You’re smart. You went to the right schools and got good grades, and that’s paid off with a nice job with a decent salary, a healthy upside, and some decent perks. Let’s say you make $125,000 per year.
Now let’s say you quit that job and spend three years founding a technology startup. At first it goes slowly, and things seem desperate. Then you get a break; then you hit it big. At year 5, your startup is worth $3 Million and attracts the attention of a bigger firm. They acquire your company.
So, if you stay in your job, you make $625,000 guaranteed, but you’re turning down a potential shot at a $3 Million exit. So your job is costing you $2,375,000 over the next 5 years. Worth it?
Think I’m wrong? What are you building in equity for the shareholders of the firm where you work? If it wasn’t a good deal for those shareholders, would they want you there?
Think it’s too risky? Sure, a ridiculous number of entrepreneurial enterprises fail, but failure cannot be counted strictly as downside. There is recoverable value in failure.
Too often people cite general statistics about entrepreneurial failure that include all entrepreneurs everywhere and in every sector; these metrics are all but anecdotal in nature. Be realistic in evaluating your chances. Not being stupid helps (we already established you’re smart), and your position in social networks likely has more to do with success or failure than any other factor (read this book).
And please don’t counter that I’ve inaccurately accounted for the capital required to create a startup, how “impossible” it is to get funding, and how doomed you might be for whatever reason before you start: startup capital requirements are lower than ever before – you can get started for as little as $10-$50K with a seed of an idea and the right partner.
Or is it that you’re “too big to fail?” Has your dependence on the lifestyle that The Man has meted out to you eclipsed your willingness to pursue something more valuable? Family, relationships, cars, mortgage payments, kids, restaurants, travel – call them what you will, but these responsibilities often become excuses for inaction.
Getting started young with entrepreneurial activity is a great way to avoid this trap; young people really have nothing to lose, especially teenagers, and it’s easier than ever for a teen to start something today.
While it’s perfectly possible to nurture a side project and wait for it to show signs of life before “quitting your day job,” the real opportunity for success comes in becoming a part of a network of entrepreneurs who are willing to take calculated risks together and that requires a full time commitment. Otherwise, you’re making a calculated decision to expose yourself to a much smaller chance of success. Why?
For every day that you accept payment in exchange for doing your employer’s bidding instead of something you’d rather be doing, you become less likely to take the bold steps necessary to succeed on your own.
What are you waiting for?