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STARTUP

Why Your Side Project Is a Bad Idea

Are you using a side project as a gateway into entrepreneurship? Cut it out, argues one serial start-up founder.

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Starting a business is risky. That's why you're dipping your toe into the entrepreneurial waters by working on your start-up on the side while you hold onto your regular gig. You'll keep a paycheck coming in and validate your idea before you take the plunge into life as a founder.

Smart thinking, right?

Nope, argues serial entrepreneur David Hauser recently on his blog. While side projects might sound like a sensible gateway into start-up life for the individuals pursuing them, our collective fixation on our after-hours gigs is causing to some serious problems, Hauser says.

"There’s currently a start-up side project bubble," he insists before going on to explain why the fact that everybody and their brother has something cooking outside of their normal job is both bad for their employers and for this army of would-be entrepreneurs:

Everyone from designers to developers to UI/UX to biz dev thinks they’re an entrepreneur and has a side project going on. Why is this happening, you ask? It’s because everyone wants to be an entrepreneur, but they’re not quite yet ready to commit.

This creates a big problem.

It’s a problem because side projects create a talent bubble of people who aren’t fully engaged and are just doing enough at their “real” or full-time job to get by until their startup is up and running. This means their productivity suffers at their full-time job, an expense the employer ends up paying. The side project owners justify it by assuming it will only be for a short period of time.

But when it comes down to what actually happens, startups often take longer than expected to get up and running all while the job and the startup limp on. The employee doesn’t excel at his job nor does the startup take off.

The root of the problem, Hauser concludes, is a lack of clear thinking. To do a start-up right you need to give it your full attention. If that seems too risky to you, the hard truth according to Hauser is that you're probably not founder material. "Don’t shoot yourself in the foot by stringing your employer along and delaying the leap to becoming a full-time entrepreneur," he advises part-time entrepreneurs.

Of course, not everyone agrees with Hauser. Other entrepreneurs insists that actually sampling entrepreneurship is the only way to really know if it's for you, which implies, of course, dabbling on the side while you test the waters. And some companies even go so far as to actively support their employees' side projects.

Which side are you on: Are you for or against entrepreneurial side projects?

 

IMAGE: jorgeq82/Flickr
Last updated: Apr 10, 2013

JESSICA STILLMAN is a freelance writer based in London with interests in unconventional career paths, generational differences, and the future of work. She has blogged for CBS MoneyWatch, GigaOM, and Brazen Careerist.
@EntryLevelRebel




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