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I left Goldman Sachs for a start-up. What a mistake

When you don't get the unicorn you'd planned

Is your stride long enough? Are your legs strong enough?

Into the 3rd year of my start up I have started to question the decision I have made. Why did I leave a very comfortable job in an investment bank to begin a company? At the time, it seemed exciting. The risk, the reward, the options, the opportunity.

Now I am hit with the reality.

This is frickin hard.

This is harder than anything in investment banking. At least in banking you get to travel nicely, you eat at great restaurants, you have annual parties, you get a salary and a bonus.  Yes, you work hard, but you also receive pleasures.

At a start-up, the time to succeed is on average 5 years, unless you are lucky. I am only 50% of the journey. Mismatched chairs in the office, no coffee machine, no monthly pay slip to look forward to, budget airlines flights at 2am. This is brutal.

It tests your clarity of thought, your patience and your drive. I must admit, I am beginning to wither. I believe in my product more today than when we started. But, the virality hasn’t come. Everyday feels like we might be on the brink of having to close. Work hard, fund-raise, go to market, no virality. Next time, work harder, be angrier, fund raise harder (for less) and go to another market. Still no virality.

There are millions of Apps in the App stores. How do I become a Top 100? There is literally a 0.001% chance of this happening.

You can read all the literature in the world about beginning a start-up. Nothing can prepare you for the actuality. You go to sleep thinking about your product. You wake up to pee, and you grab your smart phone to check your company messages. You wake and login to your website. How many users joined in the last 6 hours whilst you were restlessly asleep?

The day is about people, product, meetings, stakeholders, customers, more users! All, without pay. All with hope and potential glory with a 0.001% chance of success. Banking, even at -50% of my previous pay is starting to look very attractive!

Zalim Naidu is the pseudonym of a former Goldman executive director who left to launch a start-up, and regretted it

Photo by Andrea Tummons on Unsplash

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AUTHORZalim Naidu Insider Comment
  • Ju
    Just my opinion
    31 October 2019

    One word: network.

  • ne
    28 October 2019

    If you don't try though, you'll never know.

  • no
    27 October 2019

    Love the line about "mismatched chairs" in the office... the horror! Zero sympathy.

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