It’s been some time that I’ve again been with a corporate. Those who know me told me often that they bet I’d be here for two or three years and then gone. That was over four years ago. To be honest, I too thought max three years and I’m moving on. Surprisingly, lots of things went right and I’m quite certain that this opportunity exists with many more companies as well. I am not proposing that you go start the same endeavour that my co-founder and I did. What I am getting at is that corporates have changed and continue to adapt.
If you look at what has been happening over the past fifteen to twenty years, you will clearly see that a lot of innovative companies have reached “corporate” size….see Amazon, Google, Facebook and so forth. Further, you’ll see that many companies looked like they would crap out and ended up turning it around…for example Apple or currently Microsoft. What has this done for the segment? I believe it’s injected a sense of hope to corporate executives and in general to employees of large companies. The sense that these large tankers are going to be passed left and right by small speed boats is being questioned. We continually see the biggest of players doing really innovative things and behaving at times like startups. Employees are being listened to and are pushing risky, new things through. Executives are getting out of the way and letting their teams take ownership and responsibility for results. Most importantly, you see large corporates continuing to grow via innovation and not monopolies or politics.
Why should you care? Well I believe that too often the focus is put on startups. These are highly risky endeavours and I’ve seen more and more young people going into doomed businesses. Multiply that by the fact that salaries often suck and equity packages are minuscule if not non-existent, and you’d be insane at times to join one. Everyone says you should because there’s no better place to learn. I don’t totally disagree but have been recommending to some folks that they should consider a corporate. Let’s be honest….the risk is far more manageable. Further, your resources are far greater at a large company and you can have a decent salary. With a bit of savvy, you can maneuverer yourself into a position where you can get shit done and be seen. If you have the right personality and drive, you are able to make a name for yourself quickly. You can push things, be aggressive and mistakes are generally tolerated. And again, your chances of being fired are actually lower in a corporate than they are at a startup. Further, at a startup, your competition is a bunch of hungry, aggressive types. At corporates, you are usually the outlier.
Corporates are not right for you if you are the true founder type. If you are happy taking all the risk, putting your own money to work and leading the charge, god forbid you go to a corporation. You’ll be miserable. Additionally, you hardly ever have an equity component at a large company. You won’t get rich fast or at all. You may be able to score a large variable component to your salary but it will never really allow you to earn more than senior management. Finally, you do have to play the politics a bit and you have to learn fast. If you have no “feel” for getting people on your side and aren’t generally an aggressive, personable go-getter you will just end up an employee. Not that there is anything wrong with that but if you want to succeed and make things happen in a large corporation, you have to diverge from the norm and embrace uncertainty.
You’ll also have to find a corporate who has to change….fast. Your chances are best if you go somewhere where it’s become clear that they are failing. Or you find a segment where the startups are really starting to put the hurt on the large players by out-innovating them. Whatever you do, make sure you go somewhere where things have to change fast….probably a very boring segment. It won’t be sexy but it will be receptive to someone who is passionate about helping bring about change. I would recommend you look at the far edges of FinTech. The insurance industry right now is ripe for disruption. Education and government are ripe for the taking. Even politics need to be shaken up. There’s plenty out there if you look.