Part-Time Entrepreneurship: Is It For Real?

The great American economy runs on entrepreneurship. It is heartening to see that this spirit is still vibrant in our society. Being a software engineer and an MBA living in NYC, my social group is a typical mix of technology and finance professionals. All of them are well educated, bright and quite successful in their careers. I am very fortunate to be in a group of talented people with diverse interests such as sports, music, travel and reading. However, they all have one thing in common–a desire to do something of their own! The entrepreneurial spirit runs deep in this group and I have all the reasons to believe that it represents atypical of professional American society. However, what baffles me the most is that such passionate and bold over achievers think of pursuing entrepreneurship on the side! Is it worth their time and energy?

A typical persona is a post graduate from a top school working as a senior manager in a successful startup or well-established company with significant responsibility, needless to say making a six figure salary. While he is doing well in his career and enjoying life, there is a strong desire to do something of his own. However, the plan is to do it part time till he builds a good enough business to smoothly transition over from his full-time job. The reason is obvious–he doesn’t want to let go his six-figure salary for an uncertain future. Moreover, why take such a risk when he can stretch himself to build a business on the side. I have heard this argument several times from various people in different settings. Well, I do understand and respect it.

However, my novice entrepreneurial alter ego questions the rationale of part-time entrepreneurship. One can certainly build a decent side income by working on part-time projects but building a viable company with a partial effort is almost unheard of.  I am sure my accomplished friends are not aiming for a few thousand dollars more per year by burning mid night oil and dipping into their already scarce family time. They are talking about serious business. How can one build a serious business by putting 3-4 hours in the evening, when they know the companies they work for demand a 70-hour work week to keep the lights on? A start-up needs even more effort and investment to succeed. Why would a serious venture capitalist invest in a part-time entrepreneur with a cushion of his day job? What will take a backseat when both, the full-time job and the part-time venture, demand more attention and time? No wonder, I have heard so many stories of companies, great ideas and partial projects in limbo for years. “I want to do it but there is no time” or “I started doing it on the side a few years ago but it never went anywhere.” Have you ever heard this from extremely talented and hard working part-time entrepreneurs?

I know many smart people with great ideas who want to build great businesses. They have the ability to do it but only if they have the confidence to go all out for it. I understand we all have responsibilities and circumstances that hold us back but let’s face it–there is nothing called part-time entrepreneurship. Go all out for the glory!


3 responses to this post.

  1. In ideal world, I agree whole heartly with your view but as you know we dont live in a ideal world and we have responsibilities to our families and our lifestyle (ie mortgage, car, schools etc),full time entrepreneurism is best suited to the student/20 somethings as they are generally only responsible for themselves and can afford to make mistakes.

    There is still a place for the part time entrepreneur who has to juggle many balls in order to keep his show going. the one thing the part time entrepreneur has on his side is time. They dont need to rush full on and launch their business in a matter of months, they can play the long game and still meet their goals.
    What ever those goals maybe and you might find that alot of so called part time entrepreneurs dont have any goals for their part time business and in these cases they are not entrepreneurs but people with a business hobby.


  2. I completely respect part time entrepreneurs and know how much they have to sacrifice to get a serious thing going on a side. Most lose the momentum because they don’t see early results or just can’t take it anymore. I wish they could do justice to their efforts, enthusiasm and smarts by jumping on to full time entrepreneurship in time. There are always exceptions and I know rare entrepreneurs who built respectable businesses by working part time. However, even they converted soon.


  3. Posted by MicroI on July 28, 2011 at 3:03 pm

    “Microinvestment” would help this a lot. With a small investment of 100-300K, the entrepreneur could afford to spend the time on the startup. I think we much more investment of this kind. That is more investments in numbers, not more in dollars.


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