I’m Chris Chae, Co-founder of Pixelic. I recently left Walmart — a $514 billion company, the Fortune №1 company to pursue my dreams of starting a company. Walmart was great — I learned so many things on the job. It paid a good salary, I did good work, and life was good. But it didn’t strike me as a lifetime commitment. It wasn’t something I wanted to do for the rest of my working life. I wanted to make things, build things from scratch, with full autonomy.
I wrote this to share what made me quit a stable career and jump into the world of startups. When in times of continued failure, I hope this post will be a good reminder to myself why I do what I do. Before telling my boss about my intention to quit, I asked myself two questions: Why Startup, and Why Now.
If I don’t learn and grow fast enough, we won’t survive. This creates a strong motive to learn & grow fast as much as possible.
To learn fast and grow fast, sometimes burning the bridge behind you is a good thing. If I don’t learn and grow fast enough, we won’t survive. A startup venture is an endless survival game. Volunteering to be in this extreme situation gives a strong motivation to learn tirelessly and act fast upon my learnings.
Rule of thumb is when hiring, you should hire someone better than you. To hire someone better than me and to lead a team formed with such talent, you have to “up your game” pretty fast.
“You gotta build a team that is so talented that they almost make you slightly uncomfortable.” — Brian Chesky, Co-founder & CEO of Airbnb
If the founders aren’t learning and aren’t learning fast enough, chances of that startup ever being successful are down to zero. There isn’t a single bright talent who’s willing to join a team where leaders don’t learn.
Startups are all about learning and growing. These days, I learn daily on the job. I learn about what it takes to build a product and its customers, what it takes to build a team and a company.
As startups grow, founders should grow also. And in each stage, startups require their founders to level up as well. Not only the startups become companies, but the founders should also become leaders.
Passion & Impact
My goal as an entrepreneur is to contribute to the startup ecosystem throughout my career. And I can contribute in many forms. Building products and startups or advising founders and investing in promising teams. I LOVE building products, building companies, talking to customers, talking about marketing. I’ve found what I’m good at and what I truly love and I intend to continue.
Building a culture of freedom
Even if you’re not an entrepreneur, you can still make a significant impact working at an established company. But it’s often difficult to establish a culture you believe in at an already-established company. At our startup, we believe in the culture of freedom — freedom to work anywhere, freedom to work anytime, freedom to learn, and more. We aim to build a company of people who believe in the core values we defined.
It’s tough to meet friends who share the same vision with you and cover skills that you lack.
You may have a team that shares the same vision. You may also have a team that covers most of the skillsets you need to start a company. But it’s challenging to have both at the same time right from the beginning.
We started to talk to each other long before we decided to start a company. We did side projects together, and some of us even started a company together before. We know each other pretty well, we share the same vision. We as a team cover most of the early functions we need to start a company — Engineering, Sales & Marketing, and Design.
You may miss out on a job offer or promotion, but you cannot miss out an opportunity to build the right team from the start. It is not easy to find people that you could trust and have excellent skills.
Right now is when the price of starting a startup is the lowest.
It only goes up. As I develop my career and have more things to care about, the opportunity cost of entering into a startup venture only goes up and never goes down.
“Once an Entrepreneur, Forever Entrepreneur” — Ron Conway, investor at Google, founder of SV Angel
Paul Graham of YCombinator said something like this as well. Being an entrepreneur means you’re not only in it for a one-off project but instead having a lifetime commitment. There are times you might be working for another company or freelance to sustain yourself. But at the end of the day, entrepreneurs will always be building companies. If I am an entrepreneur, then why wait? why not do it right now?!
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