The Three Things That Convinced Me to Leave a Fortune 500 Company for a Puny Startup

“Can you pay your rent waitressing if it falls through?”

The first question my parents asked when I pitched the idea of quitting my first “big girl” corporate job to join a then-four-person tech startup.

“Of course.”

Wait—could I?

I prefer to call it youthful optimism, but it was occurring to me that my millennial naivety barred me from really considering the risk before. I mean, I guess lots of startups fail—but not this one, right?

I wanted to leave my job, but I needed to pay the bills. But you don’t know unless you try. Optimism led me to eventually pull the trigger, moving from stability to ambiguity in two weeks’ notice. Three things particularly attracted me to the startup world.


1. The Exposure

At a corporation I was getting very, very good at one thing. I was specializing in one area of business, specific to one industry.

Although some people prefer this training, I was craving more business exposure. Today I see business from every angle. I’m not in finance or operations; I’m in a startup.

Although we each have loose job descriptions, everyone contributes to the most important task at hand, whatever that may be. Investor calls happen right beside me and my ideas are shaping our actual product offering.


2. The Canadian Startup Advantage

The right place at the right time is what I like to say. We may not have the temperate climate of Silicon Valley but we have caesars and a lot of venture capital kicking around.

It may be pure Canadian humility but people always seem shocked to hear that Toronto, Vancouver and Waterloo all place among Startup Genome’s Top 20 Ecosystem worldwide. All startups are risky, but a supportive and resource-stacked startup network lowers that risk, a factor that comforted me, my parents and my landlord. As the rest of the world plays catch up, us Canadians are very fortunate to live where the entrepreneurial spirit thrives.


3. The Job Satisfaction

Corporate perks are enticing. I truly enjoyed my discount gym classes and you’re kidding yourself if you think business class legroom won’t change your life. However, at the end of the day, I wasn’t in love with my job.

Today, “my job” and “what I do for fun” are converging. I enjoy my time at work. I believe in our product and I feel valuable to my team. Startups attract creative problem solvers and I’m happy to be surrounded by them.

So, what’s the verdict? Did I throw myself under the bus chasing the illusion of startup splendor? Will I find myself dusting off the ol’ resume on the way to Boston Pizza?

It’s early, but the facts stand. Benefits? Gone. Corporate Gym Membership? Non-existent. Job satisfaction? Record high.