I have now lived in the startup sphere for several years, and I have seen startups succeed beyond anyone’s expectations and it just now happens that I see a startup fall short of its goals and essentially die. I’m not going to name anything or anyone specific, mainly because I do not want to break an NDA by accident, but the place I’m currently working at is letting me go soon and faces an uncertain fate after that to say the least.
This brings me to today’s topic, not only do I write a post because I haven’t written anything on here for quite a while (although that is also a reason), but because I want to talk about my feelings about the startup culture and its impact on the people within it.
The startup culture is a child of the hacker scene and to some extent the VC scene. In the beginning, computers were only the hobbies of nerds, and no one really understood them (both computers and nerds), and generally avoided them where possible. As technology evolved, the nerds suddenly gained power because they controlled these exceptionally mighty tools which would change most of our world forever.
People from the financial industry did not really care about computers as such, so they just threw money at the nerds, leaving the nerds to build companies. On one side, I really, really like this, because I am not someone who thrives in the 9-5 cubicle world at all, but this also means more stress for everyone involved, because nerds do not know how to run companies. Startups get founded all the time, and I would reckon four out of five go on to die within the first two years. It is damn near impossible to gauge potential markets and financial viability beforehand. The great thing about startups is, you can just try and see what sticks. A small handful will explode within these first two years, in a good sense, and either end up as a giant company like Facebook, bridging the gap between conventional companies and startups, or being bought by a giant company like Facebook, for better or worse.
That’s just how it goes in startup land, and I can handle that, but that also means handling a lot less certainty about the future. If you are working at a startup, you can almost never reliably say whether you will still be working there in five years, or even if the startup is going to exist at all then. Some people just cannot handle that, they want to be able to settle down and know for sure they will be able to pay off their house without any problem. I personally like the freedom the startup culture brings with it. Not only does it allow me to dip into many different areas and learn a lot about things I did not even know were a thing before, but also does it give me the possibility to one day decide to ditch my current life and just go to Africa with a laptop, and work while watching the elephants. Not that I am planning this right now, but I like having the option very much.