10 Things I learned after leaving an investment bank and working for a startup.
nb. I originally wrote this post for the startup Spacious blog – check us out!
1) No one cares about your shiny new suit at a startup.
In fact they will probably be more interested in the curry stains on your new hoody. It is imperative to wear a hoody at least once a week if you claim to be a techie. Wearing your own startup clothing with a personalized logo (probably just a single letter) is far more important than Hugo Boss (or Cedarwood State in my case) imprinted in your inside jacket.
2) Competition is still severe amongst your co-workers.
Although rather than competing on trades on the FTSE (footsie) 100 table – we now compete on just the foosball table. Or ping pong if you prefer. Who said us computer geeks didn’t play sport?
3) You are still basically chasing investors – except you now want their money in your pocket.
Yep you realised now that you actually need to take a real interest in who you are dealing with. You can’t just feed them the usual investment bank waffle down the phone, if you want their moolah. Especially if it determines where your next meal is coming from. Investors can put in hundreds of thousands, even millions of pounds as you know from looking at their portfolios at the bank. You now need to convince them to squander it all on you.
4) The office coffee isn’t actually the worst thing you can drink in the office.
Nope startups take it a step further and have introduced craft beers nearby or at your desk on Fridays. You know, the beers which according to definition are “distinctive, independently manufactured brews produced in exclusive quantities” aka overpriced dog drool. I usually down a tub of Marmite to cover up the taste.
5) You realise what real gender inequality looks like.
Women are underrepresented in professional services – you already knew that. But they are virtually non-existent in the startup scene. Be prepared for an office with no perfume or cupcakes.
6) Your new name will be Jack.
You might as well rip up the job description on your first day; your new name is jack. Jack of all trades. If you thought being able to ‘manage a range of banking transactions, or several systems of bonds’ was multi-tasking genius, just wait till you join a startup. In a single breath you will be driving business development, have blog posts and tweets coming out your ears, clients and potential investors dancing on your phone, all whilst probably trying to balance a plate of gluten-free, vegan Bacon on your head.
7) Clean shaven is only for real CEOs.
Ditch the Gillette and hang free – you are not the sartorial king you once were in the bank. Time to let the hipster beard flow freely. Your fancy pants breast-pocket handkerchief and waistcoat need to be sent back to your dad. You will also need to invest in some skinny chinos and t-shirts with slogans of questionable morals.
8) The rudest word you can say in the office is the ‘W’ word.
To be fair, foul language is commonplace in both banks and startups – anywhere which gets your blood pressure up. But don’t ever, ever mention the ‘W’ word – Windows. You are now a slave to the Apple Corporation. If you do not use an Apple Mac, prepare to be ostracized. Much like little Johnny who used to turn up to school forgetting it was non-uniform day, prepare to be the king of uncool with your Blackberry and Dell laptop.
9) It’s not about how long it took you to get into work. It’s about how.
It’s not all about the tube delays these days. Cycling to work is in style again as well as wearing all the accompanying cycling gear to make everyone aware of how super health/environmentally-conscious you are. Not to forget the slim-jims who think they’re doing the London marathon every lunchtime – calm down mate you just ran around the block and bought a Starbucks on the way home.
10) If you are running your own startup, the hours are just as long.
You probably became an expert at making it look like you are in the office all hours in an investment bank. But with a startup, chances are it’s incredibly difficult to convince people you aren’t in the office all day and night. Now come on, you didn’t leave your super job in the city to join the startup scene so you could work more sensible hours. Chances are your friends will see you less, you have forgotten your marital status and your dog will probably be cooking his own dinners by now too. But it’s all worth it to chase the dream of course! Good luck!