Read of the Day: “Letter To A Young Programmer Considering A Startup”
6:15 pm, June 12th | by Weiyu Li
In today’s Read of the Day, Alex Payne, the former CTO of Twitter, (rather surprisingly) cautions young programmers who are considering careers in startups. In an unstable economy where a college degree can’t guarantee a job and big companies aren’t fail-safe, startups can begin to look like the ideal choice; but, according to Payne, the startup world isn’t the dream millennials dreamed in time gone by: startups have to pay high rates of return to their investors and, moreover, they have an ongoing interpersonal cost.
A startup is just a means to an end. Consider the end, and don’t seek to revel in the means. What do you care about? Who do you want to help? Does a startup make meeting your goals easier or harder? Where will it leave you when your goal is met? Where will it leave you if it isn’t?
The machine doesn’t care about you. In fact, the machine is designed with the understanding that most startups will fail, or at most offer unremarkable returns to investors. The majority of the companies in many VC portfolios are acknowledged duds. One or two “10x” companies prop up most portfolios. At best, startup founders who fail get another pull of the slot machine. At worst, their failures drive them to desperation.
I’ve seen firsthand the damage that startups can do to relationships. I’ve watched marriages and friendships fall apart, seen children and partners pushed aside, and failed those in my life in all kinds of ways when work came to the fore. I’ve listened as people who are the very picture of startup success – visible in the press and social media, headlining conferences, forever founding and exiting – have confided their utter loneliness despite being seemingly at the social center of the entrepreneurial community.
You could take this tack, but I hope that your idealism hasn’t been worn down at such a relatively young age. I hope you want your work to be imbued with meaning, purpose, and value no matter what form that work takes. More than that, I hope you want your life to be defined by more than work.
To read the rest of the essay, click here.