When someone asks me this question, they always follow up with a statement like:
- Working for some one else will never make you rich
- If you are such a smartass who keeps telling other people how do things, it only makes sense that you have more skin in the game
- You will never achieve the autonomy and impact you seek if you work for someone else
I have had so many people ask me this question that I have formed a standard answer by now.
Here are some of the reasons why someone would startup IMHO (sorted by decreasing order of importance).
1/ You have a really strong view of the world/ have a big problem to tackle (which is beyond making apps)
- believe in decentralisation and are wary of governments and their power -> crypto currency startups.
- think open source alternatives should exist -> gitlab vs github, mattermost vs slack.
- micro finance in the third world, better ways to provide credit -> tala.
- safe drinking water to people in developing countries -> charity:water.
I really don’t have a strong view about the world (atleast as of now). I am jealous of people who do though.
2/ You are unhappy about the status quo. Had a bad experience with something and want to disrupt an industry
- bad commuting experience -> uber.
- bad experience with banks and want to reimagine how banks should operate in the digital age -> neobanks.
- want to put software on the cloud -> salesforce.
- AI to automate services (ex. legal) -> atrium.
- order food at mid night -> swiggy.
I am okay with the status quo (for now). What is the status quo for me?
- ability to order a ride/food in 10 secs thanks to uber/swiggy.
- booking an appointment with a doctor online thanks to practo.
- ordering an electrician home in the last min thanks to .
Can these experiences get better? Sure. Is the status quo bad enough for me to spend the next 10 years of my life fixing it? Probably Not.
3/ You want more autonomy and control.
I have been lucky enough to become a manager one year out of college. I started taking calls on what to build, how to build, influence the direction of products, move metrics when most of my peers were just getting started on the corporate ladder.
Thanks to mostly working for startups, I have always had a certain level of autonomy and control.
My linkedin has enough examples of products I have shipped in the past and also recos from my past managers.
For a couple of months at Coupondunia, I was even given % of revenue earned from Cashboss (the first product I built from scratch).
In my current role, I look after a product which has millions of transactions daily, is used in multiple international markets, and is literally changing lives for people. With each passing day my team is growing and we are getting to tackle bigger challenges. A small bug here causes loss of transactions, the number of which is more than DAU of some of the startups I worked at previously.
I am grateful for where I am.
Are there people with bigger impact on the world? Are there people who have more autonomy than me? Fuck yeah.
There are 18 year old kids who have raised millions in the valley. They will be running Billion dollar startups by the time they are 25.
Do I feel bad for myself because I could not achieve the same? No.
Because of reasons mentioned in 1/ and 2/ and others which I will share below. Just wanted to point out that you can have autonomy and control without starting up yourself too.
4/ You want to accelerate your learning/ growth. You want to have a bigger impact.
This is a fair reason. Building your own high growth startup is one sure way of hacking the corporate ladder ladder. And also learn more in a shorter time frame. I would argue though that you can have a similar learning/impact while working at a fast growing startup as a TL or PM.
5/ You are working at 10% capacity
You think that you are not making enough impact. Your style of work is: do the minimal work possible to do the job. You think doing a startup would be the thing which will help you get out of your comfort zone.
Maybe this is true for some people, but for me whenever I face this I just change my role (take more responsibilities) or change my job.
6/ You want to make money
You know that there is enough dry powder in the valley (even India). Pizza startups are suddenly worth Billions. People who are probably not smarter than you are getting richer by the day. Everyone is telling you that working for some one will never make you rich.
Making a shit ton of money is not something I care about (again for now).
Do I sometimes think about how much money people who are far younger than me making in the valley? Sure. I am only human.
Do I care enough to get my shovel in the gold rush? No.
Little more background on me: When I was passed out of college I was super ashamed of my low salary. My dad was pissed that because of my low CGPA I could not even sit for the interview process for Microsoft. This inspite of me passing out from a tier 1 college (BITS). He also thought I was dumb enough to join a startup fresh out of college. Six years down the line I earn more than 10X of my starting salary. I get to travel across South East Asia. Stay in nice hotels. Buy/eat whatever I want. I also have more than 5 years worth of Fuck You money (which is increasing with every passing month).
Did I get lucky? Sure. If this was the 2000s, I would probably be toiling at an Infosys or TCS, wondering when my Project Manager would send me to the US.
So yeah, What I have is more than enough for me.
I also have limited needs. Give me my Kindle, a spot in the Veranda, some food, and you will not hear from me for days. I also realised much early in my life that the breakfast buffet at a fancy hotel tastes good only the first couple of times. After that it tastes like any other meal.
But Manas, You still argue for a bigger raise during appraisals right? You still want new companies to give you more than a standard hike during salary negotiations?
Yes, I do. But only because I think I am good. I have worked very hard to reach where I am right now. And if I learn that people are getting paid much more to deliver the same value to an Org, I will seek parity in terms of pay and designation. Again, I am just human and not a Saint.
7/ You want to get into Harvard. A startup will look good in your resume
I don’t want to get into a B School (for now). I can’t imagine running around completing assignments, arguing for more marks/better grades in my papers/courses. Did all of that once in my life (during my undergrad days). Have no interest in repeating.
Also everyone now is trying to hack their B School applications by putting in their co-founder credentials. Not sure how long this trick will work.
8/ You are in Tech /Design /Marketing and want to get into Management
I have seen people do start ups and then jumping into a PM role a few years later (thanks to acquisition by a bigger company). Not relevant for me.
9/ You want to get into VC
To be honest the VC world fascinates me. I worship people like Bill Gurley and have always followed this industry.
There are a few ways to enter VC
- Good exit as a founder
- Great B School followed by consulting gig
- Journalism / knowing enough people in the industry to get proprietary deal flow
- Years of operating experience at fast growing startups
Starting up looks like the easiest and quickest option out of all four.
Still think you need a bigger motivation/purpose to startup than an Associate/Principal role at some VC firm.
10/ You have an extreme personality. You are the kind of person who can’t just work for others. You will be a shitty employee if you work at another company.
aka The Steve Jobs path.
Don’t think I have such a personality.
11/ You have a safety net thanks to earning a lot of money early in your career or have family money.
You want to take the risk and see what happens.
Again, both are not true for me. I am from a middle class background. I don’t think I have earned enough that I can spend the next 10 years working on something “just to see if something happens”.
12/ You are willing to commit the next 5-10 years of your life on your startup. You need to have one or more reasons mentioned above apart from this time commitment bit.
Giving 10 years of my life to something unless it is for reason 1/ or 2/ mentioned above sounds stupid to me.
TBH I think the only real reason you should do a startup is if it is reason 1/ or 2/.
But then again it is just my opinion and you can tell me to shove it up my ass. Also I am not a startup founder myself, so why should you listen to me for startup advice.
This is a post written from my POV. On reasons I have not started up. Your circumstances might be different.
13/ You should be optimistic to the point of delusion about your startup
Deep down I am a cynic.
14/ You are trying to find a reason for doing a startup and not 13 to not.
Self explanatory. ;)
This post is something I wrote after making a statement on Twitter about why people should not startup just to chase prestige.
Thanks for reading it. Next time someone asks me this question, I will just send them this post.
P.S A friend mentioned that you can always do side projects and for that you don’t need a 10 year commitment. That is true, but this post is more around starting a VC scale fast growing business and not a side project. I encourage people to do side projects to learn new things. Side projects are fun. :)