you'd like to build a VC-backed company, I recommend going through a credible accelerator like Y Combinator like PearX.

A good pitch is used to get a potential investor excited about your company, yourself, and the vision you're presenting. It should contain a simple explanation of how your company creates value (skip the buzzwords), and explain who you serve. You should expect rapid-fire questions and skepticism. A good pitch has the following ingredients:

  • Use clear, simple words
  • Get to the point
  • Teach something
  • Show why you are uniquely-equipped to solve this problem

Relevant resources: