American mythology is filled with stories of some of the greatest entrepreneurs the world has ever seen, from John D. Rockefeller to Elon Musk. What often gets lost in these tales is a very special kind of entrepreneur: the hybrid entrepreneurs such as Steve Wozniak, who founded Apple, Henry Ford, who founded Ford, and Sarah Blakely, founder of Spanx, all of whom founded their businesses while working a regular job.
Entrepreneurship is an engine of growth, jobs, and innovation, and yet, it is also an extremely risky undertaking. New businesses operating in traditional sectors have a failure rate of 20% within the first year, 30% in the second, 50% in the fifth and 70% in the 10th year of business. For innovative firms, or startups, that number is likely much higher, and in that decade-long span, could be as high or higher than 90%, with Startup Genome believing that just 1 in 12 entrepreneurs succeed.
So for people who already have jobs, becoming an entrepreneur may offer the promise of so much, but it is an extremely high risk endeavour. Indeed, success isn’t just a matter of being talented, getting funding, or having a great product. Without product-market fit, that is, a market that is hungry for your product, a startup can have a great product nobody wants.
It makes sense, then, to take a more conservative approach and, rather than quitting work to embark on an endeavour with a 70% plus risk of failure over a decade, starting a business while working. In this way, an entrepreneur can continue to earn an income while iterating their business and seeing if there are signs of life. At the point in which that business starts to earn more money than the day job, an entrepreneur can start to think about leaving their job.
Many hybrid entrepreneurs work nights and weekends, utilising the power of the internet to build their businesses from their homes, their favourite steak restaurant, or a park, while building skills that they would otherwise not have while working their day job. Being a hybrid entrepreneur also gives a person a sense of happiness that comes from injecting a passion project into their lives. Indeed, thanks to the internet, it is possible to build a business through niche services to just 1000 to even 100 true fans.
This conservative strategy means that the risk of failure doesn’t weigh heavily on you. Freed from fears of failure, an entrepreneur’s decision making will be smarter. Although it’s tempting to think that the smell of failure would inspire the best decisions, in reality, we require calm and serenity to think better. Furthermore, hybrid entrepreneurship also gives entrepreneurs a sense of freedom in their day jobs, because if things are going well, they know that they have a business to fall back on. If things don’t work out, that experience with entrepreneurship can still be leveraged to advance your corporate career, because the lessons of entrepreneurship can be used within a corporate setting.