Many suggest to work on your prototype part-time and quit after getting some users. I found that it is hard to build a quality product on a part-time basis because of distractions.
I have tried a few part-time things over the years. It seems that for me the best way to achieve success is to quit my full-time job and work on my startup full-time. However, it is hard to quit my job which helps me pay my mortgage.
Has anyone achieved startup success while only working on their startup part-time?
It all depends on the nature of what you're doing. But since you're trying to build a software product company, there are some serious problems you're going to run into if your product is anything more than a simple shareware app:
I learned this lesson from first hand experience.
A little more than ten years ago, I tried building a product (Dry Clean Management Software) on the nights and weekends. There was a real need for the product, but development was slow and that meant corners needed to be cut. When we landed our first client... it was a bitter-sweet moment, as there was no way to support them. Shortly thereafter, another company (with obviously a full-time staff) came out with a much better product. Things went downhill from there, and the venture was abandoned.
After that, I focused on freelance development on the nights and weekends, and had tremendous success with that. Services work incredibly well, since the customer understands that he's getting you for a great rate and is willing to accept the freelance downside.
It all depends on how much time and effort is part-time.
I know very successful entrepreneurs who spent 60 hours on their part-time venture every week for 3 years on top of their existing jobs and then quit. It is important to have a strong vision if you have a part-time attempt at your startup.
The other key thing is to be flexible and deal with frustrations as they come up when you attempt multi tasking at two different jobs (breadwinning and entrepreneuring ) at the same time.
I am not speaking from personal experience here, but checkpoint software started part time working weekends and nights at one of the founders' grandmothers house (he just inherited it). Their costs consisted of mainly coke and pizza until the product was ready, which was the worlds first firewall.
If I recall, that is how steve wozniak invented the personal computer before founding apple with steve jobs.
Yes, those are rare stories, and yes it is hard. But keep in mind that it is possible.
In my case, I have been working 1.5 years part time on my technology. I realized that to "get serious" I was going to have to ramp it up and get some help. To do so, I incorporated as a C corp and have since "hired" four people strictly for equity. They are working ten to fifteen hours a week in exchange for stock.
This is great for everyone. I get employees without spending any money (except for the corporation paperwork) and they get to contribute early on and make an impact.
Finding engineers to work for equity was surprisingly easy.