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Ask YC: Are you working part-time on your startup/project/idea?
26 points by martythemaniak on March 24, 2008 | hide | past | favorite | 43 comments
I'm curious how much time you guys are devoting to your work? I have a FT job and I'm working on my own project that may become the basis for a startup or remain just something neat to showcase and develop my skills. Over the last four months I've managed around 2-3 days a week, which adds up to around 10-12hrs of coding a week.

I did that for about 9 months before going full-time 6 months ago. I'd usually work on the startup for an hour before work and then 1-2 hours after dinner, so maybe 15-20 hours/week.

I've found that my coding time hasn't really increased much since going full-time, and yet I'm vastly more productive. The limiting factor in startups does not seem to be time: it's attention. Having that extra 8 hrs/day to think about the problem - and more importantly, not having to shift gears and think about my employer's problems - makes all the difference in the world.

I've found it also changes the incentives around development and leads to better development practices. For example, I was much less likely to use frameworks or large libraries when doing this part-time, because I didn't have a solid block of time to thoroughly learn the library. If there was a major problem in the design, I'd be inclined to hack around it rather than tackle it head-on, because I didn't have the necessary brain-cycles to hold the whole problem in my head. I'd often cut the design down to what I knew how to do, rather than the product I'd want to use, because that was all I could handle in blocks of an hour.

I don't think it's really speed that suffers when you work part-time. Rather, it sets a ceiling on the difficulty level of the project you can do. So you're fighting over the same problems as all the other folks who're doing startups part-time, while many of the harder problem lie unsolved.

I completely agree with you. I recently left my career at one of the larger banks and the additional time has made all the difference. Now I get to spend time prototyping various ideas I never would have been able to otherwise with very small blocks of time. Best decision, ever.

I only seem to make serious progress on my project when I work for 4 or 5 uninterrupted days. So that's what I do. Thanks to you, nostrademons, now I can describe why. I think you nailed it.

I feel that THIS summer will be THE summer that I turn one of my projects into a startup, so in the past month, I've quit full time work and moved into a cheaper place to live.

I'm currently doing requirements gathering for my first project, and I've already done around 400 lines of coding. I wish I wasn't alone.

you're sure not alone ^^

You are not alone. ;)

Guys, I think he is talking about a different kind of alone. Do not worry man, good things happen to those who wait.

Yeah, a different, more literal kind of alone.

I got burned last summer by bringing people on board too early. I'm the hacker-type.

The other people were the kind whose strengths too were different from mine. One was a high-powered client-interfacing guy, who has since taken a full time job as an IA, after the failure of his own Web 2.0 startup (all in under a year!). The other, and the troublemaker, was a high-powered marketing person who wanted to fasttrack the branding campaign before I even had a product or clients. We'd all worked together well in the context of a larger company, but we couldn't reconcile our directional aspirations for a startup.

So this year, I'm alone. In Northern Virginia's technology corridor. I would love a hackerly co-founder, or at least someone to bounce my ideas off of. All my friends from CS classes keep moving to the West coast to work for the Googles and Microsofts of the world. I have a feeling my YC application this year is going to be rejected simply because I'm a sole founder.

I'm also a sole founder. I don't feel _that_ disadvantaged because I have a mixed business/tech background, but in terms of applying to YC it's clear that being on your own is a major mark down.

It could be fairly interesting to see if a couple of technical people, working on different products, could act as one company. Both parties get the benefits of having someone to look over their shoulder (as they have a financial stake). You also get the sum of both sets of secondary skills and contacts. The downside would be a split in focus, but that should be no worse than the two working individually.

I'd love to have that.

Kind of a more-intensive, tech version of the Tuesday Night Music Club.

First rule: no bringing your girlfriend, even if she is Sheryl Crow.

> rejected simply because I'm a sole founder.

The application certainly makes it seem that this is the case.

>> Are any of the following true? (a) You are the only founder.

I suspect this YC app field sends you to /dev/null. In the html, the select's name is "badness" !

I really think I can prove myself and my ideas. I wish I were better at networking.

I've found that I really enjoy my job, so my outside projects have started to shift from "this might make me money someday" to "this is really fun to code!" things.

It's weird how stability (and yes, coming from consulting and startuppery, this lion freely recognizes his gilded cage) and lack of where-is-my-next-paycheck-coming-from frees the mind to coding pure-fun stuff.

I like my regular f/t job as well, especially since I get moved within the company ever six to twelve months. It has given me a lot of freedom to do things that won't show a profit instantly like write and get some accounting qualifications.

However looking at what I really want to achieve I have decided that a startup is the way to go for me. Exit planned for September. Unfortunately it's not something I could run concurrently with a full time job, or else I might launch earlier to reduce risk :)

To answer the original question: Specs, use cases and UI mock-ups were 12 hours a week for 3 months. I wrote the first prototype this weekend (60 hours), so now I will be doing increments towards a stable production version, planned 12 hours per week.

Straight out of college when I was 23 I was working on a startup idea with a friend. we each had jobs, but they were very different. I was working as a mortgage broker (back then it was a good business) and my friend was working at a restaurant. I would get off work at 5 or so and my co-founder left work at 11-12.

So 4 nights a week we would meet at kinko's at 1am and work until about 4 am together. I would sleep for a few hours early morning and I'd also sleep for a few hours after I got home from work.

We weren't coding, just writing a business plan. We actually won an SBA business plan contest and got a little money to start the company. This was definitely the craziest hours that I've ever worked.

And how did your company do ? :)

The past few months I have been working my FT job, and also working on my start-up every spare moment I have (I would say 25 - 30 hours per week. Come June, I will be quitting the FT job and focusing exclusively on the startup.

I have been working FT for a large company for the past 5 years (past year remotely from home) and am really excited for moving to full time on my startup.

I don't enjoy my current job at all. I work part time in a non-tech related job. the rest of my time is spent thinking about what projects to best devote my time to and experimenting.

2hrs/day * 2 ppl for 2 months == http://unripped.com (OpenID-based file storage and sharing)

The application works well and we hope to break free of part-time mode this summer. Opportunities for improving our product and exposure are limitless, so I guess that means the time we can/should spend on it is also limitless. ;p

fp's comment is right on: "The limiting factor in startups does not seem to be time: it's attention."

Yes. I have been doing this for last 2 yrs and worked on 3 diff startups. First one is still operational, but I m not part of it, second one failed after 6 months of hard-work, and now I'm working on Third idea since last few months. There are mainly immigration issues bcoz of which I'm not able to go fulltime, so still continuing with part-time option.

During first idea, I was a bachelor, and used to invest more time on business development activities, product planning & management, networking events, mentoring sessions, reading books + blogging. I used to spend daily 3-4 hrs of evenings for this. My co-founders were doing coding. I did this for 1 year. Then bcoz of certain concerns, I left this project and started another.

During second idea, I got married, so working in the late evening was not justifiable. I used to work in early morning from 4am-7am, mostly coding and then in the evening, if necessary, meet some potential clients or advisors for business development activities. So daily I used to work for 4-5 hrs. Unfortunately, my other co-founders were married ones, and couldn't cope up with fulltime + mariage + part-time startup pace. So naturally, I was alone at the end, and after certain time, had to close the idea.

Now I again started with the third idea. Now I spend maximum time on learning technical stuff, and coding my application. Most of the times, I am the only one on this idea, I'm spending max time on developing product rather than building business, which I did lot in previous startups. I spend daily 2-3 hrs on weekday, and 5-6 hrs on one weekend.

In general, I try to put 15-20 hrs a week. Which i know are still very less for a startup :( I think having equally entrepreneurial and passionate co-founders, who are ready to slog hard in the part-time is very essential, which was the case in my first idea.

i began working on http://markkit.net after hours. it took me about 9months to have first version online. then, beginning january 1st 2008, i negotiated with my boss to work part time (i had a good argument for negotiation : if he did not accept, i would go full time on markkit).

now i feel like i have the best possible situation.

i have a fulltime job and freelance... i spend the time i have left after doing freelance at home to work on my "idea" - building something i need (and hopefully others would want it too...) and for the experience. basically it is like hitting two birds with one stone.

When I was ramping up my last startup, I met my cofounder about 4 days a week after work and we worked until 9 or 10 at night.

I've found that when I go from "this is a cool project" mode to "going to turn this into a company" mode, the hours just start piling on.

Quit Microsoft in January (http://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=110792) and I am loving working full-time on my own ventures.

I did build all products: (http://www.phonemyphone.com, http://www.craigslistautoresponder.com, and http://www.emptyspaceads.com) while working full-time at Microsoft, it seems really hard to succeed working part time on your startup.

I average roughly the same. The last time I had a dayjob, I did about that amount of work each week, then stepped it up considerably in the couple weeks before a big release.

My problem is that, while working on my own stuff is fun, I'm often too pissed off about the dayjob when I get home each day and I tend to ruminate.

Sometimes I just end up not doing a hell of a lot. But other times I can salvage the rest of my day -- I'll take a quick shower and nap, then plan on spending 3-4 hours at my favorite cafe with a specific set of bugs or features to work on before leaving.

I work some weeknights, plus large chunks of the weekends. I get maybe 10-20 hours a week on the project. I find this approach quite frustrating, though: you get totally in the zone and then it's time to go to bed because you have work the next day. Also, I find that I no longer have so much energy for volunteering or writing music or socialising. I knew that doing a start-up meant saying goodbye to your life, but I didn't realise that sacrifice would have to be made so early.

About an hour a day, averaging weekends in with weekdays. I partly became so interested in Rails because I could actually accomplish things noticeably in that amount of time.

I agree completely with the rails aspect. I've only been using ror for about 3 months and as long as you think of what you want to do in a 'rails' way you get lots done.

In regards to the parent question , when I first start a side project I spend a fair amount of time on it afterwork. But it usually settles to 2-3 nights a week for a couple hours and 9-5 sat.

I started working on http://muziboo.com last year and then worked with my job for about 4 months. Quit my job and did it along with consulting for another 3 months and fulltime now. At one point, it gets very tough to switch your brains :)

Sometimes you can think of neat features/ideas only when you think for long enough and observe for long enough and atleast I need to be fulltime for that

Hey, i've spend more than 4 hours per day, and 10 hrs more for weekend, so together added up to 40 hours a week. And i'm keeping this for months now.

I'm curious, for those who have gone fulltime on their startups, are you making any money at it, and if so how much?

I've been thinking about this startup 2yrs and 1/2 ago now - started design & planning while i was student, then got a FT job, convinced a friend to join me in the meantime...

My teamate worked non-stop on it only 1yr ago, mainly coding the application - i was dedicating early mornings and late nights + weekends at it.

I did that for most of last year. But you can only do it for so long since all you do is work, then go home and work. Plus it just takes so much longer.

If it's an idea you truly believe in, it may be worth making that your full-time job. But it is a risk, you just have to decide if it's worth taking.

Make sure you own your IP if you're working at a big company and part time on your startup.

How have people reconciled being able to work on your startup part time while at a large company full time? By reconcile, I mean in terms of legal contracts, etc. I'm pretty sure most people sign a non-compete clause in their employment contract.

The non-compete clause is for when you leave. IP rights are explicitly signed away in employee agreements.

The easiest way to reconcile is to quit and do the startup full time.

People shouldn't do things half-assed anyway. It's all about the focus.

How? Any specific advice for making sure the big employer doesn't own your idea?

Read your employment agreement. Some states are more flexible than others.

Don't use ANY company resource (email, bandwidth, office supplies, their computers) to make your product.

I'm a full time student so time comes and goes-- however, the Oxbridge term calendar (I go to Trinity College Dublin; the Oxbridge tag-alonger) gives us one hell of a summer holiday.

Hopefully something will come of this summer.

Ive been working on my project http://www.mee-mah.com for the last few months for about an hour or two a day. However I did have the help of rent a coder!

I work a couple of hours every few days, and try to get at least 8 in on the weekends. I've got a wife and kid and a FT job in a management capacity so it's tough, but I'm seeing progress.

I'm doing the same thing, on pretty much the same time budget.

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