If you hang around networking events long enough and engage enough entrepreneurs, you’ll eventually be approached by one willing to offer a piece of their “big idea” in exchange for your assistance.
I’ve been put in this situation more than once and how I approach these situations has evolved over the years. In 2007, I was approached by a couple of co-workers who wanted me to come aboard and help them grow their startup. In exchange for this full-time position (with typical entrepreneurial ventures, a 40-hour work week would seem like a vacation) I would be paid $30,000 + a 3% stake in the company.
I accepted the offer, but I was also not busy working on a startup of my own at the time, so dedicating 100+% of my mind and becoming passionate about a new project wasn’t out of the question.
That first company grew exponentially, and within two years, we sold it to a much larger company. Since then, I have started two more startups. One, Some Script, is an agile mobile and web design, development, and marketing company.
Being a startup, Some Script has the opportunity to share our entrepreneurial expertise and work with other startups – helping them design, develop, deploy, and market their products and services (in exchange for money).
Every now and then, an entrepreneur (or two) approaches us with an idea – their idea – under the presumption of wanting Some Script to design, develop, deploy, and market their product or service (in exchange for money); however, after further discussions, they in fact don’t want to exchange money for our goods and services, rather they want to offer us part of their big idea.
If you’re an entrepreneur and in the process of building your business/dream, never accept a piece of someone else’s in exchange for your hard work, expertise, or ideas. It’s not fair to you, or them.
Multi-tasking is bullshit, so trying to split your time between growing two things (one yours, and one someone else’s) is extremely ineffective. Similarly, dedicating yourself to the success of more than one startup is taxing, especially if one of them isn’t aligned with your own background, expertise, and passions.
It has nothing to do with the uncertainty of a startup’s success (FYI: the chances of startup success are extremely slim). In fact, some of the ideas I hear are exceptional and have the potential to be huge, but their success is ultimately up to the execution of the majority shareholder, and 3% (or less) does not make a majority shareholder.
- Startups make very little money (if any), and your time is extremely valuable – don’t donate it to help someone else’s idea succeed.
- Investing yourself in someone else’s idea severely hampers the slim chance of your own startup’s success – be selfish.
- A small percentage of ownership doesn’t give you the power to drive the direction of a startup.
I have my own startups, and I have my own dreams. Why would I (or you) want to share someone else’s dream if I can be 100% in control of my own?