Part–Time Founders by Szymon Janiak


The post was originally published in Polish on Szymon’s LinkedIn profile. Szymon kindly agreed to republish what we think is of great value to our readers.

Szymon Janiak, Co-Founder & Managing Partner at Czysta3.VC

Over the past 5 years, I had to reject hundreds of startups because founders worked elsewhere and didn’t want to quit. It was understandable when they didn’t have an investor and the startup couldn’t afford to pay salaries – you have to live on something. Of course. I was surprised that offering a monthly salary at the market level didn’t change their approach at all. Some wanted a corporate-level salary every month because they were used to that standard of living. In many cases, however, it was about something completely different – the lack of willingness to take any risks, which, putting it mildly, does not fully fit into the startup philosophy.

I’ve learned from my mistakes and I just don’t invest in such companies. I can’t teach anyone entrepreneurship. In a startup, the situation can change 180 degrees in one day. Nothing is certain, there is no stability or a clearly defined path. This is a sector for the chosen few. For those who have it in their blood and are not afraid of challenges, titanic work, but above all risk. And those who don’t need someone to hold their hand. In the early stages of building a business, there is no work-life balance. Instead, there is a focus on building and your own goal. Every founder has their own one – the more peculiar the better – but hardly any founder does it for money. There are a number of easier ways to earn them.

So why didn’t founders with one foot in a job prove themselves in battle? First of all, they are simply less involved. They put less of their own potential into the company. Because what exactly happens if it goes bankrupt? The investor (me) loses capital, but they still have a good job for good money. What motivation is there to pivot, fight, look for extraordinary solutions, if the worst-case scenario is the end of the ‘project’. It’s hard to build a company this way. Then there’s the duplication of duties. The founder doesn’t appear on an important call with a new investor, because they cannot. Later it turns out that they had to have a conversation with their boss instead… They made their choice. This is a complete confusion of priorities. And while the paths of such startups are different, the end is usually the same – bankruptcy. Everyone assured me that it wasn’t a problem, that they had a way to combine it, and the same effect – undesirable.

With startups, at the beginning it is costly and you have to have money set aside. These can be savings, passive income – anything that doesn’t involve the founder to a large extent is good. I don’t believe in a prolonged juggling between building an innovative company and a full-time job. Either someone is fully involved and gives their fullest, or this is not a sector for them. There are no shortcuts.

The comment section adds:

I think that when you’re at the pre-seed stage, you can borrow money from your aunt in America and still accept a full-time job elsewhere. But when you go to VC for money, you have to be ready to bite your teeth and eat grass for some time. You have to be aware that you might not return to your previous financial state for years. Hence my position: startups are for very few, persistent and obstinate.

Kuba Graczyk, Head of Business Sales at NEXA3D

From where I stand, i.e. strategic work with start-ups, I see a very similar dependence. Founders sit too long on a full-time job, try (this is the right word) to develop a company at the same time, and usually give up halfway or are never fully involved in its development. They only lose some of their full-time earnings and treat the whole thing more like an adventure. And it takes a whole life. There are no shortcuts, especially in the first years. Only full submersion 😉 It’s a bit like wanting to create a healthy relationship while still a little married to someone else 😀

Łukasz Gamrot, CEO of Louder&Higher

VC does not distribute files of banknotes from the pulpit to the chosen ones but runs a normal business. He trades the effects of other people’s work and ingenuity.

The rest is only circumstances – technical parameters of the risk/chance equation of the next business (startup) to buy and sell.

The relationship of the founders of a startup to their current work, family, money, lifestyle, etc. are always there – it’s life. It is thanks to them that the idea for ‘SOMETHING’ innovative, which can be bought cheaply and sold expensively, is created.

Business-wise, these are merely parameters in the business equation of VC for risk and chance of success.

VC decides which technical parameters of the equation – the features of a startup – correspond more to its style of work and which less. Which they can use for profit and which will be an obstacle. Whether or not someone has a job. Whether or not they have money set aside. That they are readheads, left-handed, etc. Everything can be an opportunity for one VC and a problem for another.

It’s just a business.

I believe that inventing that some people or their qualities are ‘objectively’ better or worse than others and therefore are or are not accepted by VC is illegitimate (to put it mildly) :-]

Krzysztof Górecki, CEO at THB Systemy Informatyczne


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