Big companies v. startups

submited by
Style Pass
2024-05-15 05:30:04

There's a meme that's been going around for a while now: you should join a startup because the money is better and the work is more technically interesting. Paul Graham says that the best way to make money is to "start or join a startup", which has been "a reliable way to get rich for hundreds of years", and that you can "compress a career's worth of earnings into a few years". Michael Arrington says that you'll become a part of history. Joel Spolsky says that by joining a big company, you'll end up playing foosball and begging people to look at your code. Sam Altman says that if you join Microsoft, you won't build interesting things and may not work with smart people. They all claim that you'll learn more and have better options if you go work at a startup. Some of these links are a decade old now, but the same ideas are still circulating and those specific essays are still cited today.

The numbers will vary depending on circumstances, but we can do a back of the envelope calculation and adjust for circumstances afterwards. Median income in the U.S. is about $30k/yr. The somewhat bogus zeroth order lifetime earnings approximation I'll use is $30k * 40 = $1.2M. A new grad at Google/FB/Amazon with a lowball offer will have a total comp (salary + bonus + equity) of $130k/yr. According to glassdoor's current numbers, someone who makes it to T5/senior at Google should have a total comp of around $250k/yr. These are fairly conservative numbers1.

Leave a Comment