The Right Time to Go Full-Time

By Bradley Scott, Co-Founder, Etch

“Are you nuts?!”

This was the typical first reaction (verbally, or via a wide-eyed, mouth-agape stare) when I started telling people I was quitting my job to work on my start-up full time.

“What are you going to do for money? What about health insurance? How are you going to pay rent?”

Etc. etc.

But as I started to explain why my business partner, Mike, and I had made this decision, why we felt the timing was right, and what our goals were, the concern began to melt away and was replaced with understanding, and in some cases, even pride. Yes, it’s a really big decision, and a really scary one, too. We most certainly did not make it lightly, or impulsively, and I wouldn’t suggest anyone else do the same. So, how did we figure it out? Well, we started by asking ourselves a few simple questions:

Do you believe in the idea?

Obviously this is a big one. If you can’t answer yes to this, turn around, walk back to your office, and pick up the phone to call your boss and explain you had a few too many energy drinks while binge watching Season 1 of Silicon Valley the night before, and you may have made a little mistake. No harm, no foul.

Seriously though, this is pretty obvious. If you don’t believe in the idea, how can you expect anyone else to invest in it, with their time or their money? You can’t fake this one either — the people you’ll be asking to support you as users of your product (or as investors) are smart, and they’ll figure it out pretty quickly if you aren’t fully behind what you’re trying to sell them. If someone told you during an interview that he or she didn’t really care about the job, and was just looking for a steady paycheck, you wouldn’t hire that person, right? Right.

Mike and I actually started Etch to use ourselves. We had both recently moved to New York and didn’t have a way to keep track of places we liked. It was also really hard to discover new places without having to sift through hundreds of third party reviews and ratings that ultimately weren’t that reliable to begin with. The more we talked to our friends and family, the more we realized that everyone had the same problem. Literally EVERYONE. So do we believe in the idea? 100% yes.

Do you really need to work on it full-time to succeed?

This is a tricky one. Most founders (who aren’t already funded) start by working part-time in order to keep a steady paycheck. Makes a ton of sense, and we had been doing the same thing.

So how do you know when it’s time to cut the cord? Well, for us, we realized that nights and weekends weren’t going to get us to the next level. We were able to build out our product working part-time, and we put a lot of great plans in place, but in order to execute on those plans (supporting our users, meeting with business owners, building awareness) we needed to be fully committed, and available.

It’s hard enough to build a company working full time, so good luck trying to do it while balancing another full time job, family commitments, maintaining some semblance of a social life, AND staying up to date on the latest season of Veep.

Finally, can you afford it?

When you ask “is it the right time to go full-time?”, the answer isn’t just about where you stand as a company. If all the pieces fit on that front — product is ready (enough), solid plans to grow your user base, next steps outlined for funding, etc. — you still need to ask yourself if you’re at a place in life where you can make that leap.

I don’t necessarily mean financially here, but that’s certainly part of it. Paychecks are important and don’t let anyone tell you otherwise. Paychecks equal money, and you can use money to buy things like food, and coffee, and a house, and maybe stuff for your kids, and Netflix, and you get the idea. But you have to think about the stage of life you’re in as well. We’ve spoken to many founders who ultimately realized that their company’s success wasn’t worth the strain on their personal lives and relationships that came with it.

For Mike and I, we’re in the right position. We both have a good amount of real world work experience, but we’re still young and energetic enough to grind on a daily basis. We’ve saved up some money where we can support ourselves for long enough to make a run at it, without crippling ourselves financially if it doesn’t work. We also don’t have dependents in our lives who rely on us to support them. It’s still a huge risk for us both, but it only impacts ourselves, and we can be comfortable with that.

So here we are. This is easily the most exciting and invigorating decision either of us has made professionally, and we can’t wait to see where it leads us. So please wish us luck, give us your feedback on Etch, and if you see us looking bleary-eyed and exhausted, buy us a coffee ;)

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