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What is the Difference Between a Startup and a Side Project?

In the world of entrepreneurship, the terms “startup” and “side project” are often used interchangeably. However, there are some key differences between the two that every aspiring entrepreneur should be aware of. Let’s explore the main distinctions between a startup and a side project and help you understand which one might be right for you.


Startup: A startup is a newly established business venture that aims to meet a specific market need or solve a particular problem through an innovative product, service, or business model. Startups usually have high growth potential and are focused on scaling their operations rapidly.

Side Project: A side project, on the other hand, is a smaller-scale venture that an individual or a group of people work on in their spare time, usually alongside their main job or business. Side projects may or may not be intended to generate revenue, and they often serve as a creative outlet or a way to develop new skills.

Goals and Objectives

Startup: The primary goal of a startup is to achieve rapid growth and generate significant revenue. Startups typically aim to disrupt existing markets or create new ones, and their success is often measured by their ability to scale and attract investment.

Side Project: The objectives of a side project can vary widely, depending on the individual’s interests and motivations. Some side projects may be passion projects with no intention of generating revenue, while others might be aimed at creating a supplementary income stream or testing the waters for a potential future business.

Funding and Resources

Startup: Startups often require substantial financial resources to develop their product or service, hire a team, and scale their operations. This funding typically comes from external investors, such as venture capitalists or angel investors, who expect a return on their investment.

Side Project: In contrast, side projects are usually self-funded or bootstrapped, with the individual or team working on the project investing their own time and resources. This often means that side projects have limited budgets and are developed at a slower pace than startups.

Risk and Commitment

Startup: Launching a startup involves a significant amount of risk, as the majority of startups fail within their first few years. Founders often need to commit full-time to their venture, sacrificing job security and a steady income in pursuit of their entrepreneurial dreams.

Side Project: Side projects generally involve less risk, as they are often pursued alongside a stable job or business. This allows individuals to test ideas and learn new skills without the pressure of needing to generate immediate revenue or attract external investment.

Now that you know the difference between a startup and side project, you can determine whether the idea you have is worth pursuing full-time or not. If you have an idea for a startup that has potential for significant revenue growth, then consider allocating your time to building it out. On the other hand, if your idea is more of a hobby than a business venture, then perhaps it’s best to pursue it as a side project instead. Or if you have something in between then you should read this side project guide from Bradford Toney to find out how to turn your side project into a real profitable project.


While startups and side projects share some similarities, they are fundamentally different in terms of their goals, funding, and risk levels. If you’re considering launching a new venture, it’s essential to understand these differences and choose the path that aligns best with your personal goals, resources, and risk tolerance.

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