01 February 2011 ~ 32 Comments

Switching from employee to entrepreneur, day 1

A day not like any other

Today is a cold winter day. Colleagues I was working with last week are at work. Except I’m not there, sitting in a coffee house in front of my previous company building, brainstorming names for my yet-to-be-created company, checking out freelancer profiles on oDesk, and thinking about what I’m going to do.

I do feel like I’m going to explore new territories. Leaving my old job behind, job security, colleagues, problems to scale web applications to millions of people, my city and country of adoption. Now it’s going to be more about marketing, finding customers, selling, copywriting, managing freelancers, and maybe a little bit writing code.

About to turn 29 soon, I have the feeling I made the right decision at the right time. No mortgage, no kids, I’ve saved some money in the bank for the past 3 years to prepare for such a change. I feel ready though at the same time grossly unprepared for what awaits me. People are surprised that I don’t have yet a concrete idea of what I will dedicate my next year, that I don’t have yet customers ready to buy stuff from me.

What’s the worst that can happen?

We routinely hear that 95% of software businesses fail. Even though, what’s the cost of failure? What is there to lose? Tim Ferriss famously asked the question:

what’s the worst that can happen?

I think this question is very important to ask yourself when you consider making a change in your life you’re afraid of. Indeed, what’s the worst that can happen in my case? Well, I guess what I’m about to do could not work, and that I could lose a bunch of money in the process. That, and maybe people looking down on me if I fail (hey, this is Europe here). Then I’ll be able to take a new job next year, and I would resume things where I left them today.

Is that really all there is to lose? Wait, I think I can handle that! On the other hand, what’s the worse that can happen if I don’t do that? That as I grow older, I will have less and less opportunities to make the big jump, and one day I will wake up and regret that I’ve not been brave enough to do what I wanted to do, that I was always waiting for the “perfect moment”, rationalizing to continue working at a corporate job.

Instead of that, I’ll get to work on what I want to work on, decide on new directions and new projects, and generally being in charge of my destiny. This is a very empowering feeling for me.

Starting a new business as a learning experience

I’m not looking to strike it big and make lots of money right now. I’m looking at this jump to the entrepreneurial side as a learning experience: I’ve wanted to start a company for some time, so let’s see how it actually works, and whether I will like it or not. Maybe I’m not cut to work without colleagues in the same office? Maybe I will prefer to work on exciting stuff rather than being the jack-of-all-trades you need to be to run a business? I’m in it for the learning, and the feeling that my actions have a direct impact on lives of others. All the other things (money, success, etc) will be a by-product of this experience.

And now, let’s go to my home country where I’ll start this business: France.

Congrats! You made it until the end. You can follow me on Twitter.

32 Responses to “Switching from employee to entrepreneur, day 1”

  1. Anthony 1 February 2011 at 11:46 am Permalink

    And now it begins …

    Good luck man !

  2. Girish 1 February 2011 at 12:34 pm Permalink

    Best of luck!

  3. Jan 1 February 2011 at 1:34 pm Permalink

    Good luck Tommy, basically you are 4 weeks ahead of me as I’ll leave my job end of February. Really interested to see how it works for you! Best, Jan (Berlin)

  4. felix 1 February 2011 at 1:37 pm Permalink

    good luck tommy

  5. Thierry 1 February 2011 at 1:57 pm Permalink

    Good Luck. So I wish you good luck and I wish (sometimes) that I have the guts to do the same :) (but only sometimes)

  6. Ron 1 February 2011 at 2:21 pm Permalink

    “If you think you can do a thing or think you can’t do a thing, you’re right.”

  7. Jose Tavares 1 February 2011 at 2:55 pm Permalink

    Move to a warm place even if the cold is a soft road block hampering your progression and spend your capital wisely. Also with 30 being around the corner be sure to keep yourself grounded into that transition.

  8. Min 1 February 2011 at 3:00 pm Permalink

    Keep us posted on what happens! I have also wanted to make the jump for some time now… My excuse why not? Minimal savings to back myself…

  9. Giorgio 1 February 2011 at 3:37 pm Permalink

    Good luck. I am putting this blog on my reader list, so that you can feel some pressure in being judged by a stranger; don’t disappoint your readers :)
    What happened to the idea of going to South East Asia to live&code?

  10. awin 1 February 2011 at 3:55 pm Permalink

    Good luck.
    Was in a similar situation when i left my job with the hope of a startup, but ended up in another job after 10 months burning through all my money.
    http://blog.asmartbear.com/death-clock.html is a good read.

  11. Ramon Gonzalez 1 February 2011 at 3:57 pm Permalink

    Congratulations Tommy!

    It takes a lot of guts to take this decision. It’s great to know that someone else concluded the same exact thing I did. This upcoming Friday is my last day, so I guess next Monday I will feel just like you feel today :)

    I’m 24 and perhaps a little too ambitious for my age but I do have an idea well defined, already designed all the wire-frames; prototype, market research and business plan on the way. Have got some feedback from people that are considerably more experienced that I am and it seems I am on the right track.

    I wish you much success.


  12. Rob 1 February 2011 at 4:12 pm Permalink

    I’m in almost the exact same position with the exception I have a 6 week head start on you (and I’m in the US). I’ll definitely be watching your blog but if you wanted to chat with someone in the same boat as you just shoot me an email. Best of luck either way!

  13. Roberts 1 February 2011 at 4:15 pm Permalink

    Cheers Friend! Godspeed.

  14. Paul 1 February 2011 at 4:21 pm Permalink

    I’m excited for you!

    I recommend checking out Rob Walling’s book ‘Start Small Stay Small’ (http://www.startupbook.net) It gives great advice on bootstrapping a new product/company.

  15. Alistair Collins 1 February 2011 at 4:31 pm Permalink

    All the best! We’ll be watching…!!

  16. Mikushi 1 February 2011 at 4:36 pm Permalink

    Bon chance,

    Starting a IT business in France, i say you have balls, i did run on my own for a year or so, at 21, before moving to Canada (4years now). It’s a lot of work, interesting, but my conclusion was very simple, if you want to live “entrepreneur” style, France ain’t the place to be, Canada, US or UK (to some extent), but not France, not enough opportunities, most of the things happens in North America, conference, entrepreneur meetups, startup incubator (there is some in France, don’t get me wrong, but not as much as N-A).

    I wish you good luck, and i’ll keep an eye on your blog.

  17. Adam 1 February 2011 at 5:31 pm Permalink

    Awesome man! How are you able to do this? Do you have much saved up?

  18. Logan 1 February 2011 at 11:56 pm Permalink

    Wow! Congrats man.
    reading this post felt like you wrote exactly what I had in mind, same age, same idea of starting a company to learn & not regret later, traveling and coding, same saving up for a few years now etc Wow! this is so crazy.. I could have written this post in a couple of months from now.
    I’m planning the same.. but heading back to India.

  19. egbert 2 February 2011 at 5:16 am Permalink

    Wow Tommy.

    Loved reading this. WIsh you all the best of luck in your quest for freedom. I’m with you on all that you write. Moving to Asia for starters is a good thing as well. Costs of living are so cheap that the time-pressure to make money instantly becomes less.
    Please keep us posted on what you are experiencing and how things develop, it’ll be a pleasure to read, whatever happens. Remember people never make the wrong decision, sometimes our actions just don’t turn out the way we hoped for. Making no decision is the only wrong decision, so proficiat! you did a good thing!!!


  20. tommy 2 February 2011 at 9:49 am Permalink

    So maybe I should not have posted this just before embarking on a long train journey. Thanks all for the encouragement and now I know I’ll have eyes watching me, good motivation not to slack off :-)

    @Giorgio the idea to go to Asia to live and code is still alive :-) I’m flying there end of february and come back end of july in europe, hopefully with a burgeoning business by then, and without burning too much cash.

    @awin the startup death clock is a great idea. Hopefully this date will be far away as my burn rate will be low (I’ll be in Asia for 5 months). As soon as I get expenses I’d like to calculate this date.

    @paul actually, i made a review of ‘start small, stay small’ a few posts backs: http://sparklewise.com/?p=808 great book!

    @mikushi the business will be physically located in france, at least at the beginning, but I’ll be traveling for some time: http://sparklewise.com/?p=745

    @adam I’ve saved for the last 3 years, so I depending where I live, I’ll be able to survive for 1-2 years.

    @ramon, rob, logan sounds like we’re a bit in the same position!

    @egberts: thanks for the encouragement: I agree, taking a decision is better than not taking a decision. We can learn along the way and correct the route (it’s called ‘pivot’ in startup terms).

  21. PK 9 August 2011 at 9:59 am Permalink

    I am also in same position, i m leaving my 17 years old Job man!!! can you boys believe it, yes, i m doing it right now, for last months i have been in Profession of teaching English by going to my students home/office. I am getting good response, I started to make the money equal to my Salary, but i was not able to devote my time to my students due to long hours of Job, secondly i was supposed to go our of city in my job, so my students were getting irregular that was not good for me, so finally decided to give up.

    Since its a starting phase I often miss my daily routine sitting in office, surfing the net, chating with girls, waiting for weekends and planning for parties with colleagues. But reality is more powerful, all those activities were time wasting only. I was born to be what I am doing now, Teaching English.

    Hey guys i need wishes from all of you. Mail me your wishes : speakenglishnow@rediffmail.com

  22. tommy 9 August 2011 at 12:41 pm Permalink

    Hey PK, congrats on the launch and don’t hesitate to keep us posted! And good luck with teaching english :-)

  23. Marina 22 September 2011 at 5:50 am Permalink

    You have really interesting blog, keep up posting such informative posts!

  24. ucheng 30 March 2012 at 2:35 pm Permalink

    this is so inspiring!
    I have a full-time job and thinks my next step.
    your blog gives me some thoughts, keep sharing your progress!

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