I recently ran into an article published by TechChrunch’s James Altucher, who is drastically advising you to drop your day job and start something else, anything, as long as you don’t have to work for someone else (you can find the article here).
I completely agree with his proposal, corporations do kill innovation while encouraging you to be creative, they do force you to be stuck in an office for minimum eight hours a day and indeed they do not care, as you are never irreplaceable. But I also have my doubts when it comes to everyone becoming an entrepreneur. It is possible, but taking into consideration the failure rates of new businesses (find some info for 2012 here), building your own business might not be such an easy task. But there is a solution and a compromise: work in startups instead!
Building a startup requires resources, time, money, partnerships that might not work, not having a stable income for a relatively long period of time and the possibility to see all your efforts vanish when someone else already launched the product you are currently working on. The most challenging traits you need in order to build a startup are courage and above all perseverance, the capacity to get up when you fail, regroup and keep on moving.
In many ways, working in a startup somehow reduces all the pain and effort of building a new business. Let’s take a short look at the advantages you can have from working in a startup:
- The learning! There is no better way of learning, well… everything. Maybe you get a job in a startup because you are a genius coder, but in time the business might need a community manager and you might take over the role, because hiring when you’re just building a business is a luxury, if the job can be done with existing talent. But you are learning all sides and aspects of a business, from product to customer development, just because everything happens right in front of you, compared to a corporation where the research and development for example, is done but some mysterious engineers that you rarely meet. You are in touch with everybody and with everything connected to that business. There’s no better learning than that.
- Dynamic environment: oh the startups are dynamic indeed. Things happen all the time, there is no time wasted on endless meetings and discussions, solutions are created in real-time and are applicable. You are close to the product and every change in the market will directly affect you and make you move towards better solutions.
- Young and energetic: when I say young I don’t necessarily refer to the age but to the environment of the whole company. Everything is new and fresh, you are dealing with untested theories and solutions that might bring you surprises but also put you on fire when running into yet another unknown issue.
- Recognition: in a corporation your work might get lost among hundreds of other quality – or not so much quality – work and you don’t see your specific part, contribution to the overall business. Most of the times you don’t even know whom exactly you work for, as the corporation is a big giant having many shareholders who might be located anywhere in the world. Your work directly impacts a startup, you can see and quantify the results of your own actions easily and you are just another employee out of 15.000 but one member of a small team of 10 or 15, and your work is seen and appreciated to its real quality.
- Flexibility and freedom: as already mentioned, most startups require a lot of work and effort but at the same time the rules inside the company are not as strict, as long as you do your part of the work. I am referring here to dress code – ties are not a must in startups, a creative mind is, no stable and fix schedule – you can basically work from anywhere as long as you bring your contribution to the business and complete freedom when it comes to coming up with innovative ideas and applying them (of course, they have to make sense).
Startups are a lot of effort and work, which might convince you to go back to the safety, warmth and coziness of a lovely, ergonomic seat of a corporate job. But the benefits are not comparable and, as Altucher says, “The myth of corporate safety, of rising up through the ranks, of getting the gold watch, of getting applauded by your peers is over. Not because the economy is bad. But because innovation and the global economy are better than ever.”
So, why not work in startups? It is challenging and rewarding, but you can keep your individuality and grow in your own terms, you can learn business while making business, and that is the best way to learn. All the books in the world or top-tier business schools will not make you a successful businessman. Building a business or participating to building a business will.