I once had an opportunity in 1999 to share an elevator in a sprawling Menlo Park office complex with a luminary of the venture capital world. At the time, my employer, Webvan, was preparing to list on the Nasdaq as WBVN.
For one reason or another, I was in these offices on Sand Hill Rd., and got 30 seconds to ask him his best advice to a budding entrepreneur. I was 22 at the time, and had an idea for a company that would allow people to send postal messages directly from their computer to people who had not yet connected to the Internet. At the time, access was very costly, and most mobile phone plans did not include data. If they did, it was not reliable.
His advice to me was “Don’t quit your day job, kid!”
I thought it was derisive at first, but he had not yet had enough of an opportunity to really gauge me as a person, and I decided not to take it personally. It wasn’t until February of this year, at the ripe old age of 37, that I discovered what he really meant.
He could have just said “your best seed capital is your paycheck.”
All of the best entrepreneurs were either in school full time or working for someone else. It makes sense. You get paid a salary which keeps the lights on and the water running, and the rent or mortgage paid, and then with your free time, you can think of something amazing. In fact, having only 2-3 hours a day to work on something forces you to learn time management, and gives you definite time when you have to be productive. If you are doing it full time, you will actually take your free time for granted.
If someone is going to pay you to think, take the money, do what they ask of you, and with your free time, work on your dream until you don’t have to work for them any more. Then, you will have developed the time management skills and you’ll be even more productive and successful. And if it doesn’t work out, you still have your day job.