Using your spare time to start a startup

By Vattan PS | FOUNDERLY | May 24, 2019


Google encourages employees to spend 20 percent of their work time each week on side projects. It’s considered one of the best ways of unlocking creativity and innovation. This policy helped launch Gmail, Google Maps, AdSense and Google Talk, and is probably one reason why Google is one of the world’s most innovative companies.

The tech giant is not alone in this approach to innovation. LinkedIn has InCubator, which gives engineers time away from their regular jobs to work on their own product ideas; Apple has Blue Sky, which allows workers to spend a few weeks on side projects; and Microsoft created Microsoft Garage, a space for employees to build their own products using Microsoft resources.

Tech enterprises are happy to hire talented employees, even if they devote less than a regular 40-hour week to company development. When given time away from regular work, employees can train their entrepreneurial spirit and become intrapreneurs, a term that characterises an employee who acts as an entrepreneur. 

Freeing employees from regular duties unlocks their creativity as they switch from cognitive activity fixed on a set of tasks to different challenges. It also helps employees stay motivated in their regular jobs.

Some of the world’s most ambitious and creative people, working at top academic institutions and prestigious companies, can often be held back by a cultural convention that demands that 100 percent of their focus is on projects at hand. While they make slow and steady progress, such focus limits what they can achieve, and how fast.

If you work in such an environment, you don’t need to quit your day job to become an entrepreneur and start your own company. You can devote 10 percent or more of your own free time to your project. “The 10% Entrepreneur” by Patrick McGinnis is a great book, offering advice on how to manage your time on your way to entrepreneurship.

Before pursuing a full-time entrepreneurial career, use your free time to validate your ideas, research the market and competitors, develop a prototype, and start building your team. This can be accomplished in your spare time with just a few hours a week.

Entrepreneurship is not about quitting your job and starting a company. It is about indulging a passion for solving problems and helping people. Once you determine a solution, then it’s time for scaling your project to achieve better results. Then you will need mentorship and guidance to test your idea, to find talented, like-minded people, and to aid the launch of your company.

That’s why I co-founded Founderly, an interactive platform that provides access to fellow founders, industry gurus, and experts. Founderly also offers resources to help you build your team, grow your seed of an idea into a successful business, and accomplish your goals at your own pace in your spare time.

I believe there is an entrepreneur in all of us – you just need to find a problem you can solve to turn you from a dreamer into a doer.

Vattan is a Growth extraordinaire and startup strategist who helps tech talent create and build successful businesses on the side. He helps people change their businesses and their lives through strategic planning and inspiring ideas.