Straddling the line between Startup and a "Real Job"

For the second time in four years, I’m straddling an uncomfortable line.

The first time around, it was the line between business and engineering. I went to college and spent my freshman year as an engineering major, but after taking my first ever economics class, I switched into business, much to the dismay of my parents, who were convinced that engineering was the path to sure job placement at the end of my four years. 

But before I switched, I straddled the line. I contemplated the pros and cons, tried to keep my options open, and consulted and read and did everything else I could think of to make sure I was making the right decision.

Four years later, in a tough job market, I have a job lined up as a Business Technology Analyst (along with a few of my peers who stuck with engineering). It turned out that straddling that line gave me an edge over my business and engineering peers. I had engineering experience and mindset, but business skills and training.

I find myself again straddling a line, the line between startup and real job. As an avid reader of Hacker News, I’ve read the post and counter-post about the pros and cons of joining a startup after college. I’ve become an eager student of the Lean Startup Methodology of Eric Ries and Steve Blank. 

I start work in August. So until then, I’m working furiously to test my hypotheses and validate my ideas so I can build something before I have my job to worry about.

This is a line that not everyone is comfortable with. My Dad doesn’t want me to be seen as “jumping around.” It’s uncomfortable thinking about being alone among my peers without a “real job.”

So I’m straddling the line. 

I’m sure many people with startup ideas are in this stage - keeping their real jobs while hacking away on weekends to try to gain the traction necessary to justify doing it full time.

But there is nothing wrong with straddling the line. Joshua Schachter straddled the line for a year and half with Delicious, and 9 months after he stopped straddling, he was acquired. 

Straddling seems frowned upon in the startup community because you’re not “committed” to the project. The truth is, we aren’t all in Y Combinator, and following Lean Startup principles, straddling can happen. Why quit your job for an idea that you haven’t validated?

So I’m validating, reading, learning, hacking, and, in the fall, working full time. I’m going to straddle my way into a startup. If you’ve had experiences with straddling, let me know.