Grow up, middle class.

by Gokul Nath Sridhar

My rage against the typical Indian middle class mindset has reached an all new peak tonight. People of various demographics keep asking me why India fails to produce an Apple or Google despite the abundance of tech talent (?) here.

The reason is you. Yes, you, the kid with the fancy degree running behind a fancy brand for a job.

Am I being brutal, really? Imagine two scenarios

  • VC/Angel-backed startup + decent salary + possible equity options + ton of learning experience
  • Boring IT company + boring IT job + same decent salary + virtually inexistent ESOPs

Which would you choose? If you choose (a) and you know Python or something of that sort, write to me at careers@likewyss.com. We are looking for you. Marketing apart, sadly most of the folks from the middle class families choose (b). And the worst reason I have come across is security of a branded job.

Stop selling yourself to IT brands, please. You sound like a college-graduated-whore.

Honestly, how many of you know that TCS is rated 2/5 in employee relations by Mouthshut? Or do you know that many Indian IT majors have an abnormal attrition rate? Indian IT recruitment scenario was rosy, a long time ago. A senior employee from a mass-recruiter shared with me that over 32,000 people work in Chennai, in that particular IT major alone. Guessed the major? And you expect to be noticed among the herd, right? Well, good luck.

Imagine the other side. You join a startup. You get a decent salary; angel backed startups tend to pay pretty decent figures. You probably get a decent equity if you hang around for sometime; of course it will be vested over a couple of years as an incentive for you to stay around. Two things happen — either the startup goes boom or buss.

  • Case a) Startup goes boom and becomes the next Google; do you know the statuses of early engineers of companies like Facebook, Twitter, etc? I will give you one example. Aditya Agarwal was an early engineer at Facebook. He rose to the level of Director of Engineering within the company. After that, he started up a company called Cove. I don’t think that panned out well. You know who/what he is now? The Vice President of Engineering at Dropbox. Yes, you read that right.
  • Case b) Startup goes bust. Given that it was angel funded startup, it is quite possible that the founders were good, and the idea was viable, but due to bad execution perhaps, the startup died.

Managerially speaking, you probably learned:

  • What makes or kills a startup?
  • What are the pain points in running one?
  • How to learn to market your product to somebody?
  • How to make awesome PowerPoint presentations and impress people (trust me, your founders did at least this right. They got funding, no? :P)!

Basically, you get to see the C-suite in action at a very close range, and that teaches you things a two-year MBA cannot.

Technically speaking, if it is a web startup, you get to do a lot of cool production level stuff like releasing something you handcrafted into the Internet. However small a feature you build, the feeling of seeing people clicking on that button you designed cannot be put into words. Plus, if the startup had scaled decently, before shutting down, you probably worked on extremely cool things like Heroku staging platforms, EC2 instances, Hadoop clusters etc. Trust me, writing boilerplate C++ code is NOTHING compared to working on these stuff.

Also, you celebrate everything when you work at a startup. First user? 50th user? 1,000th user? 10,000 page-views today? Everything calls for a party. And with whom? The CEO of a goddamn company.

Either way, there is a lot of things that you can benefit from being an early engineer at an VC/angel backed startup. I keep iterating VC/angel-backed to instil in you a sense of security that the founders and investors are probably far more intelligent than you imagine, and have pumped in money to handle at least 12-18 months of expenses, including your salary.

So cut the crap about job security. Man up and change things.

And please. Show your brand loyalty elsewhere, not your career. eCommerce sites really could use your loyalty to balance their LTV-CAC figures. :P

NB: Even if someone takes offense, I really don’t care.