With all due respect to my ‘startup junkie‘ friends, I thought I’d say a few words in defense of big companies.
As someone who has spent the majority of my career in small firms, I know firsthand that there is nothing more rewarding or enjoyable than creating something out of nothing and building – and scaling – a business from the ground up.
But there’s also a counterpoint. When I joined HP about 2 years ago, I had a recent history of working both for – and with – a number of struggling startups. So while I have seen the fun parts of startups many times – and those times absolutely rank among the most enjoyable of my career – I’ve also seen the hard parts. Up close and personal.
It’s been interesting to read a few select quotes lately, from others who have seen both sides.
Scott Kirsner in BetaBoston the other day:
The dirty little secret about startups is that the only people who make money are: anyone at the top one percent of companies, founders at the top quartile of companies, and any venture capitalists. Everyone else (98 percent of people at startups) would make more money working in corporate America.
You have people being CEOs of teeny little things who would be much better as marketing managers of someone else’s company,
And then, speaking of ‘Both Sides’ there’s Mark Suster’s ‘Entrepreneurshit’ post from 2012, a must-read for anyone who needs a blast of reality about startup life – particularly those of us getting a bit ‘further on’ in our careers:
It’s not for everybody and you shouldn’t feel bad if you aren’t one of those that chooses this life. You’ll probably be healthier and wealthier. Despite the fact that only the Lotto winners get reported. Many more people play.
But if you do want to go for it, don’t wait. It doesn’t get easier later in life. It gets harder. You’re probably going to fail or have limited success. The math says so. So better that you try as young as you can when failure is easier to bounce back from. When you can wear it as a badge of honor.
Don’t get me wrong – I am absolutely a startup junkie at heart – that part of me is never going away – and I have a few ‘badges of honor’ that I wear proudly. The incredible dynamism of our industry keeps me full aware that things can – and usually do – change very quickly. So who knows what the future will bring.
But right now, I’m having an absolute blast being fully focused on a job I love – and am extremely proud to be playing a role in helping to (re)vitalize one of history’s truly great, global brands. HP’s been incredibly good to me personally, and to our business – I’m deeply grateful for both. I have a fantastic team around me, supporting a terrific product, in a high-growth, noisy, chaotic marketspace. And I’m loving (almost:) every minute of it.
So my advice is – don’t dismiss the big companies out of hand. Yes there’s bureaucracy, yes there’s politics, and yes there are lots and lots (and lots) of meetings. But startups have those things too (if not today, just wait).
Who knows, if you play your card right, a big company can even be pretty ‘cool’. Yes really….
And did I mention we’re hiring?