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On Tuesday, Techstars hosted its first Smackdown in Boulder – a unique event where 13 companies pitched for people, instead of funding.  It was an un-job fair of sorts, turning the conventional sourcing process on its head.  It was a great event, 250+ people in attendance, almost 150 people on the wait list.  Had I known it was going to be that popular, we would have had it in a larger venue.

A consistent theme throughout the event was why work for a startup? – On paper, many people question why anyone would work for a startup.  In most instances, the pay is crappy, benefits are non-existent, hours are longer, stress is higher, the responsibility is greater, you’re frequently doing things outside your job description, and job security is transparently absent.  What is it about working for a startup that is so attractive?

Passion, and changing the world.

When you work at a startup, you get a chance to work along side people who are incredibly passionate about what they’re doing.  Imagine waking up every day and being excited about going to work, imagine loving what you do.  You love the product, you love the team, you love the customers.  You go in early and you leave late because you’re excited to be there – not because you have to be.  You love the people you work with, spending your little free time with them.  In my situation, it improved the relationship with my husband because I came home from work every day excited, talking about my day instead of complaining about it.  I was happy and it made him happy.  When you feel this way about your job, your work and your life become the same thing.  It’s wonderful.

But not only are you passionate about what you’re doing – you have a direct and measurable impact on the company.  You literally can change the world (or your world anyway) simply by raising your hand, stepping up, voicing your opinion, and executing.  You have the power to affect change, thus becoming an important if not critical part of the team.  I would challenge anyone claiming they don’t love feeling and being important.

I think the rest of it is tough.  I don’t believe there is any such thing as job security – at a startup, you can probably see the layoff coming and might even be able to change the outcome.  At a big company, some guy that doesn’t even know you or your impact decides whether you stay or go.  I personally love doing things outside my job description – it stretches my comfort zone, creating a more well-rounded me.  The non-existent benefits suck, but hey, you get equity.  And if that equity ever pays off, it might be worth WAY more than any benefit package.  Plus it makes you 100% responsible for your retirement destiny instead of false confidence in someone else saving for you.

So why work for a startup?  Because you want to love what you do and change the world.  The rest is just details…

Nicole Glaros
Chief Product Officer at Techstars. She’s been with Techstars since its early days in 2009, has run 8 programs and has close to 90 companies in her portfolio. Follow Nicole at www.nearlynicole.com