Saturday, January 05, 2008

Oh, look! A startup!

This December, I took a deep breath and jumped. I left a great job at a great company, working on cool projects with fun people, and executed a perfect swan dive back into the tech startup blender.

Now why would a thirty-something refugee from the tech bubble with a wife, two young kids, and a mortgage give up a good salary and stable, interesting job for the stress, uncertainty, and heavier workload of a new startup?

For me, it's all about aligning outcomes with effort. In a very early stage startup, the link between "what is about to happen" and "what am I doing" is as close to direct as you can possibly get. The outcome for the company is directly tied to what you're doing and how well you're doing it: no excuses, and no wiggle room. Naturally, there are external risks (like being run over by a company so big they barely notice the bump), you see the results of your effort clearly.

Working for a BigCo, Inc. is very different. Expending effort in a large company is like pulling on a bungie cord attached to a rock. Pull moderately, and nothing happens. Pull a little more, and the the rock comes along, but it tends to wiggle around in directions you don't intend. Yank really hard, and the rock has an annoying tendency to fly up and smack you in the head.

Now replace the bungie cord with a stick attached to the weight. You pull a little, the weight moves a little. You pull a lot, the weight moves a lot. You push, and the weight moves the opposite direction. The outcome is directly tied to your effort.

To be fair, my last company wasn't quite to the "bungie cord" stage. But when a former colleague approached me about his idea for a startup, I was drawn back in again.

Of course, to (ahem) stretch the analogy, sticks do tend to break more easily, but hey: that's the risk you take.