Hackernoon logoI’ve Been Mixing Employment and Startup for 3 Years. Here’s What I’ve Learned by@alexlash

I’ve Been Mixing Employment and Startup for 3 Years. Here’s What I’ve Learned

Alex Lashkov Hacker Noon profile picture

@alexlashAlex Lashkov

journalist, tech entrepreneur

I’m developing media startup Smile Bright Media. We help companies from all over the world to create high-quality content. Furthermore, we are building our own media services, similar to chatbots. My business story started more than five years ago. For 3 of these years I had been developing my own project, combining it with the work in a corporation. Today, I’d like to tell you about my experience.

Disclaimer : My startup and my corporation were in different business domains. I never worked with my company’s competitors and I never used company resources to develop my own business.

Starting Up: First Ideas

I majored in computer science and after graduation started working in this field. But it became clear soon that programming was not really my thing. In addition, it was not easy to make a career in the company where I started working. That’s why I gave my passion to my hobby — blogging and writing on the internet.

Later on, I was invited to take a marketer position in quite a large IT company. My duties included corporate blogging and social media. In essence, everything seemed fine for the first several months, but soon I became obsessed with the idea of opening my own media startup.

I thought that if I was able to make interesting content for my company and besides, I was good at technologies, I would be able to do the same thing for other businesses. Having a technological background, I could produce high-quality and technological content (frequently, startups have great technology but can’t explain it to the public). So, I was determined to create my own company and help IT businesses with their content.

But not so fast. I didn’t have any savings for the startup and I had already started a family. That’s why I couldn’t just retire from my company and start working towards my dream. There was no way out — I had to develop my startup in my free time. At first, I considered this step as a temporary one — I planned for my startup to have rapid growth. But in the end, this stage of mixing my work and my startup lasted 3 years. And here’s what I managed to figure out.

Fear Is Good

Obviously, I continued with my work because of the fear of failure and because of the added pressure from relatives and friends. On the one hand, many articles on startups say things like that, “you don’t have to be afraid” or, “sometimes a negative experience is more precious than a successful one” and other nonsense like that. I could hardly believe that someone could take that seriously! Especially since we are speaking about people who wouldn’t be able to take care of their family in case of failure.

On the other hand, he who fears to fully commit himself to his idea takes fewer risks. But this type of an entrepreneur shouldn’t be taken as a weaker one. Looking back, I realize that if I had been told that I could only develop my project by putting everything at stake — it’s likely that I would never have taken the risk and I’d have preferred a warm place in a corporation. So, the world would have lost one of its entrepreneurs.

In a practical sense, due to the absence of money stress, I managed to think over the development strategy, acquire first customers and start making my own money. I also had the space to experiment; I didn’t fear failure. If an idea of customer acquisition didn’t work out, I didn’t fall into a bankruptcy as a result and I was able to find another solution. That really helped me to develop a detailed business model.

Less Time = More Efficient

When you work in the office in the daytime and in the evening you have to develop your own startup, plus you have a family needing your attention, you become more efficient. Before such a working regime, I could waste a lot of time surfing social media and playing online games.

And now, the questions of priorities arise : should I read something about my favorite soccer team on a sport website or write a new article for my customer? Should I stay in bed a little more or arrive a bit earlier at the office so I can do more and then leave earlier? Should I work at the weekend or walk in the park with my family and plan the tasks for the next week?

It’s not easy but you get used to it with time. My passion for optimization made me so efficient that I managed to arrange a remote office in the corporation. So, I saved a lot of time from my schedule by avoiding the journey to my office. I managed to find the balance. At the very start I had to work at the office and I had a startup with no clients and a wife. But 3 years later I already had a child, a startup with dozens of clients yet I was promoted in my remote work.

Employment Helped Me to Understand the Staff

My business kept on growing and with time we had clients from different countries operating in various business domains. It became impossible for me to deal with the work flow. So we started to hire people. Sometimes it was very strange for me to be the CEO and the boss and at the same time have a boss in corporation myself. As time went by, I started to notice interesting facts. On the one hand, I was sometimes embarrassed by the lack of enthusiasm of my company staff. On the other hand, at corporate job I could hardly be motivated to perform a task myself if I didn’t know exactly why I should perform this work, why it was worthwhile and how it would help me to achieve better results. I came to the conclusion that the boss should spend more time with his employees explaining to them not only the essence of the task but also its reason.

Being an employee, it was quite simple for me to see the mistakes of my boss. I realized the things I didn’t like in his approach. And at the same time, it was possible for me to correct the work process in my own company. I reckon this was a great advantage my competitors never had.

The Fear of Problems Falls Apart

A strict schedule combining the work in the corporation and the development of the startup includes dealing with the related problems. An office worker has one type of difficulties and a startup founder — a different one. But an actor, playing both roles constantly deals with all problems at once.

All in all, my problems were not of much importance They just became routine — no more, no less. This type of thinking truly helps, especially when something really serious arrives.

Let’s take a look at my example. I launched my startup with my friend (and co-founder) in Eastern Europe. Then we decided to develop our business in the USA, so I moved there. I was spending holidays with my family in Miami and we were expecting a second child. We couldn’t fly back from the US because it was impossible for my wife due to her condition. At the same time, my business partner and I went our separate ways I had to sell my part in the company. It was a stressful situation. I needed to prepare all the documents and stipulate the price of my part, from the other side of Atlantic. It was rather complicated.

In addition, in a moment I found myself without my business project to which I had given several years of my life. But I had already registered the company in the United States so I decided to develop it. And guess what? There was no more fear! After 5 months of hard work I took my new business to the same level where my old one was. Now I work with customers worldwide and I live in Miami with my family.

Conclusion : Is This Game Worth the Candle?

According to my story you don’t need to leave your office to create a successful startup. Furthermore, you can combine your business and work. But if you choose this path you’ll have to bear in mind some things :

  • Work hard. If you want to reach success in developing your startup and also be helpful to your company, you’ll have to work really hard.
  • Be efficient. Always. You can’t just go on vacation, because this is a hot time to work on your startup. If you want to watch another episode of Game of Thrones you’ll have to work harder first to save some time.
  • Family makes it more complicated. Not every partner can stand such a way of life but when you become truly efficient you have enough time for your family.

It goes without saying that not everyone can combine business, work and family. Although, if taking risks is not your nature and you are really eager to try your hand as an entrepreneur, here’s nothing wrong in working and making business at the same time.


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