Why Work for a Startup? Are you bribed to work or is your work a bribe? [Featured]

[Guest article by Alok, founder of Games2Win. Alok shares wonderful insights related to a common question-i.e. why work for a startup? ]

Are you bribed to work or is your work a bribe?

For the past 12 years of being involved with Start Ups, I’ve always been quizzed about compensation questions, dilemmas, challenges and upsets that prevail in entrepreneurial set ups.  This is my attempt to put my words where my money is.

Are you Bribed to work?

Sure you are, if you in a typical ‘corporate’ Fortune 500 Job!


  • It has a predictable growth curve already set for you. From executive to manager to director to president (of god knows what) over a finite set of years. I vividly remember a meeting at a Fortune 500 Corp’s office a few years ago when seven gentlemen gave their cards and all of them read ‘President’. When I looked at them quizzically, one of them sheepishly smiled and said ‘Alok, even the office boy here is a President’. So, you can be the Junior Prime Minister of a Company, but your moronic boss – ‘the’ Prime Minister will still treat you like an office boy to run the errands.
  • It has more politicians than all the members combined of every political party in India. You know what happens when so many politicians assemble together? You have to be mentally numb to survive in that set up.
  • Colossal time dedicated to planning, budgeting, forecasting and ‘strategizing’. You have to be a Monk to survive the insane meetings that are meaningless and never-ending.
  • You have to do what the system needs you to. It’s built that way. Like an axle that has to drive the wheel. You can never become the wheel and you definitely can’t chuck the job of being an axle. The driver(s) will not allow it.

To endure all this, you need a hefty bribe (pay package) to stay in the job. And that is the sweet numbing pill you swallow each month. Each year, the bribe gets sweeter as does the migraine.

Now, is your work your bribe?

This is the case in a typical start up that survives on pure innovation, energy and entrepreneurial zeal!

You enjoy:

  • A massive learning curve from day one. From tech to ops to finance, you learn it all. If you stick around long in a start up, you will be stunned at how many multi disciplinary job functions you will have mastered. I remember one particular day when I opened my contests2win.com office (in a ramshackle room near metro cinema), swept the floor, made some coffee, uploaded my content via FTP, drove to the courier to deliver some prizes and then went and met the CEO of ICICI Ventures – all in the breadth of a few hours. In contests2win.com, we hired a HR professional who enthusiastically put together the processes, etc. in order. I still remember the day when he messaged me via IM at 11 am saying ‘Alok, I don’t have any work, what do I do’? One thing led to another, he got enamored by ‘Sales’ and the next thing we knew, he was in Shanghai and Beijing, selling Mobile2win offerings to clients there!! Try explaining this ‘career plan’ to a silver fox in an MNC organization.
  • There is massive OWNERSHIP from day one. So you understand the difference between ‘following’ and ‘leading’.  You typically make decisions, not implement them! You can steer the ship towards the ocean or onto the icebergs.
  • Mentally you are trained like a ninja. Ready to take on any surprise and turn it into a victory. Fighting till the end. That training at a very formative stage is very important in long-term career success. I meet lots of ‘Corporate Suits’ who have no edge of being able to take hits and downsides.

Working up in a start up is very enriching and heady experience and some folks are happy to accept this job as ’bribe’ rather than fat cash compensation.

Also, from a financial perspective, consider this:

Description Fortune 500 Job In lacs Start Up Job
In lacs
Middle Manager Salary Year 1 15 10
Year 2 20 12
Year 3 24 15
Year 4 28 18
Year 5 32 21
Total moneys earned 119 lacs 76 lacs
Tax (1/3rd) 40 lacs 25 lacs
Net take Home 79 50 lacs
Shares in Company 0 % 2%
Exit of Company in 5 years at a minimum sale value of 10mn US$ 50 crores
Sale value of Shares 0 100 lacs
Tax (long term capital gain) 0 0
NET EARNINGS 79 lacs 150 lacs

Interestingly, even financially you could become richer working for a start up than a straitjacketed tight MNC job. Sure, one can argue that the exit may never happen or the equity grant may not be 2%, blah blue blee. Even so, the experience of 5 years in a start up will be so enriching, it will be worth the salary sacrificed and will be easily recoupable in the years going forward.

My 2 paise – Work in a start up early in your life, at least for a decade gaining first hand experience, and then start up your own venture. And sure, as sweet revenge, you can hire the suited goons from the local MNC anytime you want.

Recommended Read: All of Alok’s Insights.

[Reproduced from Author’s blog. Follow Alok on Pluggd.in. ]

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