The one thing that can make you stay in a startup

Why any one wants to work in a start up? Why?

Its 10 pm on a friday night. As I was just giving a quick look at the last set of users who joined our platform, I just looked around and saw few other sitting around, poring constantly on to their screens.

I keep seeing really smart individuals putting all their effort into startups that could well take away a good part of their 20’s/30’s. These are the people who come early and get out late, hustle on saturdays and sundays and do all that they can to provide great value to their customers.

It’s right then at that moment that question popped in my mind — why do we do this to ourselves? why we continue to work for startups? why anyone wants to stay in a startup?

Start ups for most part are stressful, with 60–70 hours per week. You cannot just take a vacation when you want. You can’t even be sure if your sunday afternoon will be hijacked by something that just “came up” at work.

What about money? Yes, its true that few startups do splurge on their employees by buying xboxes, giving free lunches and more. But any one who is in the startup world will tell you that these are such a miniscule part of the whole. Most of the start ups are actually holed up in some garage or some obscure co-working space with a bunch of tables and chairs.

Yes there is equity, but its all a worthless piece of paper until you actually build something that become valuable in the eyes of market. Which will take years of smartness, sweat and toil. The odds of achieving success is so low, that you dont need to bother looking at the numbers.

What about work from home and the small teams and the related luxuries? Whether its work from home or not, you got to get things done. Small or big team, the stress level is amazingly high combined with a lot of ambiguity mixed in. So much that, half of the times you will be like “what the f%^& am I doing”.

So the stress level is high, your work hijacks your entire life, there is not a lot of money on hand (at least in the short term) and the odds are not really in your favor.

What makes people to stay in Startups?

As I was staring at the ceiling on an uneventful friday night, I suddenly realized that a lot of such people have one common trait that sets us apart from the rest — an amazingly big appetite for learning. An addiction to learning something new, to progress on intelligence, to understand technology, products and people better. An obsession with collecting knowledge, wisdom and applying them to make a difference.

You try something new, you learn about it, you apply the learning somewhere and create value out of it. And that has the potential to make you tremendously happy.

VC Chamath Palihapitiya of Social Capital, talks about how entrepreneurs and people in startups should focus on being in the world of learning, rather than being in the world of right and wrong.

Chamath Palihapitiya founder of Social Capital

Carol Dweck in the book The Mindset talks about how people with a specific mindset to learn and understand, people who approach life with an attitude to learn have a much more fruitful and happy career than others.

When you have an active relationship with what you do, when you derive happiness from what you do, when you get pumped up by the thought of learning something new, when you can put all you learnt into building something big— you no longer worry about putting in all the odd hours of work. Or that your co working space has rats. Or that many of the people outside the startup world do not give a damn about what you are working on.

You are happy. You are building something of importance to you and others.

You are learning. You are progressing intellectually. You are energized, at least most of the time.

And that’s the one big fat reason why any one wants to be a part of a startup.