This article is written by, Lewis Krell, a Canadian ex-pat currently stealing jobs from hard working Americans. In his spare time, Lewis enjoys planning trips on Utrip, allocating capital to its most productive use and dispensing advice despite being severely under-qualified to do so.
I believe that entrepreneurship and capitalism are two of the most positive forces on the planet. I believe that Shark Tank is one of the best shows on television. I also believe that too many bright, entrepreneurial minds are currently working in finance, accounting and consulting because they have narrowly defined views of what being an entrepreneur can be. The reality is that we can’t all be founders and CEO’s but one can be extremely entrepreneurial without being the entrepreneur.
After working for five years at an established, traditional Investment Consulting firm, I decided to pack my bags and join a promising travel technology start-up, Utrip, as the Director of Business Development. Despite my affinity for entrepreneurship, I didn’t leave my corporate confines to start up my own venture, but rather, I left to work directly under the guy who left his own corporate prison to start a successful company. I think of myself as a modern day ‘Hand of the King’.
There is no industry that suffers more from survivorship bias then entrepreneurship and it shows due to the plethora of articles about quitting your job to become an entrepreneur. If you are lucky enough to write an article giving advice about why you should start your own company that means one of two things:
• Your journey has just begun so success nor failure has happened yet
• Things have gone, at the very least, moderately well for you
You seldom see the article about people who tried and failed to make it on their own and then went back to their old careers. Failed entrepreneurs are much more common than successful ones and you can be sure that they are much less likely to write advice columns. I mention this because I find that the connective tissue of all stories about cubicle jockeys working for a big company daydreaming of making it on their own is exactly that – they go out on their own.
This can be a dangerous thought. Not everyone is meant to be a CEO and even if you are meant to be a CEO and start your own business, maybe the time isn’t right for you right now. Too many people get discouraged from leaving their traditional jobs because they think the path you have to take is to go ahead alone, or at most, with a cofounder, and start your own venture. Too many people equate entrepreneurship with being the founder of a new company.
Many would-be entrepreneurs stay in their comfy 9-5’s because they don’t think they have found the idea yet. The billion dollar idea that will lead you to a life of yacht parties and space exploration if you’re a fun person, or bequeathing millions to your pets and having your mistress record your horribly racist opinions if you are a terrible person. However, as the morbid expression goes:
There are many ways to skin a cat and there are also many ways to be entrepreneurial.
So what’s it like going from Finance to the Startup world? It’s not for everyone but for me it is a great fit. I find it liberating and not only because I really enjoy not shaving. To work for a company that you truly are passionate about, and where your success is perfectly aligned with the company’s success, more than makes up for the fact that I’m pretty sure our office furniture was purchased at a prison auction. Although it’s great having no websites blocked at work and I certainly am saving money on dry-cleaning bills, the thing I enjoy the most is that my impact on the company is tangible.
Every phone call I make can lead to something good for the company as opposed to my old firm where I was just another handsome, young cog in a well-oiled machine. A cog that worked to make the older, richer cogs in the machine… even richer. Please note that this arrangement doesn’t bother me. Those old, rich cogs worked hard to build the machine I was lucky enough to work in but I didn’t want to wait 15 years to become one of them. I knew the moment I handed in my resignation letter that the wheels were already turning to replace me. In a short period of time things would be running along smoothly again, just as they had before I got there, and just as they will long after I’m gone.
They say – if you don’t want your boss’s job then you are in the wrong job. Although I wouldn’t have minded my boss’ paycheck or his ability to delegate work, I never once wanted his job. I knew I didn’t want to get too comfortable where I was and forsake my entrepreneurial inclination. Luckily, I had a great work/life balance so I was able to spend time exploring some of my ideas further. I filed for patents and I had prototypes built, but I never actually made the leap to fully commit myself to any of these endeavors.
The opportunity to work for Utrip presented itself mainly because some of the ideas and thoughts I had while working meshed with what the company was creating. I was able to pitch ideas to the CEO I never would have had if I tried to start my own venture years before. By being patient and realistic I was able to find a great opportunity to see some of my ideas come to life, and to finally take the plunge to become an entrepreneur.
It’s important to note that I have no illusions about my role in the company. I get to work on and help with some of the most exciting parts of being an entrepreneur like fundraising, product discussions, strategy discussions, hiring and of course, selling. Having said that, my sweat and tears (and minimal blood) that will go into this business – if it’s successful as we hope – will never be on the same level as Utrip’s CEO, Gilad Berenstein. Gilad started Utrip at age 23 and as much as I thought I would make a kick-ass CEO at age 23, the reality is that I was probably not mature, motivated or sober enough to be running a company where people’s livelihoods depended on me.
Not jumping half-heartedly into trying to start my own venture, as I almost did, was one of the best decisions of my life. Every day I come to work and find creative solutions to solving problems as I attempt to turn our wonderful product, Utrip, into a market-leading business. My life is very entrepreneurial, but I am not the entrepreneur. And I couldn’t be happier with the arrangement.