This is the first time I use ChatGPT as a starting prompt to write a blog post, and I am still amazed at how it will help creators to refine ideas or add new thoughts into a post. While on the other hand, I feels it tends to quickly move into generalizations and bland content and you need to re-write most of the text if you want to make it your own.
As a former startup founder, corporate executive and current venture capitalist, I’ve had the opportunity to experience working in both a corporate environment and a startup and I actually enjoyed both gigs greatly. Recently, I came across a Twitter thread discussing the differences between working in a startups, venture capital or investment banking, which I found very insightful.
Each organization is a different animal or as the thread mentions, a different sport, and you need to understand the main rules of the game to succeed in each environment. You will most likely evolve and perfect different skills during your career, which will suit one role better than the others and what is most important, you might enjoy playing some sports more than others.
Startups feed on the thrill of sense of urgency, with the only focus on growth and monthly revenues. Everything needs to be done at once and the tsunami of tasks or potential new avenues to devote your efforts are endless. It is about the world against the startup, and this creates a strong sense of belonging, it forges tribes. Hence you will need to love that continuous struggle, with high freedom to execute, little coordination and huge uncertainties. With smaller teams and stronger focus, your individual contributions will matter more, for the good and the bad.
In a corporate environment, there is often a hierarchical structure and employees are expected to follow the rules and protocols set by the company. Hence, decision-making can be slower and more bureaucratic. You will need to understand that internal politics are not a burden but an additional lever you can use to get your projects approved and executed. The path to grow and move up in the corporate ladder starts with technical excellence and then moves into understanding who are the bosses and mentors that will lift you up along their own way.
You might lack flexibility and become a bit frustrated by how little control over the direction of the company you can get, but the beauty of launching and delivering a product as global scale is incredible and exhilarating. And you should never forget that the team here is bigger than the individual and that you are somewhat dispensable. Even if you believe that you are a handsome rock star, it is probably the light of the corporate reflecting on you more than anything else.
On the other hand, working in a venture capital firm means being involved in the uncertain and dynamic early stages of a company’s growth. Venture capitalists should try to provide more than just funding and focus on supporting startups in a holistic way. You will be heavily involved in the strategic decision-making process and the job is more lonely, with a lot of freedom to take decisions with little data points.
Your focus will be on identifying and supporting the most promising startups with the potential for high returns but you will have less control on the outcomes than in other roles, since you rather become a trusted advisor with no execution capacity. You need to be prepared to work long hours with no short term reward, but get satisfaction on winning the deals and enjoying the success of the startup founders from the bench, while you digest the failures in the meanwhile.
Besides the skills needed and the different natures of each job, one of the major differences between these three types of work environments is rather psychological, tied to the level of risk involved. Corporate jobs tend to be more stable and predictable, with a lower risk of failure. Venture capital firms have the potential for high returns but also a higher risk of failure. Startups, on the other hand, have the highest risk of failure, with the potential for the greatest individual rewards, but it takes a loooooot of time.
Additionally, the culture and work environment can vary greatly between these three types of organizations and you will need to learn which of those create the conditions for you to thrive, which will be different for each of you.
It ultimately comes down to personal preferences, individual skills and career goals. While the access you have to each of those paths is paramount, since personal connections and affinity through family, friends or colleagues into the VC or Startup world can ease your way in. Some may thrive in the stability and predictability of a corporate job, while others may be drawn to the high-risk, high-reward world of startups.
There are career paths which may just not be for you, but the only way to know this is to choose the color of your pill, try it out and don´t be afraid to change along the way.