Career decision: Start up or leviathan?
Silicon Valley is the spiritual home of tech and tech-fuelled start-ups. It is one of the few places on the planet where unicorns roam freely. It would be easy to assume that the path to professional success starts in the Valley. Or at the very least within the framework of a start-up organisation.
IPOs and burn rates add to the frisson of playing out your career at full tilt. But most start-ups fail. And they fail for many reasons, not least because what the founder believes the market needs is not what the market wants. No doubt, gathering the scars from battling with the market will add to your value proposition in respect of the lessons you have learnt, and can share with the next ‘dream team’ looking to build their genius pool.
There is a danger, though, with having a resume that is characterised by start-ups that went phut, that the reader might identify you as the common denominator. ‘Jinx’ is not a sought after skill. This is of course a very negative view to take, but it is one possible reality.
I have attended a lot of events where young adults / adolescents are paraded on stage as an example of millennial candoism. Such people are always impressive. Their certainty about the future is infectious. But buzz aside, the reality is that most start-ups lack process and so even the most rudimentary of activities becomes a timewasting chore. Plus the career prospects in a start-up are limited if you are already at, or near, the top of the command chain.
The opportunity to experience different cultures is likely limited to those with whom you are sharing the room / coffee shop table.
Large organisations, for all their faults, offer a range of benefits that start-ups cannot match. Large organisations provide you with career structure and career options. They often provide you with international travel / secondment opportunities. They often do more interesting stuff because their clients only share their intractable problems with those who have the resources to take on such challenges.
Large organisations usually have refined processes for ordering stationery, managing expenses or booking travel. Thus freeing you up to do what you enjoy. The politics that goes with large organisations is the politics that goes with life. There is no better place to develop your people skills without fear (generally) of physical assault.
It’s always a good policy to have others pay for your education. In large organisations, you will experience world class practice and world class cautionary tales. These have value.
Of course, there are many rudderless bureaucratic organisations that are in the latter stages of their existence. But there are those that recognise that in order to attract and retain the best talent, they need to start making work a desirable location.
At the very least, such organisations are the place to learn / refine your trade. You can then hit the garage and the pizzas and start your own firm. Or maybe you can use the resources of your employer to grow the next big thing in-house?