Career in a startup have become a popular choice for people in the last 5 years – both fresh graduates and seasoned professionals.

Look at how glamorous media makes it look (even the slave and his buddies look amazing)

So, it is not surprising that Momentum Works get a lot of job applications.

The top reasons that most interviewees give us on why they want to join a startup:

(i) I just graduated and I feel I can learn a lot more from joining a startup.

(ii) I am having a mid-life crisis and I want to escape the rat race. Starting/working for a startup is what I need to find my purpose in life.

(iii) I look around me, and I don’t see any more potential for growth in my corporate job. I want to give startup a try.

Most of the time – interviewees are overconfident about the chances for success and underestimate the risk involved.

Mark Manson, author of the book “The subtle art of not giving a f***”, gave the world Disappointment Panda.

It is “the superhero that none of us would want but all of us would need. He goes door to door telling people the uncomfortable things that they’re avoiding in their own life – the truths they need to hear. “

Here, I would envision the Disappointment Panda would tell it as it is…

“I just graduated and I can learn a lot more from joining a startup. “

In theory, yes. Working as a fresh graduate will expose you to many experiences that you wouldn’t be able to experience in a corporate world.

In reality, nobody will have time to give you a proper induction, guide you to get the hang of the business, train you on how to manage partners. Everyone is rushing to get work done yesterday and it will be all hands on deck from the first day you join.

Instruction will be ambiguous and you’d need to figure out most things yourselves. You got to have the guts to try, fail and own-up. Unless you have very specific skills, if you can’t keep up with the pace of the team, find it hard to deal with ambiguous communications or need hand-holding, you’ll be out -fast.

“I am having a mid-life crisis and I want to escape the rat race. Starting/ working for a startup is what I need to find my purpose in life.”

Yes – it feels great to not have to join the rat race – until you realise that working at a start-up is NOT a spiritual retreat to find your purpose in life.

What we see is that most people become used to the corporate structure, great support functions and very forgiving HR policies (i.e. no shouting, no firing). Whilst the job may suck the soul dry, it’s routine – and it’s their comfort zone. The only time they will leave is when something dramatic happens – i.e. their company closes down, they realize they hate what they do or they get a new boss from hell.

Mid-life crisis jumps into startups are often short-lived. In our experience, many seasoned executives have been so accustomed to a pace that is not aligned with that of the startups.

The lack of direction and the ambiguity on what exactly they need to do confuse the hell out of many.

And by the way, did I say that there is no such thing as “work-life balance” in the startup world?

“I look around me, and I don’t see any more potential for growth in my corporate job. I want to give startup a try. “

This is the most common reason that people tell us. They see startup as the escape from their mundane routine. They are willing to take a paycut in return for trying something new and exciting – with a chance to grow big.

Yes – this make sense if you’ve successfully scaled the Himalayas challenges in your previous company and you are now just bored.

But if the reason for stagnation is yourself and you are looking for an excuse– no job (startup or corporate) can help you grow.

We’ve seen this ailment in so many middle level managers trying to work in a startup, but cannot change their way of thinking or solving problems.

So… should you even join a startup?

I met a wise dear friend last week.

He had been in the corporate and government world for more than 30 years and was now at a crossroad.

He had to choose between – joining as a senior director in an established company or setting up a risky business department for a new venture.

Being the sole breadwinner, and having quite a lot of financial obligations – he agonised over his choices for a few months because he had a lot to lose.

“It was a battle between the spirit and flesh,” he said.

In the end – he chose the latter option.

His reasoning was logical. He could easily be replaced by someone younger, smarter and cheaper at the established company.  Joining a startup without the usual corporate support was scary – but it will equip him with the experience, knowledge and skills to excel.

“It feed the soul and it will be an exciting challenge to conquer. “

Disappointment Panda’s final advice…

Should you join a startup? There is no straight answer. You will need to assess the risks and benefits of making the move – we wrote how in our blog which argues that startup is all about risk mitigation.

What is clear though – is that complacency is dangerous.

It’s so easy for you to be overtaken by someone smarter, younger, and cheaper – no matter where you are if you are :

(i) Having delusions of grandeur about your talent;

(ii) Feeling entitled to the right compensation, afraid to lose what you have and demanding a work-life balance;

(iii) Jumping into a startup world without understanding the pitfalls and challenges is setting yourself for failure.

Unfortunately – we see this a lot in the people we interview, especially from people who have worked in the corporate world for decades.

Singapore’s government has acknowledged that talent is important in directing the country’s next phase of growth to become an innovation-driven economy.

This is a timely initiative to retrain the working force and change their mindset in the evolving startup ecosystem.

Only if the training gives them real world exposure, rather than how to write business plans.

And only if the Disappointment Panda came to visit us more often. 


Thanks for reading The Low Down, insight and inside knowledge from the team at Momentum Works. If you’d like to get in touch with us about any issues discussed in our blog, please drop us an email at [email protected] and let us know how we can help.


Thanks for reading The Low Down (TLD), the blog by the team at Momentum Works. Got a different perspective or have a burning opinion to share? Let us know at [email protected].


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Prior to Momentum Works, Yorlin was in the financial sector in SIngapore and Hong Kong for 10 years - working with the Monetary Authority of Singapore, AXA and HSBC. She feels that corporate knowledge are undervalued in the start-up ecosystem and want to change this. At Momentum Works, she manages operations, overseeing joint venture operations with partners from all over the world. She always makes time to speak to people as you never know what’s the next game changer in the fickle world of fintech, e-commerce or mobile internet. In her free time, you can find her being the slave to her 5 cats.