Most people who begin considering entrepreneurship are told repeatedly that they need to devote 100 per cent of their time, energy and resources to make the startup successful. In an ideal world, such devotion would be possible for all entrepreneurs, but in reality, the situation is drastically different.
There are hundreds of thousands of entrepreneurs who are toiling away under various arrangements perceived as outside the "norm". One of these arrangements is the part-time entrepreneur.
For full-time entrepreneurs and the venture capitalists that support them, part-time entrepreneurs are mere hobbyists who can't achieve the market success expected of startups or the external funding required to achieve the next level in corporate growth. However, part-time entrepreneurs state that being a part-time entrepreneur provides opportunities and options that most full-time entrepreneurs don't have.
Part-time entrepreneurs have numerous advantages, including:
(1) Greater Financial Leverage: By not relying solely on the startup for income, part-time entrepreneurs can build their startups further along the startup cycle, thus enabling them to maintain greater financial equity when approaching venture capitalists.
(2) Greater Product Control: One large issue that entrepreneurs have in their search for venture capital is the loss of product control and direction that comes with venture capital funding. A part-time entrepreneur is capable of devoting additional resources to build the product further along the product development lifecycle, thus enabling greater control of the product vision both in the short term and long term.
(3) Reduced Risk: While the current preferred startup methodology is to devote 100 per cent of the entrepreneur's time to the startup, most part-time entrepreneurs are unable to do so. Whether it is existing obligations (e.g. mortgages, family, student loans) or a personal affinity to being risk adverse, the part-time entrepreneur route enables aspiring entrepreneurs to not only experiment with pursuing their dreams but also to deal with the personal realities beyond student living.
(4) Greater Founder Maturity: Part-time entrepreneurs are rarely fresh faced college graduates but rather seasoned professionals with business experience. In many respects, part-time entrepreneurs are burdened with life obligations (e.g. mortgages, family, student loans) and also have the advantage of battle tested business experience. Part-time entrepreneurs understand the complexity of business from burdensome regulations to entrenched interests thus allowing them to pursue business ideas that are grounded in business reality instead of utopian ideal.
(5) Enhanced Professional Skills Development: Increasingly, budding entrepreneurs have greater access to resources that help them improve their skills and the potential success of their startups. From incubators to accelerators, entrepreneurs are being inundated with programs to make their startups successful. Part-time entrepreneurs have an added advantage because their existing employment can provide additional skills necessary to grow their startup.
(6) Enhanced Network Development: Another advantage that part-time entrepreneurs have is the fact that they can leverage their existing network of professional and personal contacts to grow their startups. Having an existing network of professional and personal contacts allows part-time entrepreneurs to spend more time devoted to their business model and their product instead of developing a network to socialize the product in the market.
Many full-time entrepreneurs and venture capitalists could state that the advantages highlighted above are also potential deterrents particularly when it is time to move the startup from part-time status to a full-time endeavour. Indeed, there is a risk that a part-time entrepreneur merely becomes another hobby entrepreneur, but there are also unique professional and personal characteristics that part-time entrepreneurs possess that take them to the next level:
(1) An Incredible Capacity for Multi-Tasking: Part-time entrepreneurship is incredibly tough from a time and resource perspective. Not only do part-time entrepreneurs need to balance their full-time professional and personal obligations, but they also now have to add their part-time entrepreneurial obligations. Part-time entrepreneurs are highly skilled at multi-tasking since it is the only way they can be successful.
(2) Extremely Good Time Management: In addition to an incredible capacity for multi-tasking, part-time entrepreneurs must be extremely good at time management. Not only will they have to deal with endless meetings for their full-time position, but they will also juggle startup meetings at all times including evenings to weekends. This requires an incredible amount of personal and professional discipline to ensure the part-time entrepreneurs succeed in all aspects of their professional and personal lives.
(3) Strong Personal & Professional Support Network: Just as with full-time entrepreneurs, part-time entrepreneurs require both strong personal and professional support networks. With strong networks to provide support during difficult times or potentially to provide the vital contacts to enable the startup to achieve goals, part-time entrepreneurship would be an impossible goal to achieve without them.
(4) Split Personality (e.g. Cultural Flexibility): An interesting skill that part-time entrepreneurs possess is the ability to successfully work in highly polarized business environments. Part-time entrepreneurs who have corporate employment must work in an environment that is the complete antithesis to startup culture. Whereas a corporate environment is based on adherence to established processes and regulations, a startup culture is based on free flowing flexibility and a can-do attitude. For a part-time entrepreneur to be truly successful, they must separate their corporate persona from their startup persona in order to achieve success in both realms.
Some full-time entrepreneurs and venture capitalists may state that part-time entrepreneurship is a dream, but it is increasingly a reality in today's dynamic economy.
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