Why work at a startup?

Written on Feb 21 2012

Rome Airport, having a chat
Sleep is optional, and the pay is irregular… So why work at a startup?

Arguments of “being your own boss” or having the opportunity to “make the big bucks” cloud the real reasons to work at a startup. Just because you’re at the top of a very short totem pole doesn’t mean things are easy. Orders from upper management are replaced by forces of the market, customer requests, and updates to investors. Studies have shown that many entrepreneurs have an hourly rate significantly less than what they imagined.

So, what’s the point? For me, it’s all about motivation. I get my energy from external forces (like those of customers) and working on challenging problems (with people I respect). One could argue you have more control over your destiny, but I’m not so sure that’s the case. Products and business models you’re passionate about should change with customer feedback, and morph with the market. If you get too caught up in delivering a specific product, odds are you’ll be disappointed. Rather, the idea is to be excited about building the perfect product for your customers… Something that will grow and change over time, as the idea of perfect is something that can never be achieved, merely attempted (again and again and again).

Octavian Costache had a great post in which he creates a metaphor for each position in a startup:

Is like being a boxer fighting in the sh***iest league. You fight it all yourself, you get punched in the face a lot, you lose a lot but you keep struggling. You have no money, no team, the competition is fierce and what most people tell you is that you’re not doing it right.

You maybe have a few friends that root for you, and a few others who’s car you borrow to go to the hospital when you break your jaw.

Little extreme, but a lot of his ideas are spot on.


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