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Craig Kerstiens

Large corporations versus startups

After a year of living in Silicon Valley it’s hard not to be consumed with the excitement around one startup after the next. The hopes of being the next eBay, Google, or Facebook lie within many of individuals in the area. Some pursue it, some write it off as a distant hope, and still others just want to be a part of them at some point.

But why would someone just want to be a part of Google 5 years ago? The first thing that comes to mind is money, and while thats nice, I don’t believe its at the root of it. There’s a vastly different atmosphere at a startup. For one you have a say, right now if I left my company, I’d get good-byes from 100 people, be missed by maybe 20, and the other 159,900 would move along as if nothing happened. But if I left a startup the entire company notices, so there is a closer sense of belonging. Still I don’t believe this is the heart of it.

In part if you have the ability to make it at a startup you’re of a different breed. If a startup excites you, you’re of a different breed. You eat, sleep, breath what you do. In a 160,000 person company I don’t believe there’s any way 100% of the employees decided it was a dream job, or as a 10 year old, or even at 16 it was what they wanted to do with their life. But the kid that was developing at 12 his own first person shooter game, or at 16 was following the markets and getting a summer job to be able to invest, those are of a different breed. For those, it’s not a job, its a portion of who they are. You don’t do home and unwind, you go home and read more blogs, dive further into your area of expertise, and work on your own projects that allow you to bring more expertise into the workplace.

Perhaps this same attitude and drive applies in other industries, though I have the greatest insight into tech/web companies. There was a statement made by Paul Graham of Y Combinator at startup school recently. He said that investors are looking for the type of individuals that don’t need them, the type that are going to make it regardless of what everyone else says and who supports them. This is succinctly different than the corporate world, where you have to have validation all across the board to be able to move forward.

As I write this and contemplate more I believe it becomes even more of a chicken and egg problem. Startups require a certain type of individual, but those individuals are the ones best suited for startups.