Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Personal: Life Beyond Startups

I've gone to a lot of talks recently focused on startups. Personally, I've spent more than a decade at more than 10 different startups, and I certainly think startups are a heck of a lot of fun. However, I'm beginning to think they're a bit overrated. Some of the talks I've gone to lately almost suggest that doing your own startup is the only path to happiness and personal fulfillment. Let me dispel that myth.

First of all, not everything can be accomplished by two guys and a spare garage. Apple started out in a garage, as did the Wright brothers. However, the sleek MacBook Pro that I'm currently typing on bares little resemblance to the Apple I. There have been thousands of people needed to make Apple what it is today. The same is true of Google as well. Google is way more than just a search engine these days!

The Wright brothers may have been the first ones to successfully put a man in an airplane, but a Boeing 747 isn't something that can be accomplished by two guys and a garage. Similarly, it took a lot more than two guys and a garage to put a guy on the moon. The freeway that I drove on to get to work today may have been envisioned by some guy in Germany in the 1930's, but actually building the freeway took a lot more effort than is possible by one man. I definitely admire Linus Torvalds for creating Linux, but it has taken thousands of skilled hackers to build and package all the software present in a modern Linux distro.

A lot of these talks also seem to suggest that people at startups are happier and co-workers are smarter. Sometimes that's true, but it's definitely not always true. I've been very unhappy at a lot of startups, especially when I was burnt out from being overworked, and I wasn't sure there was going to be enough money left to pay my rent! I may be a bit biased considering I work at Google, but I think that my current co-workers are some of the smartest, friendliest, and happiest people I've ever worked with. I know I'm definitely enjoying myself!

Everything has to start somewhere, and it's a lot of fun to start new things. However, there are many very worthwhile things that take a massive amount of manpower to accomplish. So let's not forget all those people who aren't famous who nonetheless made it possible to fully accomplish many of the most monumental and influential things all around us!

2 comments:

Nathan Veeraraghavan said...

God Shannon,
You spoke my mind out. Living here in NYC, it seems every meetup group I go to has a lot of self promoting startups than technology enthusiasts.
While I am not not averse to a little self promotion (hello, I do live in Donald Trump land), this just takes it too far.

Regards,
Nathan

Shannon Behrens said...

Thanks for the confirmation, Nathan ;)