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Do you have to sacrifice anything for a start-up?

In the beginning, a startuper has to make a serious decision – whether to continue working in the office and developing a personal project on free time, or to quit his employment and dive headfirst into a start-up.

In the first case, one will have to sacrifice his free time, relationships with relatives and friends, sleep, and established life-style. Strict conditions are an additional stimulus to work hard.

The second option does not require sacrifices and allows concentrating on the project. However, one will need savings, which will allow not caring about money. In such favorable conditions, the risk to loose motivation and abandon the idea becomes higher.

Let us try to figure out whether a sacrifice is actually needed.

Why do the start-ups die?

CB Insights examined hundreds of start-ups that did not fly to find out what made them fail. The most frequent reason diagnosed was "there is no demand for the product in the market" (42%). The second reason was money (29%), which were not enough. The third one was weak team (23%). These three reasons are followed by pressure from strong competitors, lack of managerial experience, problems with pricing, poor product, and wrong marketing. The rating is finished with lack of enthusiasm (9%) and "burnout" (8%).

Death of most start-ups is not directly related to sacrifices made by the founders. However, one can create a bad product because of continuous sleep shortage and stress caused by financial challenges. On the other hand, one may devote all time to a project but after the first wave of euphoria, when a dream turns into routine work, one may lose enthusiasm and "burnout". Numbers are not enough. Let us see some cases.

Sacrifice for a start-up is a common thing.

Blake Ross and Dave Hyatt worked in Mozilla Foundation and developed Firefox browser after work. Igor Sysoev, system administrator in Rambler, spent his free time to create Nginx Web Server from scratch. Today, Yandex,, Dropbox, Facebook, Groupon, Zappos, and other Internet giants use this technology. Dozens of start-ups were created exactly like this: early in the morning, late in the evening, at nighttime, and on weekends.

Quora users tried to find an answer whether one should leave the office or whether it is better to work on a project in free time. Let us see three interesting opinions.

Richard Thomas is sure that a challenging way and a correct way are usually the same. He thinks that challenges help to achieve best results and allow seeing if you are ready to work hard. Richard writes that many people are stuck in the very beginning because they wait for a good chance and justify their inactivity by fringe concerns. His advice is to stay in the office until you can prove that the idea is good enough.

Ashish Shah writes that he started his personal project while working in the office. Permanent employment was his safety cushion, and he was not afraid of a failure. Yet, it was this very backup, which prevented him from playing for high stakes and taking risks necessary for success. Therefore, Ashish recommends quitting the office not to have an option of going back.

In his comment. Edmond T tells that initially it was very hard for him to work two works concurrently, but he has found a solution. He understood that he makes no progress in his work not because of tiredness, but because of psychological reasons. Then he started his "daily tracking calendar". He puts his tasks into the calendar and marks the days when he works on the project. When he realizes that he has not done anything for his start-up in a day, then a look at the caravan of marks speaking of success motivates him to continue a track of victories.

Patrick Park, a co-founder of blog platform, says in his post that after the office he was too tired and could not work on the start-up. Then he shifted his work on the project to morning hours. Patrick makes incredible effort to wake up at 5 am. In the post, he describes what methods he has to use not to abandon the path of an early bird. For instance, he recommends publishing reports on work progress to discipline oneself.

A co-founder of Saaspire (software for marketing surveys), which wound up in June 2013, described lessons learned. In the end of the post, he summed up that during work on the project, he had tons of tasks, his relationships with friends and relatives were severely ruined, and he has lost a considerable amount of savings. The author of the post acknowledges that he returned to "normal" work, and he likes it (link).

A start-up without sacrifices.

In the company blog, Michael Cho, a Crew co-founder, tells a story of creation of He writes that they could not find a good photo for the Crew homepage. Photos were bad, expensive, or both. Then they hired a photographer and asked to make a series of shots in a coffee house. The have chosen one photo for their website, but they did not have any use for the other pictures. "Many people, probably, have the same problem, so let's publish the photos and make them free for everyone", they thought and created website in an hour. took the first place in the rating of HackerNews – a website where people publish links to the interesting resources and vote for them. The website became tremendously popular and brought thousands of users to the main website of the company – Crew project.

Michael was astonished by the results of this start-up, which was created in less than half a day. He writes that due to in several hours they managed to attract more people to the Crew project than in the whole previous year.

Venture investor Mike Baldwin is sure that people make different decisions when they do not need to think about money. When money does not matter, an entrepreneur can do what is right for a start-up.

In their book "Rework", founders of 37signals prove that one should not make any sacrifice for a start-up. They write, "There's a new reality. Today anyone can be in business. Tools that used to be out of reach are now easily accessible. Technology that cost thousands is now just a few bucks or even free. One person can do the job of two or three or, in some cases, an entire department. Stuff that was impossible just a few years ago is simple today.

You don't have to work miserable 60/80/100-hour weeks to make it work. 10-40 hours a week is plenty. You don't have to deplete your life savings or take on a boatload of risk. Starting a business on the side while keeping your day job can provide all the cash flow you need. You don't even need an office. Today you can work from home or collaborate with people you've never met who live thousands of miles away."

Alex Payne, a programmer, wrote a long article on how to remain healthy and sane while developing a start-up. He admitted that during his work in Twitter he made many mistakes. He did not sleep enough, he ate unhealthy food, he was constantly stressed out, absent-minded, and he damaged relations with friends and relatives. Alex was writing a runnable code, but was not satisfied with its quality.

To remain healthy and sane, the programmer developed rules, which he described in the article. There is nothing about sacrifices in those rules, but there are such things as sport, diet, meditation, and time management. Alex advises to retain sound mind and take care of one's health and wellbeing, because it allows making work better and not to ruin oneself.

Alex Payne is not the only one, who aims to find the balance between work and free time. More and more entrepreneurs try to make their work schedule healthier. For instance, Arianna Huffington, a co-founder of Huffington Post, thinks that it is a good night sleep that allows an IT entrepreneur to make rational decisions and make a successful business. "How much we sleep determines our ability to make important decisions — both professional and personal", she writes. In her opinion, a sound sleep will become a trend of 2016 in IT sphere.

American engineer, investor, and entrepreneur Marc Andreessen, a creator of Mozaic browser, writes in his blog about maintaining a balance between work and free time. He, too, is sure that one can make a start-up and live a normal life at the same time. However, it's not an easy task, he admits.


· Loss of enthusiasm and "burnout" are not the main problems for a start-uper, hence you cannot say that choosing between hard or relaxed work is the most important decision. Just do what is better for you.

· For those, who have difficulties motivating themselves to work and make brave decisions because of being used to comfort and security, it may be helpful to quit their day job and go all in.

· If you work better under strict restriction and want to make sure that your start-up is a success, stay in the office for as long as you have to.

· Do you know how to identify your priorities and plan your day correctly? Then develop a system allowing running your project successfully and retaining your normal pace of living.

· Use modern technologies to solve tasks faster and at lower cost. Do not be in a hurry to invest all of your savings in the project. Hire remote employees, and work from home or a co-working area instead of leasing an office.

The choice is yours.

Some people sacrificed a lot to start their pet projects. Yet, there are projects created without sacrifices, their founders retained their normal pace of life. There are start-ups created by kids. For instance, in the age of 17 Kirill Chekanov started platform, which helps developers to inform their investors of the latest news on their projects.

It is useful to know other stories of success or failure. However, everything will be different when you become a part of your story. Uniqueness and value of the concept, your ability to work, discipline and motivation, financial position and market situation. The fate of a project depends on dozens of factors, and each start-up will have its own winning approach. So, read the stories of others but write your own story.