I’m a 43 year old with great pay & benefits at a big company. But can’t take the BS anymore and my startup’s ready to go. Any others like me in this situation?

I am coming up on my 43rd birthday and my co-founder (21 years old) and I are about to launch our first MVP. We’ve had a resounding response to our beta, driving more than 20K paid users in a week with very little effort, but lots of time iterating on the strategy before bringing users on. I am nearing the end of my patience working for this big conglomerate company with cushy pay and great benefits. I’m willing to get rid of all of that to feel like I am wanted, appreciated, and feel like I am doing something actually worthy with my brain to truly impact a company. I believe in the company having started it based on a personal pain but I have a family to support and this would be a bit of a calculated risk in terms of the startup success (like 99% of them of course). I would likely never have the chance to go back.

Any 40+ folks out there that decided to quit the big company life and decided to just go for it? Good, bad, indifferent experiences?  Would you do it again?

  • I’m not in that situation but congrats!

    Also BS is everywhere, you’re not necessarily going to leave it behind.

  • Don’t leave your job until your start up has at least 1 mil in funding (and then I would hesitate)

    Most start ups fail. That is just fact. You don’t want the bubble to burst and catch you with your pants down (so to speak)

    Start ups are also stressful, painful, insecure, high risk and full of bullshit— like such massive amounts of bullshit that your head will spin.

  • I’m a 43 year old founder (married w kids) who left a similar situation a few years back. It sounds like you have a good start and is great that is has a bit of traction.

    My advice: figure out how to do your job and hang on to your salary/benefits as long as possible while contributing in a meaningful way to this company getting profitable. As long as it isn’t a conflict of interest legally, it shouldn’t be a problem. Until it can pay you what you need to survive and there is a clear enough path to financial stability, don’t ‘bet’ on it. And even then you might want to wait until you have no option but to do it. It sucks not to go all in sooner than later, but don’t let some preliminary results, albeit positive, cloud your vision.

    So much can go wrong outside of your control and the odds are stacked against you as you know. If you can do your current role, channel your energy to contribute on the side while still having skin in the game and feeling fulfilled, go that route as long as humanly possible.

    BS is everywhere, starting a product or company doesn’t change that, it just takes new forms – just wait until you take some investor meetings, someone knocks off your product or you get sued. And by the way, if you have something that is really great – someone will steal it in some form or fashion no matter how protected it is.

    Would I do it again? Probably not. It’s so fucking hard even if you’ve been successful in the corp world – startups are a different gig. So much has to come together; timing and luck being two of the biggest keys, along with keeping a great team and then having enough money after getting off the ground to grow it, survive, then thrive. It has been great some of the time and I’ve had some success but in hindsight, i would’ve done it differently to protect myself longer or even done it at all if I’d known what I know now.

    Sounds like you’re doing the right homework, good luck.

  • You don’t know what you’re getting yourself into. But good luck.

    IF… you can generate your salary in revenues within 60 days then go for it. If you don’t think you can do that, then you’re not thinking this through.

  • how much revenue did those 20K “paying users” generate for you? Figure out the number of paying users you need to have a salary where you’re not putting your family at risk, and then figure out how much it will cost to acquire that # of users. Surely you won’t gain 20K users in perpetuity for free. Then back into it and see if it makes sense. If it does, then go out and raise yourself 18 months of runway as if it really is a good business there are many funds out there (as well as angels) that will give an idea with strong early traction a shot.

  • If you stick with the corporate B.S., you will never know what “could have been.” Take the risk and do your own business! What is the worst that could happen?

    • the worst that could happen is that you lose everything, have no money for rent and food, your kids suffer the consequence of you needing to chase a dream and you go into a massive depression because you blew up a perfectly good life.

  • I’m a 44 year old startup founder, married with kids. I made the startup leap a couple of years ago, working while saving until the business kicked off and we started to get customers.

    My wife has a fantastic job, so that’s made things much easier on us. The business has taken on some debt, which is the nature of our business. I’ve also kept relationships with my former big company execs, both because I liked them and because, well, relationships come in handy sometimes…never know how things will work out.

    There are a lot of negative responses here! Yes, it’s hard work…but to be honest, everything worth doing is hard work. If it were easy, everyone would do it. I’ve recently been interviewing people burnt out from their big corporate job, and they don’t sound eager to come to something new, they sound burnt out.

    Don’t leave because you hate the BS. Leave because you feel passionate about the business you’ve started and the impact you’re making to society/the world/your employee’s wallets…whatever is the most important factor is to you. Leave for a positive, don’t leave to escape a negative, that mindset will limit your ability to be successful.

  • I agree with the post before mine. Just turned 40 last week. Was in the first dotcom bubble, went to corporate, owned my own business in a brick & mortar went back into corporate VP level and recently won a few tech competitions in the last 36 months for a project I’ve been thinking about for years and now. I’m going for broke to build it. It’s the hardest thing I’ve ever done in my life. I’m sacrificing a lot but I saved up few years of runway to do it.

    At 40+ in corporate America, I had a 60+ hr week job. Lots of stress. Good pay. It just became too difficult to work on it on the side and lead others to feel as committed to my startup when I was part time. It dragged out longer than it needed to. The iterations based on past experiences and insight in to market analysis is an asset of 40+ founders, I’ve found.

    The number one thing keeping me going is my passion for the concept and belief it will help others. No offense to those remarkable developers of games or apps that fill a vanity need, I don’t think I would do this… No, I know I wouldn’t, if my startup wasn’t going to help law enforcement in several countries and I didn’t already have proof of concept, traction & a lot of doors just opening as I go along. My 2 cents.

  • I made the same decision at age 40 about 5 months ago. I had investors tell me they would give me a year’s worth of runway but it was not in the bank. I don’t have a family like you do but it has been brutal. I’d say get at least 6 months of runway in the bank before you quit.

    I passed up other day jobs and am keeping at it. I have the best co-founder on the planet and we are in it together so we keep pushing on.

    If I could give advice to myself 6 months ago, I’d say get those checks in the bank. Focus on nothing but that. In the bank is very very different than not in the bank but “we’re in” or any other BS.

  • I like most of the responses above.

    What has been important for me: Knowing that my wife and family support me on the adventure. Luckily they did and yours will probably too. Just make sure it is a joint decision.

    I didn’t burn any bridges behind me. I quit my job in a decent way. I made sure all ongoing projects were handed over well and I was available for questions from my old team even after I had left. This way I know that my former colleagues can help me get back into the industry, even if my startup fails. I am still on good relations with most of them.

    In general, most good guys I’ve met on the startup circus have not had difficulties to find a corporate job after their startup failed. Many of them have even gone on to get jobs that were out of their reach before they started their venture. While I haven’t put these things to the test, I have the feeling that the same would be true for me.

    I definitely over estimated my financial reserves and got over exposed. This caused a large share of my stress over the last years. If I’d do it again I’d make sure to reduce the risk in advance.

  • I was making $180k. At 38, over a year ago… I quit my job and focused on my startup. I’m now only making $6k annually for the past year. But I believe I’m gonna get to where I want to be.

    You need to be brave. Believe in yourself, otherwise you’ll never do it.

  • Leaving corporate BS and striking out on your own shouldn’t be a choice, it should be a compulsion. If you can’t live in corporate, then your path is clear – entrepreneurship. The rest is just figuring out how to survive in these new non-comfy surroundings.

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