scorecardI got laid off from Google so I started my own business. I make $100,000 less but I love it.
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I got laid off from Google so I started my own business. I make $100,000 less but I love it.

Pooja Shah   

I got laid off from Google so I started my own business. I make $100,000 less but I love it.
Careers3 min read
  • Keith Chaney was laid off from Google in January 2023 from the strategy and partnerships team.
  • Despite the initial disappointment, Chaney was inspired to take his startup side hustle full-time.

This as-told-to essay is based on a transcribed conversation with Keith Chaney from Washington DC, who launched his startup Peadbo following a layoff at Google. It has been edited for length and clarity.

I started at Google in early 2022, working with colleagues across EMEA and APAC as part of the global partnerships and strategy team. Before landing this job, I'd worked in strategy at McKinsey and Capital One and received my MBA.

Less than a year into my time at Google, I discovered I'd been laid off. I remember finding out in the car park of my daughter's daycare. The layoffs were part of a bigger trend for many tech companies like Google to "correct" rapid over-hiring post-COVID – and were something I'd been privy to since the fourth quarter.

Being laid off was a blessing in disguise

Being laid off in January 2023 was a blessing in disguise despite my initial shock and disappointment.

While at Google in 2022, I started my side business, Peadbo, which helps users build and manage teams dedicated to personal or professional growth.

Growing up, my family would do anything to help me succeed, but they didn't have experience working at big organizations. They couldn't offer me hands-on advice to help me advance my career. I recognized the value of mentorship and building an inner circle in the corporate world. So, I created a platform that helps individuals develop their professional networks and get mentorship.

When I was laid off, Peadbo was still in its inception stage, and I had no full-time employees. The only people involved were my co-founders, who had full-time jobs. Still, I realized this was the point where I had to take a leap of faith and put all of my energy and time into Peadbo.

I'm a risk-averse person, so it took getting laid off to push me toward pursuing my startup full-time.

Big tech employee to startup founder has been a jump

One of the biggest changes was the financial reality of going from a full-time job to a startup. At Google, I earned over $200,000 with robust benefits. As a startup founder, my salary is less than half that, but I love what I do and strongly believe in my mission.

It's an adjustment for finances; I make less than half of what I made in my most recent roles. I was never one who spent what I earned, so while it's been a major change, my wife and I ensure that we do whatever it takes to prioritize our two daughters.

We've been able to maintain our daughters' school work, activities, and hobbies and enjoy our lives without spending a ton of money.

We also really believe in splitting responsibilities. For example, when I need to travel for business, the trip goes on the shared calendar immediately so that my wife can try to schedule her work days around it. We always work as a unit.

My wife understands we need to invest in Peadbo to help the company grow. Although we've made some initial out-of-pocket investments into Peadbo, we have since received seed funding from Techstars.

Despite the limits on money, the most rewarding part of startup life is being able to manage my time.

I always block out time to spend with my daughters and my wife, showing up to drop-offs and pick-ups and even scheduling time for myself to protect my peace.

The autonomy of self-employment is a mixed bag

I love the autonomy of being self-employed, though I admit that I miss the certainty of knowing where my salary would come from when I was a full-time tech employee.

Running a startup takes a lot of thought, effort, and belief in yourself and your advisors to grow your company. Organizationally, Peadbo is very flat and has only five employees. I love that I got to choose my co-founders intentionally. I always try to work with people who are smarter than me and will challenge me to step up. My goal is to surround myself with people who will make me better.

The toughest part of being a founder is always thinking about the financial state of the company and the "runway." As a founder, you must have a "hunt what you eat" mentality. It's very different from working at a company that will still be fine even if employees are not performing at their peak potential.

I am always working hard to secure investors. We recently were selected as winners of the speed pitch round at SXSW. Working like this is different from working at a big organization like Google, where I am supported by hundreds of staff members and a robust, developed company. Still, this win made me realize we are pivoting in the right direction.

I miss the security of a steady income and consistent cheques each month, but I have learned a lot about myself and entrepreneurship with Peadbo.