From the Corporate to the Startup world by Katia GIL GUZMAN

Automatic Summary

Leaving Your Corporate Job and Starting a Start-Up: A Personal Experience

Hello everyone, and welcome! I'm *C Luman*, co-founder of an early-stage start-up, Emira. Before this, I spent three years working at Microsoft, which is a completely different environment from the start-up world. If you are curious about building your own start-up, this blog is for you. I hope it can help you imagine what it would look like for you, especially if you are still stuck to your safe, stable corporate job and do not know what to expect.

Differences in Working Style in Corporations and Start-ups

Processes: In a corporate environment, you are usually part of a larger team with established rules and processes. Transitioning to a start-up environment involves dealing with no or very few processes – the most important thing there is speed. You should the goal of optimizing time or creating significant value.

Pace: A start-up environment requires doing everything on your own, and you cannot rely on colleagues or teammates. You have to learn to ditch perfection as it's almost impossible to get everything done to the standard you might be used to in a corporate setting.

Mindset: There is a need to be open-minded and humble if you're thinking of leaving your corporate job to start a business; you must be comfortable with ambiguity and constant learning.

The Impact on Your Life as a Start-up Founder

Work-life Balance: Initially, your work-life balance may decline as you scramble to get things off the ground. You may need to sacrifice a part of your personal time to get things up and running. Ensure you are comfortable with that.

Financial Strain: you should prepare yourself to spend potentially a significant period without drawing a salary. Would you be able to go full time on your project without getting paid? Could you lower your living standards during this period?

Is The Start-up World for You?

Well, the truth is, it really depends on you and what you want. Yes, starting a business requires sacrifices. The mental load is different from a regular job because you're responsible for your own outcomes. There's ambiguity all around, a lot of self-doubt, and endless questions.

But if it works, you get to be your own boss. You get to set a direction for your work and your life. You could potentially gain much more than in a corporate job. And even if it doesn't work, you'll learn a ton and grow as a person.

Questions to Ask Yourself Before Diving In

  1. What do you have to lose?
  2. Is it too risky?
  3. What is your true motivation?
  4. What happens if you don't try?
  5. What happens if it fails?

You need to evaluate the worst-case scenario you would be comfortable with and decide accordingly. Remember, there's never a 'right time', so if you think you're ready, take the plunge!

I look forward to any questions or comments you may have. Please feel free to engage with me.

Video Transcription

Hi, everyone. Thanks for joining. I'm C Luman and I'm the co founder of an early stage start up called Emira. We're building a SASS for agencies to manage their projects, teams and clients and we're based in Paris. And before that, I was working at Microsoft for three years.

And even so I was in a team that kind of looked like a start up environment. Microsoft is still a big corporation. And as a result after I left Microsoft, I saw my life change a lot. And from what I've heard from a network, it would have been even worse had I worked in another company who's more traditional and I'm guessing that if you're here, it's because there's a part of you who's curious about what building your own start up would look like. Maybe you have ideas you'd like to explore. Maybe you're just excited about the idea of being your own boss or maybe you're just curious without any particular intention. I'm also guessing that many of you feel like this simply cannot afford to quit the safe, stable corporate job, especially if you don't know what to expect. So, in this talk, I'll talk about my experience leaving my corporate job to launch my start up. And I hope this can help you imagine what that would look like for you. I would talk about what is the difference in working style, um how the mindset is different and also how it can affect your life. I also want to state that it's perfectly ok if you realize that the start up world is not for you and that you should only do what makes sense for your specific situation. So in a corporate environment, um you're by definition working within a specific frame.

So the first thing I want to talk about are processes because you're working with colleagues with direct reports and, or managers and you're part of a group. So there are rules to be respected. That means there usually are processes in place that you're supposed to follow. And there's also a certain pace that is set by a larger entity than yourself, the bigger our team or company and the slower things move, which makes sense. Um If you're trying to go from point A to point B, you will be much slower if you're a group of six people holding hands than if you're alone. And if you want to make sure other people follow in your footsteps and make it from point A to point B the same way you did, you will also have to document your every move and you, if you're following in other people's footsteps and want to do exactly what they're expecting of you.

You'll have to read their instructions carefully. So that's what processes are meant for in a big organization. You follow other people's guidelines and you're expected to produce work in a way that is understandable by your colleagues in compliance with the company's policies.

And it's true for every role in the company because for a comp operation, the most important thing is that there are no mistakes and that nothing breaks. Imagine a giant house of cards that took a long time to build with one cheeky card at the foundation. Everything could come crumbling down and it would be very bad for a start up. However, the most important thing is speed. If something breaks, it's fine because there is merely a pyramid of three cards and you can build it back again in no time. That's why in the start up, there are usually no processes. Your goal is always to go as fast as possible. When you're a start up, you usually don't have a lot of money to begin with. And your only advantage compared to your competitors is speed. So that is especially true for start ups that are in competitive markets and it's less true for solo partners or people building businesses that don't have a lot of competition, but your time is always precious. So there's a real trade off between building processes that will help you go faster and working on your actual product or service. When I was working at Microsoft, um I was working as an engineer and we had a lot of processes in place for shipping code. So we had to write extensive tests and have a code reviewed by at least two peers before it could be accepted.

Well, when I started working with my start up, I had to learn to let go of all of that because first of while no one was there to review my code. And also I realized it was more important to develop new features for customers to try out than to spend a lot of times uh writing unit tests. So sure it led to some issues and some bugs. But it also allowed me to learn about what customers wanted a lot faster. So I'm not saying that there should not be any processes in start ups, but processes are always changing and having a process just for safety when it actually doesn't save you any time or worse, it takes you time to complete is usually not beneficial. So yes, to creating processes that will save you time in the future, but no to having processes would take time away from you. Everything you should, you do in a start up should be in the goal of optimizing time or creating significant value. So if you're uncomfortable with ambiguity and reluctant to adapting your processes from one day to the next, maybe a start up environment might not be the best environment for you.

However, if you thrive in chaos and enjoy an ever changing environment, you'd be like uh fish in the water also. Uh again, the pace is very different. So when you're part of a group, you can count on others to help you and deadlines are usually defined. Well, in events, I'm not saying that you never have to do the occasional sprints when there's an expected task uh falling on your lab. We've all been there and sometimes the stakes are just as high as what you would see in a start up environment. But when you're building your start up, usually it's up to you and a handful of people to do everything. So you cannot rely on your colleague to create the presentation for the client meeting next week. You cannot ask for help to fix that bug that you got two complaints about yesterday. Um So inevitably you have to settle for lower quality. You have to ditch perfection. I used to think I could do anything and set the bar very high. Um But I had to learn to let go of things and prioritize because it's impossible. Even with the best intentions to get everything done, you have to accept that perfection is not an option. You have to learn to be comfortable with things that are sometimes mediocre, but at least they have the merit of existing. Um So if you're thinking of starting your adventure, make sure you're comfortable with that.

Even if you're a perfectionist, make sure that you can let go of perfection and be happy with whatever you can get done in the short amount of time you have. The other thing I learned when creating my start up is that I had misconceptions about a lot of things, especially when it came to what people want. Um So it's natural to think that whatever you think is great, other people will find it great too. Well, it's wrong. So, um that's why when you're building a start, when you're building something, you have to always test fail and learn, you cannot assume that something you're building is right for your target. If you don't test it and unless you're very lucky, the first few times you test it, there will be something wrong and you will have to iterate until you get it right. I remember one feature I was very proud about in our sa I thought it was great because I could see myself using it. And I thought the concept was awesome, but we tested it using mockups and users just didn't get it. I, I insisted and I tried to explain to them what it could do for them why it was awesome. Um But the reaction said it all, we had to kill this feature.

So I had to accept that what I think is best is actually irrelevant and that the only thing I could do is learn from users. So one thing to keep in mind, if you're thinking of leaving your corporate job to do your own thing, you have to be open minded and humble. You have to accept that you don't know everything and be comfortable with doing things that you will probably throw away later just because they allow you to learn even the slightest thing when you build your own start ups. Uh The the stakes are not the same as when you're working at your corporate job. So I if you don't do the work, no one will punish you. No one will hold you accountable you and only you will be responsible for your success that has its benefits, but also its drawbacks, you know what is best for you and you don't have to do things just because your boss said so. But also it can sometimes be hard and feel very lonely to be on your own and to motivate yourself. It really depends on personality. Some people have no issues with disciplining themselves, others struggle with it personally, I always struggle with procrastination.

Uh But having short deadlines help me stay motivated and do the work. If I know that someone is expecting something from me, I will do it in time. But I struggle with taking time to do work that only I'm expecting. So I had to learn how to trick my brain into doing things even though no one is asking me to. So I imagine that for other people, it can be hard as well. So if you're thinking about being your own boss, really ask yourself if you'd be able to motivate yourself or to find people to hold you accountable. I also wanted to talk about work life balance because I think it's a really important topic and I imagine this can deter some people from starting the business. And to be honest, I'm not proud of what I'm going to say. But it is true that my work life balance has deteriorated a lot since I started my company. I see it improving though as time goes by. Um I think the hardest is at the beginning because you're a very small team and there's a lot of, there are a lot of things to do.

Uh a lot of things to set in motion and every moment you're not working on your start up, it feels like you're losing time. So I want to point out that I personally think it's wrong to think like that. And that taking time off should be just as important as working on your start up. But if you're thinking of starting your business, I think you should expect to see your work life balance decline at the beginning, at least for the first three months. And once everything is set up and you got the ball rolling. I think it's safe to say that you can go back to normal. But if I'm being honest, I don't see how you can get things started if you don't sacrifice a part of your personal time at the beginning. So that's definitely something to take into account. If you're thinking about building your start up, you want to do it when the time is right for you. Of course, there's never a right time. But if you have a lot of commitments in the near future and you know, you won't have a lot of time to dedicate to your venture. Maybe it's best to wait until things cool down a bit.

Um So as you may know, when you're building a start up at the beginning, you don't get paid. So depending on what you do, this can happen sooner rather than later. But for most businesses, you have to expect to spend at least a year without earning a normal living. So that's something that you should definitely plan for. I'm lucky enough to be French. And uh as a result I get unemployment benefits. That's actually what most entrepreneurs in France do. They can rely on the state to support them while they don't perceive any salary. However, I know that it's not an option in most countries and even in France, not everyone can benefit from it. Like co founder, for example, doesn't have unemployment benefits and he had to do occasional freelance work to pay the bills. So depending on your situation, you might want to consider several options if you can afford to go full time on your project without getting paid, whether because you can get financial help or because you have enough money saved. It's great. However, you might consider setting processes in place to get passive revenue or do occasional work like teaching or freelancing to support yourself during this time. In any case, you should be prepared to lower your living standards for a while because you definitely have less money than before.

So just make sure you're in a situation where that's possible before taking the jump. So I've talked to you about what are the differences you can expect in terms of working style. Um Whether it's the difference in processes or pace the change in mindsets, whether it's learning to be open minded or learning to be your own boss and how it can affect your life, whether it's a decline in work life balance or a strain on finances. But I also wanted to point out the pros and cons in my opinion to see what makes sense for your situation. So I'm not going to lie. It's hard, but I'm also not going to lie. It's not that hard. Um I feel like you can find two types of opinion on the internet. Those who make it seem like building a start up is the obvious choice for anyone and that you should definitely do it because it's way better than a boring 9 to 5 job. Um And you have those who make it seem like building a start up is only for people who are ready to grind hard and that they are incredibly hard working and wake up at 5 a.m. every day to make it work. So I'm in your reading of course, but you get what I mean? Um And the truth is, it really depends on you and what you want. So, building a start up does require you to sacrifice some of your personal time.

It's a mental load and a responsibility different than what you would have at a regular job because you're responsible for your own outcomes. There's ambiguity all around. A lot of self doubt, endless questions. It can and will probably fail at some point. Statistically speaking, you are much more likely to fail than to succeed. But on the other hand, if it works, you get to be your own boss, you get to set a direction for your work and your life and you can gain much more than what you would at a corporate job. And if it doesn't work, you'll still learn a ton, you'll change your perspective and grow as a person. So I guess what you can ask yourself are these questions? What do you have to lose? Is it too risky in your situation? Um What is your true motivation? Is it just curiosity or is it something you feel like you have to do? And um what happens if you don't try, will you regret it later? Um And what, what happens if it fails? What are your option? And what is the worst case scenario you would be comfortable with? So I'll let you ask yourselves the questions and thank you for your time. Um I will, I do have time for a few questions. I think we have five minutes.

So if you have any questions, please ask them in the chat, I'll be happy to answer. Thank you, Michelle. Any questions don't be shy, you can ask in the chat so that you don't have to, to put on the mic if you're not comfortable with it. And just to, to just out of curiosity how many of you here are thinking about building a start up or are just, oh, there's a, there's a question. Would you ever consider going back to corporate? Um Yes, actually Mary. So, uh that's actually a great question. Um I, to be completely honest with you, I applied to this talk when my start up was I felt like my start up was going great. But uh in the last couple of weeks I realized it wasn't going so great. So that's actually a question I'm asking myself and I do see myself going back to the corporate world, even though I couldn't go to any corporation, it would have to be kind of like a start up environment. Um So I also have questions. Did you test your idea in some way before leaving a corporate job? No, actually I joined the start up studio. So you go full time and then you test your ideas full time so that it goes much faster. But that's definitely something you can do. Um, if you don't have any kind of safety net and you want to make sure you do this, uh without, with the less risk possible you can test before you leave in your corporate job, how to decide about joining an existing start up regarding financial trade-off salary.

Um For the yeah, to join an existing start up, it really depends on what they offer. So you can gain a lot if they give you shares, but it can also fail. It's less risky than building your own start up, but it's still a risk. So it depends, it depends on the project and depends on what they offer you really. Um I have a question about co-founders. I actually have, um I had one co-founder and he, I, I was talking about the start up difficulties recently. He actually just left the company. So we, I don't have any co-founders now. I definitely recommend having one because it's hard to do it on your own, especially uh since there are a lot of topics to cover, I'm the technical co-founder, so I didn't know anything about sales. So it definitely helps having someone that completes your skill set. How do you know, if you're ready to start a start up, um, you can never really be ready. I guess it depends on a lot of factors. Um, for me, it was, it was just that I couldn't bear not to do it anymore. So I had to try it. And that's what motivated me, motivated me to, to start actually. So if you are at this point where you feel this urge and you're not gonna be satisfied until you, you scratch that urge. Maybe that means it's the right time for you. Well, we have one month left. So thank you everyone for your questions.

Uh Please uh add me on linkedin. If you have any more questions, my name is written on the, on the slide. There are not a lot of cat you just mentioned. So I think you'll probably find me um and I'll be happy to accept your request and to answer any questions left. So thank you everyone. Bye.