WHY I QUIT MY JOB TO BUILD EVAL.ME
Posted on December 5, 2011
Hi. I’m Flaviu. 4 months ago, I had a cushy IT job with the State. Today, I launched eval.me.
1. What doesn’t make you stronger, kills you.
or, to rephrase another adage, “Learning is more important than knowledge.”
I feel most alive when learning something new. In any field.
Most jobs hire you for being relatively good at something. They want you to keep doing that one thing to increase their efficiency.
While this increases their efficiency in the short run, it hurts them in the long term as you start viewing your job as ‘soul-sucking’.
The lack of a challenge kills one’s potential. On the other hand, having a startup will always be a challenge.
2. It’s the only choice.
You’re thinking about starting a business. You may think you have three choices:
1. Stay with your job (your idea isn’t that good anyway).
2. Stay with your job and work on your idea at nights and weekends.
3. Leave your job and ‘sink or swim’.
1. is not an option because it sets you up for living with regrets. You’ll always wonder what could have happened if you had pursued your idea.
2. seems to be an option because you always hear about ventures starting out as side-projects built on late nights and weekends.
Well, I only have a few hours of focus every day. By midnight, I just blankly stare at my screen. Maybe it works for you, but it took me 2 years to figure out it does not work for me.
3. is the only real option. Even if you just somewhat believe in your idea, you owe it to yourself (and potential clients) to implement it. Even if it fails, you’ll have no regrets.
3. It’s your social responsibility.
Startups add some value to the world, whether that is making a process more efficient, inventing a new way to connect with others, or simply entertaining the masses with virtual goods.
The very fact that you are in a position to create a startup is the result of a series of fortunate events: you are smart, healthy, creative, self-sustaining, and courageous. To not do a startup would be a waste of these talents.
The world’s advancement relies on people like you realizing their potential.
I would not have subscribed to the belief above 2 years ago.
I’ve since participated in a few charity projects with my Rotary club, including an effort to equip the middle school I attended in Nasaud, Romania with a computer lab of Apple iMacs this past summer. Here are some pictures.
The meaning of such projects is much greater than anything I’ve accomplished professionally. Hence, combining startups and social good in eval.me motivates me most.
I was able to save just over $10,000 to help me bootstrap eval.me. I firmly believe that my first startup needed to be on my own dime to feel every mistake.
I cut monthly expenses by about 50% by getting a roommate, cooking more, and not watching TV.
It’s trendy to advise business people to learn how to code before doing a startup. I already knew how to code, but there are many other technical challenges besides coding.
For instance, I needed a 1 minute video to present my startup. I could have learned Adobe After Effects, and try to do it myself, but I decided that my time would be better spent elsewhere. So, I paid $1,000 for the animation and voice-over (mind you, I still wrote the script and spent hours coordinating the story board).
Maybe a more realistic advice would be to “Learn a little bit of coding, design, SEO, project management, read hackernews, and listen to some podcasts.”
It is worth noting that while I did most of the coding, I also had some great help from a few very talented machers (I’m looking at you, @fansipans, @floomoon, @lukedupont, and @fldtrace)
3. There’s more than 24 hours in a day.
Developers are often frustrated when asked how long it will take them to build a certain feature.
My original deadline for eval.me was October 15th, which became November 1st, which became November 18th, then November 28th, and today is December 5th.
If you had ordered something from Amazon and it came 2 months late, it would be inexcusable. But the iterative process of innovation is unlike any corporate assembly line. Make sure your coworkers understand that a task may take anywhere between 10 minutes and 3 days.
Don’t count your startup hours like your freelance hours. You can’t charge yourself $100/hr and it will only frustrate you to know your opportunity cost.
Finishing the MVP is Priority #1. At all times. Anything else is a distraction: hackernews, twitter, food, sleep, gmail, friends. Saying no is hard for me because I enjoy talking to the smart people that surround me in the Charlotte community.
However, to fail is to succeed. Leaving something unfinished, that’s failure.