Start-up World = More Fun

In my experience, people in their 20's who work in start-ups or entrepreneurial environments are almost always happier than people working in banks or consulting firms. The young bankers or consultants justify their short-term unhappiness by their hopeful long-term payoff in money or prestige.

There are lots of reasons why I think my small-company friends are happier than big-company friends. I think the most important is that small, dynamic, innovative teams are just more fun than massive, anonymous organizations where you feel like a cog.

The fun factor is wonderfully captured by First Round Capital's awesome 2008 e-Christmas card, which you can view here on YouTube or embedded below. Seriously – what investment bank or consulting firm would do something like this? Along the same lines, check out the funny lip dub clip (also embedded below) from TechStars over the summer that all the teams contributed to. Again, where else would this happen but in a start-up environment?

8 comments on “Start-up World = More Fun
  • Yeah, I do think start-ups are more fun. But there’s a downside also. Major companies are better able to provide training and mentoring which can be very important in the early work years.

  • David: I did brief consulting with four start-ups in the Twin Cities area over the last eight years. Three of the four have done well–the fourth went south.

    In every instance, they were all desperate for training and mentorship.

    TechStars looked great in what they were
    able to provide. I don’t have a clue re the percentage of startups that do have mentors. I’d guess that in locations with a lot of start-ups like the West Coast that there are a lot more mentoring processes in place.

    I’m obviously working off a different data base.

  • Ben,

    This may sound cheesy, but that First Round Capital video is actually inspiring. I’m in my mid 20’s and was recently laid off by an investment bank after having just been hired in August. My entire group was cut after having been only formed about 7 years ago. I chalk it up to a combination of fear over the financial crisis, pressure on banks to reduce exposure to “fringe” markets and an incredible “short sightedness” which they may ultimately regret when things eventually turn around.

    Nonetheless, I am re-evaluating what I really want to do with my life. Small ventures are certainly more appealing, for some of the very reasons you mention. Big corporations simply don’t give a shit about their employees or the working environment. I spent 6 months in the Bay Area before moving back to the east coast for this job, the difference in New York culture versus Silicon Valley culture is immense, I certainly don’t have to tell you that. Here in NYC, money and the things that flow from it (cars, yachts, fashion, expensive restaurants) seem to be valued more than ideas and people.

    I’m reminded of the Gordon Gekko line from the movie Wall Street, “I create nothing, I own.” Wall Street may have created jobs, yet now we’re seeing tens of thousands of those disappear, perhaps more. Otherwise, what does one have to show for after a 50 year career on Wall Street? Only your bank account balance and your possessions?

  • I loved that video Ben and really shows the spirit and creativity of the startup environment. I think people are happier at startups because of the quality of peers, and co-workers in the sector. It’s much like backpacking, you meet so many great people traveling because you share similar passions. Generally with startups, you are in the trenches together, fighting to solve the same problem, and feeling the same ups and downs. With large corps, people’s intentions are more difficult to define.

    In terms of mentors, some of the best are your board members, advisors, and investors. They are the individuals that share their experiences, dedicate the time to teach, and provide personal interaction that you cannot get from a CEO at a large company.

  • My father is 83 and has yet another venture up his sleeve. He’s an inventor with something like 50 patents to his name, and the one he’s working on holds promise.

    I’ve been helping him on the startup stuff, which includes researching various industries and trying to get an appointment with Dad’s Congressman. So far, no word from the Congressman’s office, but we’re not above dropping in for a visit with one of his aides.

    In short, startups aren’t just for young uns.

  • Alternately, maybe happier people are more likely to do startups (due to higher confidence, optimism, or whatever). This is always a tricky problem when examining correlations between happiness and any particular activity.

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