Choosing Between a “Start-up” and a Large Organisation…Should You Do It?


In today’s world things move very quickly. New products and technology coming online, copies or iterations of those said technologies and of course large existing “enterprise” organizations improving their own technological capability. Like with many products, it seems we, now have more choice in how we can apply skills (and learn new skills) and more importantly, just what sort of environment we can do this in. Not to mention the possible rewards of future success of a start-up business. The start-up age has created a new hype around the dinner party table and in city bars.

So, what does this mean for people considering such a move or change in career environment?

They say, “a change is as good as a holiday” and the opportunity to move from “the existing economy” to the new age one, certainly could fall into this category. All things being equal a “start-up” business will certainly be a change for most people considering a move. Leaving behind a large (or even medium size) firms structure, resources, market dominance and potential access to that market and other learning & development benefits should not be one taken lightly though. There is no doubt, a smaller firm working on new technology or products, can allow certain people to really explore beyond the normal routine of their vertical capability. With this comes learning about the business, actively multi-skilling in a personable environment and mostly without the political connotations that can come with that of the larger organizations. Seeing success from your ideas and applications in such an environment can bring the ultimate outcome most people are looking for being; the combination of small agile environments and personal learning and success, many struggle to find amongst the large fish ponds of the corporate world. It’s certainly an environment worth considering, however it won’t come without its risks and you may be leaving behind an organization which itself is preparing for “the new economy.”

If you are considering a move of this sort it is important to keep in mind some facts and considerations. Statistically many will fail, though it is not as bad as some headlines portray. Keep in in mind that after 4 years only 50% will make to this point and still be operating. 30% are likely to fail between years one and two! ( There are various reasons for this but the number one reason antidotally amongst the business community being, “is there really a market need for the product?” It may be that need is over estimated. It would be the first question you would want to ask yourself, as if you were investing in the product, when going to work for a start-up. Alternatively, other reasons include, the right type of people cannot be hired or others have just executed a similar idea with more success and more cash on hand to do so. Those reasons aside there are others, just like any company, you need to consider including incompetence in managing a business or within a certain market.

Management, clarity of vision and turning ideas into execution are key and certainly need to be considered alongside the perceived attractions of a start-up firm. An entrepreneur won’t necessarily be a great manager or possess a high level of emotional intelligence. Two areas that contribute to help someone settle into a new environment in the start-up world. Likewise, it won’t be the case all the time in a large organization, however your experience working within the mechanisms of a large organization will still hold you in good stead for your future.

On the alternative side of the equation many large companies themselves are turning to creating environments that have a “start-up mentality” or approach. Additionally, they are increasingly turning to create an “agile” environment which breaks through the political processes of large companies. Essentially many large companies are countering the talent challenge by trying to fight along the same lines. Naturally it won’t ever be the same and the concept of “new” is still limited for many people. However, for many it can be exciting and allow them to stay within the established economy and get the best of both worlds. So why would people choose to move into a start-up?

Ultimately it is about a person’s “stage of life”, their thought process, values and risk profile. Neither choice is right nor wrong. If the people and company fit the bill across these aspects in your decision making and you have considered, carefully, just how sound the foundations are from concept to leadership and they stack up…. go for it!

If it doesn’t stack up though and you are still looking for a change existing companies are changing with the times and it is certainly worth looking within them.