I spoke to an Emory entrepreneur and venture capital club last Friday, and before I began, I solicited questions they had. The group of 20-30 undergrad students had a mix of no entrepreneurship/ startup experience, some experience with startups/ accelerators, and a few having started something.
One question I thought was interesting – one that I have received numerous times from others – was “when do you know to go full-time?”
The answer: it depends. (This is almost always the answer.)
The best case, I suppose, is when the market (customers) is giving you signs that you need to take the big leap. This can come when:
  • You are working on an idea part-time, and traction starts to pick up to the point that revenue coming in can cover your basic living needs or that it’s sustainable and projecting growth to do so.
  • You are working part-time, and the support required to ensure sustained traction and growth of customers is demanding more of your time and effort.
  • You are gaining little value in whatever position you’re in now, and you have enough safety net (savings? job opportunities elsewhere? education?) that empower you to take the “risk”. (I put “risk” in quotes because risk can come in many forms.)
  • You just want to… you feel the pull. Like the Apple Jacks commercials from the 90s, sometimes, you just “do”. That is, you feel some urge to make the leap, and you do so because you’re compelled to with all the confidence and fear riding high within you.

There are no sure reasons. It’s up to you, but you can certainly do things to mitigate risks of failure. Jump when you feel it’s right, and you know you can commit to a long-term strategy of learning and overcoming obstacles.

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