I'd love to have a full-time job to support myself while I build my music startup, but most of my potential employers in the area know that I am working on my own company as well. I completed a code bootcamp last year and have loved learning and becoming a better developer over the last year, so I'd love to work somewhere that I can continue learning, but I am also committed to taking a proper swing with my own startup.
Do I look for jobs and let potential employers know I am working on my own startup? Perhaps shop for a short term contract? Or should I just try to find some investment and go full tilt at my startup? I have access to enough funding to get our MVP built so that I can demo and pitch potential investors.
I am nearing the bottom of my savings, but don't have a family to support. I don't mind living on the bare minimum for a bit while I build this thing.
Wow, lots of questions here. Let me try to hit them in order:
"Should I get a job or find investors?"
IF you have access to enough investor capital (not debt and not your savings) and you can get to MVP and still maintain ownership of a sizable majority of the business then do it.
IF that means debt financing then only use the debt lines the cost of which can be carried by returns generated by the use of funds.
I would prefer to offer a convertible note to prospective investors that can be easily extended throughout both friends and family and seed rounds (up to $2M to $3M) to get to proof in the market.
If you can get to revenue and earnings fast enough then you can avoid equity dilution all together.
IF you cannot secure that find of funding AND you cannot produce enough revenue from your business to deliver sufficient earnings for you to live on, then by all means, you should find a way to make the money you need and not burn all your savings or mortgage your home
If that means short term contract work that's great. Particularly if you can find log term work that is relevant to the business you're building.
If that means taking a job then do that. IF you do that, then yes, be transparent with your employer and let them know you're working on your own business also.
Hope this helps....
Find a job, which will pay you to improve your existing skills and learn new skills.
Being a startup founder is easier when you're managing people if you've worked in a similar role before so look for opportunities to work outside development — go see what it's like to be in customer service, sales or put your dev skills to work in a growth hacking role.
Every startup idea has a right time and right place, and your current idea might suit the current market conditions, but if you're working on it part-time while you keep a job to pay the rent, you won't make sufficient progress. By the time your product reaches a market, the market will have chosen something else or it will have moved on already.
Raising capital is a full-time job too. It takes time to get great at it. If you raise now with limited track-record and no product, you're less likely to get favourable terms and from smart investors.
Cap raising is sales, so finding a sales role will help you learn how to listen to customers/investors, read between the lines, identify the unspoken cues, and close a deal.
If I had a dollar from every founder who thought they could close a round with just a great idea...
Would you invest in someone who hasn't had a job in X amount of months/years? Would you invest in someone who burned through all their cash? What would they do with your money? Burn through that too?
If you look like you aren't hirable then how could you ever possibly run a company?
It's not some badge of honor or right of passage. When people tell you that you need to not take a full-time job when doing a startup because investors won't think you're really serious - it's a lie.
Having a full-time job is 100% completely possible while working on a startup. It just may mean some later nights.
In fact, you should do as much for free as possible. Validate your startup. Make sure people want it. Promote it. Get interested users signed up so you have a mailing list. Even build out an MVP. You can do this during your nights and weekends.
Then when you go to an investor in the future (if you even need to) you can say, "I'm brining all this to the table and I was able to do it under this budget: $0"
You can feed yourself, your family, and not go crazy...Because I bet you're starting to get a bit stressed now that you're nearing the end of your savings.
I'm familiar with this feeling. I've been there. I burned through my money and had a baby on the way. Believe me I know this scenario inside and out. I got a job quick. Guess what? I've had more traction on my startup than I did when I was working on it 100% all day. Do not let anyone tell you that you need to be self-destructive to run your own business. In fact, that's a good way to have a self-destructive business as well.
I would say that you need to get a job, and that job is your startup.
The key thing is that you say that you are at the point where you can get some cash. Based on the attitude I've seen from angel investors and incubators, once you start to raise money it's essential that you're full time on your startup. In fact, you need to have at least one co-founder who is also full time. If you have access to some capital, get it and use the minimum possible to support yourself while you create your MVP.
If the MVP fails, pull the plug and get a day job. Entrepreneurs are dedicated and therefore very employable. You can work on your next idea while you work a regular job, and then again, if you get to the point where you can raise money, go full time on the next startup.
As a serial entrepreneur who has created several companies from scratch I can tell you that finding investors is a slow and arduous process, which itself only occurs after you've demonstrated your MVP has traction… which itself is a slow and arduous process. So definitely you should get a job and not pin your hopes on landing investors quickly.
Personally, I wouldn't tell any potential employer that you are working on a startup. What you do in your spare time is completely your business and not theirs (assuming they aren't one of those ridiculous employers that makes you sign an agreement stating that anything you create in your spare time becomes theirs. Obviously you need to avoid jobs like this.). After you've created the MVP and have investors and are ready to make the switch, then you can let your employer know. I did this when I was creating RentACoder.com and my employer surprised me by offering to let me work as much or as little as I wanted to, for as long as I wanted to. This greatly helped me smooth out the transition, and by reducing the risk in that area I could take greater risks on the company itself.
Best of success to you in your endeavor.
I'm a CEO who has taken buses across 4-5 countries in search of investor funding, and was extremely successful in doing so.
Personally I can say that you sound 100% ready and in the right mind to go to a Startup Accelerator or Incubator. There are a tonne available, and many which provide mentorship with the financing so that you can cover the bare minimum and accelerate your MVP out onto the market.
If you're the adventurous type there are also accelerators in very financially affordable locations such as Bulgaria and Chile... let me know if you want to chat about this?
What you are imagining is the the "Key" to what you are experiencing and your success.
Your desire, from what you have written, is:
You are the owner of a thriving music related business and you "love learning" and developing it.
What you are focusing your thought and energy into (and thereby creating in your life) is:
"no job and no savings"
"but most of my potential employers in the area know that I am working on my own company"
"I am nearing the bottom of my savings"
"I don't mind living on the bare minimum for a bit while I build this thing"
These are probably your most emotional issues currently and what you are currently attracting more of...
What you think you would like is this:
"I'd love to have a full-time job to support myself while I build my music startup"
But what you really desire is this:
I am the owner of a thriving music related business and you "love learning" and developing it.
1) Use your imagination to get EXTREMELY clear in your mind on what you will BE experiencing as the owner and running your wonderful venture (it's no longer new - it is already running successfully).
2) Focus on this daily. Imagine it as REAL now.
3) Take daily inspired steps towards achieving your desire.
4) Take the "Most Appropriate" job that will allow you to focus daily on your desire.
5) Tell no one. (especially not employers) what you are doing. Allow it to unfold
Hold your vision in your mind and close to your heart and it will manifest into your life. All that you require (investors etc) will present themselves as "opportunities" at the appropriate time.
If you would like help getting clear and learning to use your imagination effectively please consider a call.
Having been in these straits before, I'm going to give advice that's a little different.
The key to starting a business is less about aptitude and more about ability to have a market. The only difference between you and someone who is doing what you want to do already is they have established relationships that enable them to get work consistently enough not to be "living on the bare minimum" for a while.
I think the nature of your questions means that you don't necessarily have all of these things into place yet and that you're hoping your moxie/hustle will get you through. While it might for a while, eventually you'll come to a realization if it's not working, that you need to do something else quickly for money and you won't have the capital to make that possible as much as you might right now.
My suggestion? Find work with a more established person in the field you want to be in. You need experience to answer the questions you have, even if you have some already. More importantly, you need to get the handles down of workflow and see how other people run their businesses because the market opportunities that exist while other people make mistakes is how you develop a product or service that you believe others will pay for.
As for whether to inform employers that essentially, "I'm going to take this job for now, but my dream is to do my own thing, so I might leave in an unspecified time when that happens," it'll just make someone not want to offer you the job. Maybe someone will appreciate your talent and see you for who you are and mentor you. But these scenarios are few and far between and even if they happen, without a lot of hand-holding and guidance, it just leads you to think you're closer to where you want to be than you are.
The key is getting your reps down and getting a sense of why you'd be able to establish yourself in this industry better than someone with more money, contacts and so forth.
Right now, you need money and that way, you can continue hustling your dream in the hours when you're not at work and on weekends and so forth. Not to do that forever, mind you, but for where it sounds like you are, it might make the most sense and get you a lot further along faster than hanging a shingle at this present time.
It seems as if you're already biased towards not picking up an employment income stream (and being your own "investor").
You mention you don't have a family to support and you don't mind living on bare minimums and you have access to enough funds to build the product...
If life was a Hollywood movie where "it all works out", then staying focused on the startup would make you look dedicated and make for a possibly more appealing storyline.
But you do need an income stream.
And you need to not be operating (now or at a negotiation table) from a position of need.
If you end up so far down the no-cash rabbit hole that even an investment deal with terrible terms sound enticing... then you may find yourself eventually locked into another job: your own startup where you'd no longer have controlling interest.
Also, one does not negate the other.
Building anything worthwhile is intense work. But you can work and then, since you don't have a family to feed at home, your evenings are spent on your business.
(Except for one evening per week... which will be spent on nothing but promoting your business concept and vision to investors, media, strategic alliances, industry influencers and whoever may have an introduction or resource that accelerates your path forward).