Why I Chose to Work for a Startup

Center for Entrepreneurship interns

I’ve had a lot of people ask me why I chose to work for a startup after graduation. Some asked what it was like. Some just wanted to know how much I got paid. Those who already work at startups understand that (1) you’re simply not going to get paid as much as you would at a larger company,  and (2) it doesn’t really matter because in return, you get to be more independent and see how every action you take makes a difference. That, and you get to wear jeans every day. To explain my passion for startups, I’ll start with how I got involved in the first place.

I credit my initial interest in startups to the growing entrepreneurial hub at the University of Michigan. In December of 2011, I was at a dilemma of what classes to take, as I was running out of course requirements (oh, the horror!) and simply wasn’t ready to graduate early. After noticing a few entrepreneurial classes here and there, I stumbled upon the Program in Entrepreneurship, a course certification powered by the College of Engineering’s Center for Entrepreneurship (CFE). I ended up taking MKT 325 (New Product and Innovation Management) and ECON 490 (The Economics of Entrepreneurship), which opened my eyes to how an entrepreneur thinks. For example, what elements can you take away from a chair and still have it function as a chair? (Hint: think stools and hammocks). How do you disrupt the industry leader? What’s the best way to make money from a service: a flat fee or a subscription model?

That summer, I began interning at CFE and was thrust into the Ann Arbor startup scene. I attended I-Corps and watched as teams presented medical device concepts and video game technologies. I met with student teams at TechArb and watched them spend their free summers coding and hustling. It was inspiring to see others question the status quo with their ideas, and I knew I wanted a taste. Soon it was second semester senior year and I was conducting a bit of customer discovery for Storybook, an early-stage photo sharing mobile app. It wasn’t easy but it was enlightening, gathering insights from customers and then figuring out which features would fit their needs.

I had been bitten by the startup bug and there was no turning back.

Center for Entrepreneurship interns

Hanging out at an event with my fellow CFE interns

Two years later and here I am back in the Ann Arbor startup scene. Right now, the idea of working for a startup is pretty sexy, but anyone who works for one will be quick to admit it’s not as sexy as it appears. We work just as hard and as many hours, if not more than Fortune 500 companies. If you want to see the incremental change that you provide or be the head of your own department, working for a startup might be right for you. It’s exciting to take skills you’ve learned (e.g. how to interview people, how to persuade) and apply them to a real-world problem. And there’s nothing quite like seeing the direct impact you made in someone’s life. I’d say that’s a pretty good reason to choose startups.

If you work for a startup, I’d love to hear why you chose that path. If not, have I piqued your interest at all?

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