In my industry — investing in startups — the great debate of our time is whether or not unicorns really exist. Valuations matter, of course, but this shouldn’t be the dialogue that defines our industry because there are many more interesting conversations to be had. The best founders are not launching a startup as a get-rich-quick scheme. We’re seeing more interest in entrepreneurship than ever before because people want to work on their own terms, focus on their own things, and create their own impact.
Today, the hottest job in my industry, and maybe in any industry, is an entrepreneur. Being a company founder is far cooler than any other title out there. It’s not about making a lot of money. For many, working at a company and even attaining a prestigious title there has become completely unappealing.
How strange, because just a few years ago, it wasn’t this way. People coveted jobs at corporations and they expected to have jobs for life. Being “a company man” (or woman) was a badge of honor. Today, it brands you as someone who plays it safe. That’s ironic when company longevity is on the wane, and jobs for life are a quaint memory.
But besides the shift in job security, companies are not retaining their best talent because they aren’t meeting their needs to create. People are looking for more meaning than being a cog in a big system. Every week we have founders coming to WIN for investment money after leaving fast-growing companies. Even though these companies had breakout success, these new founders complain that they were bored at their former places of employment. Big companies don’t move fast enough, they say. They don’t get to make their own decisions, they complain. And most of all, they think corporations, with their defined hierarchies and antiquated policies, are uncool.
But while MBAs want to go to startups, and Stanford grads consider going to Facebook or Google as a “backup plan” to creating their own things, no one talks about how hard it is to achieve success as a founder. The majority of startups fail. That’s a fact. And committing to a startup is inviting a lot of risk into your life. Startups don’t come with safety nets — or set hours or salaries or health care — and that’s a tough scenario for people with families to feed, mortgages to pay, and time that needs to be spent at home.
Additionally, not everyone is born to be an entrepreneur. It takes an incredible amount of hard work, and riding the roller coaster of highs and lows is not for the faint of heart. It can be lonely and not everyone has the intestinal fortitude for the rocky ride. Marc Andreessen, a legendary entrepreneur turned venture capitalist, famously said that when it comes to starting a company, “You only ever experience two emotions: euphoria and terror. And I find that lack of sleep enhances them both.”
But while there are safer pastures one can pursue, there are no greener pastures than building your own company. The winners will truly gain degrees of freedom (economic, career, etc.) and enjoy inspiration beyond imagination.
But no one who thinks big and works hard should be left out from these opportunities. Whether starting a company or staying at a company, I’d love to see people understand that they are accountable for their success, and find passion in what they do and work on their own terms. Everyone can’t be an entrepreneur, but there’s no reason why everyone can’t be the CEO of their own destiny, understanding they — not their boss — are in charge of their life and they have control over it.
Requirements that land you the hottest job around: the CEO of your own destiny
• You are highly successful.
• You are self-aware.
• You love the freedom this choice has given you.
• You opt in to being fully on the team every day.
• You work to build a network outside the office “walls.”
• You have great and fulfilling career options.