We all know that entrepreneurship is hard. There are massive demands on one’s time developing a product and marketing it. Hiring someone else helps little, as people management is thrown into the mix. With this, it’s not uncommon for founders to quit their jobs to focus full-time on their startups, taking care of the business themselves and bootstrapping growth.
However, more than a few entrepreneurs have managed to start their own companies even as they’re holding down full-time jobs, balancing their work and making time to develop their products. One such founder is Tamara Sanderson, who has created the app TimeAway that lets parents remotely monitor and set time limits on their kids’ phones and tablets. More information can be found in TimeAway’s introduction video below:
Here, in an exclusive interview with e27, Sanderson shares how she has managed this feat of entrepreneurship while she was working for Google full-time.
How did you come by the idea for TimeAway? Did you have a personal need that TimeAway solves? I came across the idea by noticing that even outside, most people were on their phones or tablets, with everyone physically together but mentally separated. Even as I believed that the internet gives us a great way to organise the world’s information and make it universally accessible, at the same time I think it’s just as important to have a balance between our offline and online world.
I’m actually not a parent, so it doesn’t serve any direct needs. That said, it’s been a great experience and has fulfilled several personal needs. I’m on the business side at Google working on strategy and analytics (now based in Singapore), but have always been jealous (in a good way) of the amazing engineers and creators.
TimeAway let me scratch that itch by designing my app step-by-step and working very closely with my developer on creating and launching a product. It’s been a ton of fun and feels good to bring a product to the world that can help parents with their families.
How supportive has Google been in your journey to create TimeAway? How did you juggle with having a full-time job and app creation at the same time? Google has let me develop TimeAway as a side-project, and my manager has been supportive. I usually work on TimeAway late at night (10 PM to midnight) and on the weekends.
Has developing TimeAway been an inspiration to you to go further in entrepreneurship? Developing TimeAway has led me to my second app idea, BeAway. It’s an app that helps adults manage and set limits on their device time (i.e., needing to stop checking work email after a certain time, or limiting Facebook usage to 15 minutes per day). If the adult breaks the limit, they can either: A) get off their phone or B) pay a nominal fee to their accountability partner or charity. I came up with this idea while testing TimeAway on my own phone and realizing how much time I spend on my device each day (two hours!)
Finally, do you have any tips for entrepreneurs starting up while they are still holding down full-time jobs? Sure, I’ve got a few:
Pick something you are genuinely interested in. I was already blogging about the importance to balance online with offline before I developed TimeAway. It was a personal interest that then evolved into an app.
Stick with it. It’s easy to give up because you’re “too busy.” I’ve seen this happen to a lot of people with good ideas.
Don’t be afraid to outsource some of the work. I’ve used an awesome developer, which has helped me get TimeAway off the ground much quicker than if I had learned to code myself. Instead, I’ve focussed my time on designing and testing the app.
Eliminate things in your life to focus on creating. I don’t watch TV and my work commute is seven minutes each way. This gives me time to work full-time, develop an app and still have a full social life.
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Google provides search and advertising services, which together aim to organize and monetize the world's information. In addition to its dominant search engine, it offers a plethora of online tools.