An engineering graduate, aged about 22, is already unfit to become a startup employee, said an entrepreneur to me last month. He is too old, too tired and has too much baggage.
“Really! What are you saying?”
His logic goes something like this: Say you finished college and most of your peers are at large services companies like Accenture. By this time, you’ve invested quite a bit of time and energy on the degree.
You’ve gone through some of the toughest entrance exams and cleared 48 papers. Burned the midnight oil, racked your brains and what not. Its time for you to reap the benefits now.
A startup nobody has heard of, comes along and makes you an offer: Some stock options, an entry level salary which is slightly lower than the industry average and a lottery which has a one in 10 chance of winning is on the table. It could go bust, or make it really big. You want in?
The graduate reasons: Infosas is stable. They seem to be wanting me. No chances of going bust anytime soon. I have a girlfriend and want to buy a car next year. The loans are easier to come if I work for a large company. The girlfriend works for the same company. I have friends and money here. There is a fair chance that I’ll go to the US or the UK in a couple of years. That exposure will set me up on a high growth career path. I’ll see the world. If I don’t get a green card, I’ll come back to India, rich and start my own company, or become a top guy at the same company. Maybe the company will get me an MBA in between.
I really don’t care about the stock options that’s too much long term for me. I’ve slogged the last 4 years and its time to reap benefits. Why should I join a startup which will make me work on Ruby On the Rails when everyone seems to be wanting people who work on Java? I’ll be a misfit for the market. Its a different thing that Ruby is a newer language. No one wants it. Java, I’ve already learned in college. Its time to reap benefits.
The startup’s office is most likely a dump and you will have to pull all-nighters when everyone is out partying.
Infosas it is then. You know the rest: EMIs, Home Loans and the regular grind.
That’s for the herd.
The startup guy is different. He thinks different and acts different. Some of them even drop out. The risk is: your friends will be making more money than you do. They will party when you don’t. They will make an easy living while you slog away. Girlfriend? What’s that? Car, yeah. Someday maybe. Who knows baby.
The reward is: For all you know, the startup will have an awesome and fun culture. You’d be working when you like (which is most of the time) and not clocking hourly rates for large companies. You’d own something.
The bonus? If the company makes it big, when your friends career graph plateaus, your’s will be zooming straight up. When they struggle with EMIs, credit cards, family, small car, budgets and a house, you’d have enough money to live it up. The party would have just started and it could go on for a long time.
If it doesn’t, you’d have learned much much more than what you’d have otherwise learned in a big corporate. Your market value (not the one determined by job portals) is much higher than your peers. You’d have learned new technologies, met better people, made thicker friends and lived a story worth telling.
It’s not just make it big or learning. There’s also the thing about creating something you will not have an opportunity to in a corporate setup – a whole product, a customer interaction process, maybe even a sales process, and who knows – an actual brand that you can call “yours.”
How do you start putting a number to that?
The call is yours.
Disclaimer: These ideas are mostly the entrepreneur’s. My startup job came later in my career but that was a very big risk for me to take at that time. In hindsight, I should have done it earlier.
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