Should I join a startup or go to Amazon?


I have a two job offers:

  1. Amazon - Merchandising Specialist. I would be working with vendors, managing inventory and analysis of sales, and marketing the products.
  2. Ecommerce Startup - I would be the head Business Analyst for internal tools. I would design all internal tools and processes and work with developers to create them.

I am wary about the startup since they have been live for 3 months and have only been making $100K revenue in contrast to their $550K spend rate. It's a shopping site, with growing number of users, but sales haven't soared.

Eventually I would like to be a Product Manager. Amazon said this is an option for the next step in my career there, but it also looks like I would get great experience with this at the startup.

Any help or insight into either situation would be great!

Ecommerce Career

asked Jun 9 '11 at 21:59
11 points
  • Thanks everyone for your input. It was a hard, long decision, but I decided to decline Amazon purely, since it's across the country from my entire family and friends and it wasn't a move I could make just now. I only wish it was closer to NYC. Still debating about the startup or staying at my current job until I find something else. Any suggestions at other companies in nyc to look at? – Liss 13 years ago
  • If you have another question, post it, though unless the question is about startups in NYC, or starting one - the general question of finding work in NYC would be off topic. Also, I still stand by my advice that you should have taken the Amazon offer, though understand the decision based on the limited information you're provided. Good luck! – Blunders . 13 years ago
  • For future reference, a little more background would be helpful with such a question. If for example you are fresh out of university, then going with an established business is a good way to build your expertise and learn new skills, but if you have already established, then maybe a start-up would be a better way to develop. It would also help to know about your aspirations - do you want to be a career person, or do you have some entrepreneurial pangs for the longer-term, as this would influence the best place to put yourself next. – Steve Wilkinson 13 years ago

7 Answers


Amazon. Here's why, the "great experience" is working with vendors, managing inventory and analysis of sales, and marketing the products. This applies to way more companies, and regardless of your career path will be more relevant. Second, the very nature in which the question is presented is at best subjective, meaning any answer you get will be just someone's point of view on two "vague" opportunities without much context to the player being deployed to them. Again, take Amazon 's offer, or find a better way to present who you are, and how that relates to the opportunities at hand. (All my opinion, but also would not share it unless I thought it'd make a difference to you.)

answered Jun 9 '11 at 22:56
Blunders .
899 points
  • i can not stress this enough - AMAZON. in your comparison, i see no advantage (except very short term) in not going with amazon, while the risk is high. also you can always reapply after you learn the ropes of AMAZON and they would be crazy not to take you after AMAZON. :) – B0x0rz 13 years ago


It sounds like you haven't already been a successful product manager. If so, you have two choices:

  • Learn about the field from people who are already successful at it, and grow into the job with mentorship: go to Amazon.
  • Figure it out from ground zero, make a lot of blunders, and learn the hard way what does and doesn't work: go to the startup.

Doing the ground zero thing is great if you're doing something nobody's ever done before. But if somebody's already done something successfully, and you can learn from them, dismissing that opportunity is foolish. For instance, some friends and I started an independent Mailboxes Etc. type store, with absolutely no experience, and wound up closing it after several years and losing hundreds of thousands of dollars. We would have all been far better off getting part-time gigs working at private postal/shipping stores first.

After you already know how to succeed in the field, that's when to branch out and innovate at a startup - you'll have a much higher chance of making good decisions that lead to positive results. Otherwise, you can wind up thinking you've invented something really nifty, when you're just treading the same path of failure that many others have trod before.

answered Jun 10 '11 at 06:35
Bob Murphy
2,614 points


It depends. If you want a nice stable career path that will make your resume look great, then go for Amazon. If you want the chance at being a big-shot in a rapidly growing company where there is a possibility of reaping the rewards of it being successful in 5 years, go for the startup. There is no reason the startup shouldn't look good on your resume either.

Both of them will offer you a great set of experiences. Amazon will give you an insight into how a giant is run and could be a springboard to a bigger and better job in the future.

The startup will allow you to get involved with company strategy and you will get a chance to contribute to the success of a company. If the startup is offering stock options, these could be lucrative - depending on whether you think this company has the potential to make it big.

A startup that has made $100k in revenue in three months is pretty good. Check how much cash they have as you've mentioned they are burning through it - ask questions around how the company is going to be funded until it breaks even. Find out what they are spending the cash on - are they one-off expenses? Is there a forecast? What is the attitude of the founders and existing employees - are they passionate and driven? If not, I'd steer clear.

answered Jun 9 '11 at 23:07
2,333 points


I am assuming based on your profile and question that you are in a relatively early stage of your career. That impacts my answer.

"A bird in the hand is worth two in the bush."

If you are truly considering the two -- then I would go with Amazon. Your goal of being a product manager could be very nicely met under the guidance of one of the Internet's great companies.

When you decide it is time to get that entrepreneurial need fed-- you will have significant industry and business experience to command a better influence/price/equity with a startup. You may also have greater financial reserves. (Yes, you will probably have great expenses then too)

If you have to go with the start up here are some critical things to consider:

  • Do you know and like these people so well you want to pull 15 hours days with them?
  • Would you shop there? Do you? If not why not?
  • $100k/month isn't bad -- but has it peaked?
  • Do you believe that it can grow to cover the debt it has incurred?

Good luck with your choice!

answered Jun 10 '11 at 05:03
Joseph Barisonzi
12,141 points


Only 1 in 100 startups are successful. I'd go to Amazon.

answered Jun 12 '11 at 12:14
1,471 points


The startup is a good choice. I am surprised to see so many people say "Go for the Amazon job." I think they are fantastic company, and it's not a bad move. Just a little too safe for "OnStartups" crowd I would have thought.

I played "Startup Bingo" for several years before taking a job a Microsoft. I never struck it rich, like some of my friends. Still, I wouldn't reverse the order for anything. My experiences at the multitude of companies has served me very well.

There is nothing wrong with starting at a big company out of the gate. However, if you think you might one day want to start a company, you are going to want to work for some startups while your thinking is still flexible and your risk tolerance is still high. I know people who have worked for 10-15 years at Microsoft and don't know anything else. Even if they wanted to strike out on their own, they wouldn't know how to operate outside the cocoon of a big company. They are also addicted to their salaries and benefits and have low tolerance for risk now. They don't know what's good about big companies and what's wrong with them. It's all they really know.

The people that I knew that came to the company after some startup experiences were a lot better able to filter the good stuff from the "kool-aid". Some of the best people here came from startups that failed.

When you are starting up and have a high risk tolerance is a good time to join risky startups. Just be prepared to be part of some failures. You learn so much from watching companies implode. The education was worth all the missed paychecks and worthless stock options for me.

answered Jun 14 '11 at 08:00
Dustin Andrews
136 points


If you already don't have any big corporate experience, then Amazon might be a good choice. If you select startup, you are going to honing your entrepreneur skills.

answered Jun 14 '11 at 08:06
45 points

Your Answer

  • Bold
  • Italic
  • • Bullets
  • 1. Numbers
  • Quote
Not the answer you're looking for? Ask your own question or browse other questions in these topics:

Ecommerce Career