You are most productive when you can focus. Don’t kid yourself, the hobby startup that you have been pushing along for years, is taking up creative time and effort and money that could be better spent making something, anything else be successful.
There is no crime in joining a team. All those out there in one man consulting shops pushing their startup along an inch a day, consider what you could be accomplishing with a well managed team pushing toward a finish line that is attainable.
Please assume that most of your productive time is spent on your day job. Or at least assume your boss thinks that is true. Or more importantly know that your team mates are treating the day job as their path to the big time. They are thinking about ways to make it successful in the shower. What are you thinking about in the shower?
Some businesses are evergreen. I founded http://gamesville.com in 1995 which we sold to Lycos in 1999 and it is still running and making money. So I don’t mean to say all businesses have a specific lifetime. I am very proud that 13 years later our economy still has a nice place for that business.
But, I’ve also started other businesses over the years that were not Gamesville. In my experience many of them had their time and place and more importantly there was a distinct moment when the world moved on and it was time for the founders to move on too.
This is easier to say than do. Maybe turning your back on a past business is more difficult than moving on from a failed personal relationship. Especially when you feel that you gave birth to the business.
I certainly commiserate with how hard this can be. When I pivoted Visible Certainty to become SaneBox, I was leaving 3 years of 24 hour a day work and 1+ million dollars of development but digging that hole deeper wasn’t going to make the world a better place. I wrote down all the reasons that that project didn’t work which was very purging:
I highly recommend that all the entrepreneurs within the sound of my voice do that exercise. Why has your startup not succeeded?
At the time, I left visible certainty up and running for another year I felt a very strong personal bond to the users. We stopped actively maintaining it. But the software was pretty amazing and it just continued to run and run. At least until we need to upgrade the OS. Which brought into stark relief how much of a distraction it could be.
In the end, when I really did shut it off, the world did not come to an end. Instead of hate mail, I got a series of very sweet emails from former users. And my world became a better place with less unnecessary distractions. It felt good. It felt like a rebirth. I couldn’t really move on until I had buried the past.
And here is the thing.
Your startup, your hobby, the thing that isn’t succeeding, can’t be more important than your day job. You want to be known for something. Use your skills to build something that you will be remembered for. Such effort requires focus and dedication. So long as you can’t give up on the last thing, you can’t move on to the next one.
Here are some rules about how to know it is time to move on:
1) There were going to be plenty of other ways to provide the same service for free or the same price that you are selling it for
2) it was never going to be big enough because it isn’t yet big enough
3) the opportune moment had passed and now the big public companies are all releasing capabilities similar to the ones you were hoping to provide.
Lastly, remember that you have crazy skills. When you tell the story of the Internet to your grandchildren you should be able to point to one shining success that was created by those skills. Be able to say that you waded into the stream and pulled out the gold with your bare hands. Be able to point to the evergreen business that was built by your hands.
If this is you and you are ready to move on, SaneBox is hiring. Come work with us to make the world safe for email. This business does scale. This business is evergreen. This business is crazy fun. You want to be able to point back to this time and say “Yup I built SaneBox - it was a crazy fun ride!”. Send a resume and a cover letter with at least one joke to roseman dash hr at sanebox dot com