8 Reasons to Choose a Startup Over a Corporate Job

Every year as many of America’s most talented college graduates search for their niche in the post-college world, they are forced to decide between two alluring career paths. The first is accepting a high-paying job with a well-established corporation. The second is joining the ranks of a fledgling startup: a high-risk, high-reward option that offers the opportunity to see first-hand how innovators and entrepreneurs build a company from scratch.

In a recent Fast Company article, expert blogger Kerrin Sheldon gives 8 reasons why recent grads should choose a startup gig over an offer from a large corporation:

1. You’ll have more responsibility.

2. You’ll be given more opportunities.

3. You’ll be able to do a lot of different things.

4. You will learn from true innovators.

5. Your work will be recognized (as will your failures).

6. You’ll work in an awesome atmosphere.

7. You’ll learn to be frugal.

8. You’ll be instilled with the value of hard work, ownership, and self-sustainability.

 

Check out the full article here. And let us know in the comments section if you agree!

“Generation Z” and Encouraging Entrepreneurship in North Carolina

Check out this interesting article in the Raleigh News & Observer about the challenges facing current college seniors, members of the newly-christened Generation Z.  From exploring hacker culture at Duke University, to discussing how to keep graduating talent in North Carolina, to a few words from VFA Founder Andrew Yang on what opportunities these new challenges present, reporter Tori Stillwell explores entrepreneurship in the Triangle.  

 

A View From the Heights- Venture for America

Check out the latest blog post from VFA Executive Board member, Alison Lindland. Alison writes about beginning her career after graduating from Vassar in 2000 and the path she took to becoming a full-time entrepreneur. She is currently the Director of Business Development and Marketing at Kohort.

Read her blog post here!

What I Learned From Building The First Sample Sales Aggregator MyNines

In case you missed it! Venture for America Board member, Apar Kothari, talks about what she learned from building the first sample site aggregator MyNines to how she continues to gain experience in her current role as Vice President and Head of New Business Development & Strategic Partnerships at Rue La La.

Check out her post here:

Business Insider: What I Learned From Building The First Sample Sales Aggregator MyNines

The Iliad and the IPO: The case for entrepreneurship-and how Columbia College neglects it

Columbia University senior, Derek Turner, writes about his views on entrepreneurship and why it may just offer benefits that other fields don’t. Read Derek’s article here:

The Eye: The Iliad and the IPO: The case for entrepreneurship-and how Columbia College neglects it

What The Right People Can Do

New blog post from Venture for America Founder and President, Andrew Yang:

One of the central premises of Venture for America is that having the right people on board early in a company’s development is crucial to a business growing and achieving its potential. The more experienced an entrepreneur is, the more he or she tends to value early hires.

There are a few reasons why. First, in most organizations top employees are not just incrementally more productive than average workers. They’re MUCH more productive. Mark Zuckerberg was quoted as saying the top programmer is 100 times more productive than an average programmer. While that’s a bit dramatic, it’s true that having a handful of top-notch people on board early makes any company much more likely to establish itself and succeed. Devising a new and innovative product or offering and delivering on it are a lot more doable if you have a few of the right people around.

Second, in a start-up people’s roles often morph and grow over time. Ideally you’re hiring someone not to do a job, but to do or even invent a bigger job when the company expands. At my last company we hired a brilliant guy straight out of college to the Marketing Department. Over time, he realized that we needed to bulk up our online presence. He wound up teaching himself to code, revamped much of our site, and over the next couple of years became the Manager of a brand new Online Marketing department that was built around him. He’s now getting his Master’s Degree in Computer Science. Not coincidentally, the company’s revenue grew about 150% during this period. You’re not always sure what your needs are going to be as the company grows; the right people will help you figure them out and fill whatever needs that do arise.

Third, if you have strong early hires, it’s highly attractive to other talented and hard-working people. There’s an aphorism that A people hire B’s, B people hire C’s, and C people hire losers. The challenge is to hire A’s from the outset and keep the quality high for as long as you possibly can. It’s a million times easier to build a winning team if the first few players are talent magnets. On the flipside, it’s brutal trying to pull together the right people if you have someone around early on that doesn’t generate a high degree of confidence/enthusiasm/respect. Cultures get built from the beginning, and whoever joins a company takes cues from whoever’s already there.

When building a team, a common saying in start-up world is, “Slow to Hire, Fast to Fire.” Good organizations work very hard at recruiting and retaining the right people. To paraphrase Margaret Mead, don’t doubt what a small group of smart, committed people can accomplish – because that’s the way everything starts.

Businesses Take Time to Build

One of my mentors once said to me, “It takes at least 4 or 5 years to see if a company is going to work. Generally more. If you’re really fast, maybe you can get a sense of where things are going by the end of Year 3.” I’ve come to realize that he was right.

There have been many recent accounts of companies becoming immediate successes, particularly in the Internet arena. But for most businesses, ‘overnight success’ is an outlier. Generally, a company makes progress incrementally, and the overnight success was years in the making. Even for the rare product or software app that does become a rapid hit, it often took the programmers or product developers or designers considerable time to build up the necessary expertise and iterate. In many cases, they might have worked on some earlier product that no one ever heard of, learned from it, and came back to build something great. Rovio was around for six years and underwent layoffs before the ‘instant’ success of Angry Birds, for example.*

Think about what goes into a company.** First, the founders are on the drawing board developing the concept, testing ideas and preparing the offering. Sometimes this takes months in itself. They have to spend a considerable amount of time gathering resources (people, capital, know-how, sourcing, vendors, infrastructure). Then, the company has to land its first customers who kick the tires and make suggestions. Sometimes these initial customers aren’t paying, but are serving as product development partners. The feedback the founders get at each stage can take months to incorporate. A company can set off in one direction, figures out that it’s not the right way to go, and then go in an entirely new direction. Over time, the product or service improves, and the company gets better at executing and delivering. Eventually, the initial customers are happy enough that they tell their friends, and word of mouth slowly spreads.*** Vendors begin assuming you’re going to pay them. The company may even start generating enough revenue so that it can invest in sales and business development, perhaps migrating to multiple locations or new distribution channels.

All of the above typically describes a painstaking, multi-year process. Most businesses require a complex network of relationships to function (e.g., staff, investors, suppliers, vendors, partners, customers), and these relationships take time to build. In many instances, you have to be around for a few years to receive consistent support. And it takes time for staff, and founders, to become effective in their roles.

Experienced entrepreneurs have a number of advantages where pace is concerned. First, they know roughly how long it will take to get something done if they’ve done it before. Second, they can move faster because many of the necessary relationships are already in place (e.g., they can call people they’ve worked with, use the same lawyer/accountant/P.R. firm, draw on earlier investors, reach out to past customers, etc.). Third, they can proceed more decisively because of greater confidence in their judgment, both internally and externally.

Still, if you’re building a new business, you should expect it to take time. As in several years at least. If you’re not prepared to fully invest yourself in the business for 3 -5 years, you might not want to start down the road, particularly if you’re planning on having other people rely upon you. Prepare yourself for the long haul, and maybe you’ll surprise yourself to the upside if it develops faster than you think.

* There’s a story about a woman asking Picasso for a drawing. He drew a quick sketch on a napkin, and said to her, “That will be $5,000.” She exclaimed, “But that only took you one minute!” Picasso replied, “No. It has taken me my whole life to draw that sketch.” The one-minute sketch is generally years in the making.

** Most companies aren’t producing iPhone apps and have a more involved product that requires suppliers and the like.

*** Despite the advent of social media, most things gain traction and spread at a deliberate pace. Even if someone likes your service, it’s generally not going to be a priority for him or her to go around telling his/her friends about it or liking your service on Facebook. Think about your own behavior – When’s the last time you went around telling everyone you know about something you liked, even if you genuinely enjoyed it? People should do this more often. Spread the word about something you like today!

Adjusting for Risk – the Problem of the Individual Actor

Occasionally a company is born that creates immense value, generating hundreds of jobs and even transforming multiple communities. We are looking to find the people who are capable of helping found or build these companies.

One reason why entrepreneurs are admired is that they often take on a degree of risk in launching a new business. There’s reputational risk; your name is on the line to your friends and family who know what you’re doing (and they really should know). Then there’s financial risk – at a minimum you’re devoting time with uncertain reward, and presumably forgoing some form of income and/putting your own money in to get the business off the ground. If a business doesn’t achieve its goals, the founder(s) often experience significant personal consequences.

How do we increase the odds of individuals taking on the challenges of starting a new business? One of the quandaries is that many of the people who would have the most to offer as a founder or inventor have other appealing options. Let’s say that you were to line up 100 brilliant 21-year olds that might have the potential to start a company someday. You tell them, “Okay, you have two choices. You can commit to being an entrepreneur. There’s a 10% chance that you become extraordinarily successful, wealthy and create hundreds of jobs. There’s a 30% chance that you’re a modest success. And there’s a 60% chance that you toil in obscurity for years and have some good stories to tell. Alternatively, you can commit to a high-paying career at a well-regarded company, and there’s a 95% chance you’ll succeed by most conventional standards.”

What would the 100 brilliant 21-year olds do? Most of them would probably opt for the latter path, because they only have one outcome to consider – their own. They have one life to live, and both the chances of failure and the consequences may come across as unacceptably high. These individuals have often been successful at whatever they’ve put their minds to up to this point, which may make taking on risks unappealing. Plus, their parents may have invested considerable resources getting them to this point, increasing the pressure to ensure a return.

What would happen if you were to line up the same 100 21-year olds and give them the same choice, but with this change: “You will all sign a contract that if you become an extraordinarily successful entrepreneur, you will share the financial and reputational rewards with the other 99 people here in this room by hiring as many of them for your venture as you can.” Would this change anything? Now, each person’s downside would be significantly reduced as long as someone in the cohort does extremely well. Taking on the risky path could become a much more reasonable bet for each as a result of the collective understanding.

One way to get more of our most talented young people to embark on the higher-risk, higher-reward path may be to create a community and network. It might be a lot easier to take risks if you’re part of a group who will look out for each other.