Jan 10, 2010
The question is obviously one that I never need to discuss with colleagues, but people outside the software industry and those who found their success in large corporations often find it strange; why would anyone choose to stake their career on a string of tiny companies, each with limited funding and an uncertain future? Well, I love the startup life and I wouldn’t have it any other way. Here’s why:
Ah, the startup atmosphere! The camaraderie! The sense of purpose that surrounds a small group of people dedicated to a common goal! The feeling that you hold your fate in your own own hands! You matter and you can make the company a success by doing the best job you can do. There is nothing quite like it.
If you work for a startup, you have equity. Whether it is a fat stack of founders’ stock or a modest package of incentive stock options, it means that if and when the company is successful, you will get your piece of the pie.
If you like some variety at work, you’re in the right place. With a small team, many of the business functions are performed by any team member who has some free bandwidth. That’s how as a developer, I got to do sales support, on-site customer support, collateral writing and more trade shows than I care to remember. It’s fun.
There are not too many of us, we’re running on a tight schedule with limited funding and a clear goal. There is simply no time for nonsense. We don’t sit through 3-hour meetings, we don’t do TPS reports and we don’t play office politics. The only reasonable thing to do is to focus on meaningful work.
Startups are teeming with original thinkers and the flow of unique ideas does not stop when it comes to employee perks. While you should not expect to find on-site daycare or a company gym, other, more quirky perks are common. Think free snacks and soft drinks, gaming consoles in the break room, paintball outings and beer in the fridge for Friday afternoon happy-hour in the conference room (try to squeeze that one past HR in a Fortune-500 company), and there is excellent coffee, always.
As strange as it may sound, there are long-term prospects to be found in a startup. Regardless of whether your startup ends in an acquisition or fire-sale, one thing is guaranteed to outlive the company — the people you work with. The “startup people” will move on, most likely to another startup and if you play it right you will move right on up with them. Some of my friends have been moving around together as a group since 2003 and they are now on their third startup, having successfully sold the first two.
Also, not all successful startups get gobbled up by industry giants. While IPOs are not what they used to be, some continue to grow and evolve into privately-owned midsized companies that maintain many of the advantages of startup life for their employees.
What do you like best about the startup life? Leave a comment.