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Why I decided to pursue my startup full-time – and how I did it

Tyler Eshraghi (MBA '15), co-founder of Sideline - UNC Kenan-Flagler Business School

Tyler Eshraghi (MBA ’15), co-founder of Sideline

Deciding to leave my job to pursue my startup, Sideline, full-time was one of the most complex and difficult decisions I have ever made in my life – and the same time, it was one of the easiest.

Wait, what?!

Think about it. You are the only you person who know what you want in life. From the moment we started working on Sideline in 2014, I knew that if the time came for us to pursue it full-time I’d jump on it.

In a nutshell, it’s because I have confidence in three things:

3.      Our product

2.      Our team

1.      Wait for it… myself and my family

I know, I know. If you don’t have a product, then what the heck are you quitting your full-time job for?

But for me, it went a little deeper than that. Thanks to Startup-UNC, when we started working on Sideline, we had to answer some pretty significant questions:

  • Is there a place in the market for what we want to do?
  • Is the timing right?
  • How do we scale this thing?

While these are pretty baseline questions, it’s easy to get so personally wrapped up in an idea that you convince yourself that it’s the next best thing, while the rest of the world (or just a few people) are staring at you thinking, “someone get him some help!”

Who knows, maybe you’re a savant who is so far ahead of everyone that you’ll one day look down from your ivory tower and laugh at those who doubted you. But with Sideline, we took a more fundamental approach to answering the questions. By conducting our own research and soliciting feedback from users, investors and professors, we determined that our idea had legs.

The product part is easy. Then there are the intangibles – like people. Specifically, the people you are trusting with your future well-being. That’s when things get real.

If you’re about to quit your job to become a full-time entrepreneur, everyone on your team better be 100 percent in and ready and willing to make sacrifices. Kindness and empathy will get you nowhere if you can’t come together as a team and decide what’s best for the company.

We started Sideline with four co-founders – but when the time came for us to decide to go full-time, we not only needed to consider our own circumstances, but who would be the best fit for each role moving forward. We came together and, after many honest and candid conversations, made the INCREDIBLY difficult decision to part ways with one of our co-founders. It was one of the hardest things I think any of us has ever had to do. But at the end of the day, as a team we felt it was necessary in order for us to get where we needed to go.

Our team has all of the parts we think we need to get the job done: a technical founder, a design and marketing founder, and a business development founder. That’s all good and important for the investors – and for our company’s chance at success – but the reason I think our team is great (and a big reason I took the leap) is because every person is not only dedicated to the company, but to each other. I can confidently say that I’d do just about anything for these guys, and I know they’d say the same for me. There’s a saying for this, and it rings true in every sense: We have each other’s backs.

Now, the kicker: Do you believe in yourself?

From all accounts, being a startup founder will stretch you to your wits end…and then some. You’ll also experience a lot of rejection (“no” is the new “yes”).

Every aspect of your company’s success and failure will ultimately fall on your shoulders. What you do every day is solely up to you. If it seems like a lot and feels like a lot, that’s probably because it is  a lot. Before you make the jump to being a full-time entrepreneur, make sure you’re ready to get beaten down and stretched then at the same time.

And it doesn’t end there! I consider all of the above to be the easy parts of the startup journey.

Here’s when things get other-worldly real:

If you’re anything like me, the decision to pursue your startup full-time is NOT a one-person decision – it’s a family decision. My wife and I have pets, bills, loans, and more. Name something people pay for, and we are paying for it.

In order to make Sideline happen, I had to give up the income from my full-time job – putting all of the financial pressure on my wife – and pick up a side job or two. If you think you’re sacrificing a lot as a founder, don’t forget to look at the other side of the coin – because there’s someone else sacrificing just as much as you are. Lucky for me, my wife is a driving force of support and motivation.

Interactive gifDeciding to take our company full-time was one of the most complex and difficult decisions we – the Sideline team and our families – will ever have to make, and I think we all get that.

But man, it was easy.

When you have a product you love, people you trust, confidence in yourself and the support of your family, following your dream is a phenomenal feeling. As an entrepreneur, every day feels like I’m climbing the famed Aggro Crag from Nickelodeon’s “GUTS” – and I love it.

By Tyler Eshraghi (MBA ’15), co-founder of Sideline Fantasy Sports