Long-time lurker here. I've been reading a lot of money/business related posts, and wanted to contribute.
I'm a lifer from Silicon Valley. Both parents from reputable tech companies. I've attended competitive high schools, then attended a well-ranked college, and am now enrolling in a part-time masters program for Finance.
I know the startup scene. I was once a part of it (started my own, then worked for a friend's, then worked for a venture-backed start-up, now I'm employed with an older tech company).
Don't believe the startup hype.
It annoys me when I read the tech blogs reporting of yet ANOTHER startup that magically scored a venture round of x amount million dollars. It annoys me when a bunch of my friends talk about leaving their jobs to start their own ventures and then selling their nonexistent company to Google for a bajillion dollars and retire on an island.
But mostly, I'm annoyed with how the media portrays startup life and startup culture. You won't believe how ridiculously difficult it is.
Programming ability. If you don't have it, don't think about it. If you can't learn it, don't think about it. I've seen people talk about hiring great programmers or outsourcing programmers but the reality is this: those guys don't want to work for you. Why would they? Are you more attractive than a 120k offer, free food, free laundry, etc. from Google? This kind of programming ability doesn't come from Codeacademy lessons or Udemy. It comes from years and years of discipline and cultivated creativity. You might as well be learning the piano or violin.
Money. You need a ridiculous amount of money to get started. The days of cowboy angel investors and venture capitalists funding your business pitch are long gone. They want numbers. They want revenue. They want proof-of-concepts. I would say don't even think about dropping out unless you can sustain YOURSELF and your BUSINESS for at least a full year. Don't count on outside investors saving you. They won't. And if you leave your job, you better hope you have enough connections to be able to find another one.
REVENUE. Alright. Let's say you've miraculously made your product. You've build the front-end, the backend, and you've even fronted a couple thousand dollars for a few months of server capacity and time. You're a miracle worker and you're good to go. So now what? Where are you gonna get your users? Are you gonna blast your product on Facebook Ads? Google Ads? Put it up on the App Store and hope people start downloading it? Start using the Freemium model? Let me ask a further question: When's the last time you saw an ad on Facebook for something and you didn't just download it, you PAID for it too? And now you're hoping a couple hundred thousand people will do what you wouldn't? Right.
STRESS. Here's where the media partially gets it right. Imagine this. You've dropped out of your cushy job. You've lost your dental and health insurance. You got no cushion. Best of all, you just dropped around 5k to pay for server capacity (either outsource or Amazon). The users are trickling in, but by your math, you won't make enough money to even cover the expenses. You got about 3-5 months of runway time. How are you going to increase your revenue? What's your attack strategy? Imagine waking up everyday knowing that time is ticking out. Imagine that feeling in your gut knowing that you are living on borrowed time, and if this thing goes belly-up, there goes your personal finances and credit score. Not to mention the public embarrassment (see: Elizabeth Holmes, Theranos).
DON'T TRUST THE MEDIA. Did you know Zuckerberg received a 50k loan from his parents during his first summer of Facebook to sustain server capacity? Did you know Evan Spiegel's (Snapchat) dad is a rich Hollywood lawyer? Did you know Kevin Systrom (Instagram) was approached by Zuckerberg to become a programmer when Systrom was still at Stanford? Did you know the current CEO of Palantir used to debate with Peter Thiel while both were in law school (and guess who suggested who should become the CEO of Palantir when the time came)? Look up about the PayPal Mafia.
(edited) BIG COMPANY COMPETITION. Big companies hate you. You think they're going to buy you out for a billion dollars and help you get your private yachts? Don't bank on it. They'd rather kill you first. They'll do anything in their power to stop you from acquiring market share (assuming you've survived that long). They'll sue you and drown you in legal work (which can take years). They'll release fake announcements for new product features that coincidentally seem exactly like yours. They'll straight up buy your nearest competitor instead of your nascent startup, so good luck trying to beat your competitors when they're financially backed by a behemoth.
If you look behind the startup lore, these seemingly "rags-to-riches" stories of young upstarts defying an olden industry are nothing more than lies. These people mostly had privileged upbringings and were already incredibly talented to begin with. They developed the right skills, at the right time, and were lucky to meet the right people (ex. do any of your friends remind you of Elon Musk?).
THE DECKS WERE STACKED IN THEIR FAVOR.
And even when they had all of this going for them, success was still elusive and difficult to attain. It was not a given. So, yes, there is a component of hard work, but only when they were already through the gates.
Steve Jobs could not have been Steve Jobs had he not he found Wozniak, who just happened to be tinkering with a very peculiar, certain invention. Where's your Wozniak?
The CEO of Zenefits was just kicked out of his role due to an insurance scandal. You could be the head of one of the fastest growing startups in the Valley and you can still be knocked off the throne. Does this sound like the road to billions to you?
It sounds counterintuitive to the media, but your best bet to building a large amount of wealth is to STAY WITH YOUR COMPANY. Live off of their resources like a leech. Some companies provide training programs and will offer to sponsor some graduate programs. Do that. Make your resume as gold as possible to ensure future employment.
Rise up the ranks. Play the corporate game. Save up your money. And only when you have comfortably saved enough money, read up about conservative investing techniques and allow compound interest to take over.
People confuse wanting to start your own company to wanting to be rich. If you want to be rich, there are more rational, probability-favoring ways to get there than going through the hells of trying to raise capital and build your own company. It's an uphill battle, and you haven't even gotten to the actual war yet (when big companies sue each other, ex. Apple's swiping/zooming technology).
TLDR; Don't believe startup hype. Be rational.