Dan makes some very good points about start-ups. Having worked at start-ups before, the biggest temptation of some owners is to merge or be acquired by a large competitor. With money in hand, the owners felt they could continue to control their companies and help their employees and customers grow. They were wrong. Instead, both start-up owners regretted their decisions. Once they took that path, both owners were fired from their jobs and the companies they created took a much different path away from their original mission and values. Employees who once were very passionate about their jobs and companies ended up getting laid off or fired. Some employees, feeling trapped and miserable with their new employers, began to turn against each other. The long knives came out. Backstabbing ruled the day. If you were lucky, maybe you survived. But you only became a passionless employee, coming to work daily, going through the motions, but not really enjoying your work or your life.
All companies have souls. And start-ups are the ones that have the most souls because they want to change the world. Yes, that sounds corny. But most start-ups aren’t in it just for the money. They see mistakes and they want to correct them. They see a better way and they want to lead.
There is nothing wrong with working with a large company. I personally worked at some major corporations in my career. While I agree with Dan that companies must hold on to their principles once they are acquired, sadly, that is rarely the case. Like it or not, when most companies get bought out, their culture and identities are brushed aside in the interest of the acquiring companies.
My advice to a start-up owner is this — if you are just in it for the money, become a lawyer, doctor or an accountant. If you are in it because you have a mission you want to achieve, then don’t sell your soul to another company. Because once you do, not only have you sold yourself down the river, but all the employees and customers who helped you along the way. You may walk away with money in hand, with dreams of early retirement or creating a new start-up. But you will never be able to look at your former employees in the eye again. Is that how you want to spend the rest of your life?