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6 Success Tips For Life After Big Tech Paychecks

Make no mistake, life as an entrepreneur is hard, but it’s also wildly rewarding. CNBC’s Maggie Overfelt interviews entrepreneurs about their decision to leave cushy gigs to start out (and up) on their own…

In October, when Adam Herscher posted an in-depth essay about why he decided to leave his $255,000-a-year job at Microsoft to start his own software company, he was aiming to tap into Seattle’s start-up community to build his network. He didn’t expect the overwhelming number of comments from corporate workers around the country, asking for advice.

“It clearly resonated with lots of folks in corporate America who were apparently feeling something similar,” said Herscher, who incorporated HasMetrics, a firm that makes customer-service evaluation software, over the summer. “It’s a topic that they must have on their minds, this trade-off of having financial security vs. happiness [by] filling some greater sense of what they want to accomplish.”

Disillusioned with corporate life, determined to take charge of their own destiny or confident their idea will change the world—the reasons why people leave the cushy confines of a corporate job to become a start-up owner are legion. Here are six lessons from young tech executives who left the salaried life behind.

1. The numbers are not on your side.

Launching a start-up isn’t for the faint of heart. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, only half of businesses survive five years or more, and roughly one-third survive beyond 10 years.

But battling these odds doesn’t seem so unusual for the recently graduated 20-something entrepreneurs that Silicon Valley investors prefer to back. Still, it’s a big transition for workers who have risen through the ranks of an enterprise only to start all over and risk what they’ve saved of their fat paychecks on an idea that may or may not hit big.
“It was very scary leaving Google,” said Anastasia Leng, a formerGoogle product marketing employee who founded Hatch, a Manhattan-based online marketplace, in 2012. “You start to think, If I leave, will people respect me less? Will the doors that have been opened [because of my job] start to shut? How will you be perceived if your company doesn’t work out?”

2. The right kind of fear can be a good motivator.

Leng’s experience shows the more typical fear of failure, but fear can, and should, also be a motivator. Specifically, the fear that someone will beat you to your own idea if you don’t take the leap fast enough.

“We have this fear that someone else is going to [execute the idea you came up with], and there’s a tipping point where you’re so utterly convinced that it forces your hand,” said Matt Ellis, the former director of sustainability solutions for CBRE, the global real estate and investment services firm. Ellis left CBRE in 2012 to start Measurabl, a San Diego upstart that sells cloud-based software for sustainability reporting and data management—an idea he came up with at CBRE while working on ways to monetize new sustainability services.