Leaving an awesome startup for Big Co. Am I crazy?


I love working for my current company. The work is challenging and fun, the people are amazing, I've been given lots of opportunity, and it's just an overall great work environment.

The compensation is decent, I'd say. It's a slow and steady (but profitable) bootstrapped company, and a big exit is probably not in the cards, nor is a big raise (I've asked), even though I'm kicking ass.

But money isn't everything, right? I should do what makes me happy! That's what everyone says, but in reality, I don't think it's always possible, especially when you have a family to take care of.

My wife has a big, high-pressure corporate job. She's been slogging away for years so that our kids get the opportunities they deserve. Now I feel it's my turn to step up. I don't care if I have to work 80 hours per week writing FORTRAN at a hedge fund, if my wife can stay home and raise our kids, it'll be worth the pain.

So I guess my question is -- am I absolutely crazy for doing this? I definitely feel like a sellout, but I feel like my justification is valid.

Oh, and, does anyone know who pays the most in NYC?

Career Salary Compensation Large Companies

asked Jun 25 '11 at 12:28
16 points
  • I'm not sure what the consensus is on this; but I'm voting to close, as this is about your personal choices in life and your priorities, not startups at all. That said, one of my first bits of advice would be: Talk with your wife. – Jesper Mortensen 12 years ago
  • Although it is personal, I think it is an issue that would resonate with quite a number of people working on startups. If we close questions because they are too general and we close them because they are too personal, it is going to become difficult for people to find the balance and ask questions that are acceptable to the moderators. – Susan Jones 12 years ago
  • I think this belongs on programmers.stackexchange. – Johannes Rudolph 12 years ago

5 Answers


Now I feel it's my turn to step up. I don't care if I have to work 80 hours per week writing FORTRAN at a hedge fund, if my wife can stay home and raise our kids, it'll be worth the pain.

So your wife had been doing the financial heavy lifting for years so you could do something that was important to you personally. And now you want to volunteer to do the financial heavy lifting so she can do something that's important to her personally.

Brother, I'd like to shake your hand and buy you a drink. Actually, if I had your phone number, I'd call you and set the time and place.

Not only is life as an adult not about money, it's also not about having fun. It's about having balance among those, and your family, and everything else in your life, and being a decent moral person.

When you're lying on your deathbed, looking back over your life, which course of action do you think you'd be happier about taking? I'm guessing it will be having your wife stay home, enjoy time with the kids, and having them grow up with the values you and she share.

Later, when your kids are on their own, there will be time for another startup - but the window for you and your wife to spend time with your kids is much more limited.

answered Jun 26 '11 at 07:11
Bob Murphy
2,614 points
  • Amen to that. You might find another way than the Big Co, but stepping up for your family is something that IMHO counts as the "more important than money". – P L 12 years ago


Money is not everything. You don't know if you are dead tomorrow. You don't know if you live the next 5, 10, 20, 50 years (I wish you all the best for a long healthy life). You simply don't know if you become sick or not. Ignoring resurrection, you live now and will die afterwards. There is no magic around it. It is a fact.

Even at the time of your death, when your wife sits next to your bed, you will die alone. Nobody can go with you this last step. When you understood that you die alone, you can make your decisions.

What do you want to do with your life?

Nobody can tell you.

I just know one thing for sure: money makes you well fed, but not necessary happy. You can live poor and happy. You can live rich and unhappy.

What makes you happy?

Do you want that your children can raise with their mom onsite? Then you need to do the according job.

Do you want to make career? Ask you, for whom are you doing that? What is the final outcome? Should people say:"this was a hardworking man, until he got the heart attack. Well, no lets hear the applicant".

There is nothing you really need to reach. Probably you just need to live. While your boss will thank you for the hard work, he will fire you the next day when you have a burn out. If you read a story each night for your kids, your kids will remind this even when they are aged themselves.

Your question is not easy to answer.

I left my well paid job to create my startup with no income (at the moment - hope to change later :-)). I have no idea abou the future. But I can work in my own office and every lunch I meet my wife. When there is something wrong with the horses I can go off in the middle of the day looking for them. Nobody can pay me that in dollars.

When my startup doesn't work out, I will do something else. I guess you will find another job again if the huge company is not to your liking anymore. We are never speaking of "for ever". Lets speak about "now".

So, the answer is: you must know it of your own. You are for sure not insane. Others (like me) did something similar. Everybody thought I am insane because i left the company. But who care what "everybody" is thinking?

I can recommend you the following: sit down, shut up and think about what would YOU do when you can freely decide. I mean independent from your wife, work, rest of the family. Then you know what you want.

And if that doesn't help, I can recommend you some books about Zen ;-)

Long story - I hope it didn't bore you to much and is finally of a bit help. Good luck!


PS: some ancient asian wise man said: you must make a decision within breathing 7 times (freely translated). I always thought this is a pretty fine rule.

answered Jun 25 '11 at 16:02
3,590 points


yes money is not everything.on the other hand you also need money. the question is how much and need to know when and where to stop.so sit down with your wife and discuss about wealth and take advantage of the situation.

answered Jun 25 '11 at 14:48
1 point


Why you think you cn not have a nice job as a contractor in a bigger business AND have fun? Start looking. I moved to a contrating job nearly a year ago (that will take another year) that is VERY well paid, VERY interesting and for a small 1500 people subsidiary of a 100.000 people company (so, yes, it is large, it is enterprise, they also made in one year a third of the comglomerates profits). I do databae related work there, and no startup can afford a cluster of database servers where each costs us more than a house ;)

So, the question is not whether you should move big corp, but whether you find something that that challenges you and that you like. Not all corp jobs are creaping boring. I never had so much fun in 20 years and worked with such a great team as there ;) No joke.

answered Jun 25 '11 at 20:26
Net Tecture
11 points


I'll take 2/3rds salary for a great place to work any day of the week. High paying crappy jobs abound here in Silicon Valley whereas great companies to work at where the job is rewarding and the people are great are few and far between.

You'll be doing yourself, your wife, and your new employer a dis-service if you take a job you know you won't like just for the money. You'll be unhappy, you'll take that unhappiness home, and your employer won't like you much either. Happy and fulfilled employees kick-ass whereas unhappy employees drag the rest of the team down.

If you're not happy with your pay, you should be looking for a great place to work that is willing to pay you what you're worth.

A big corporation does not necessarily equal an unsatisfying job with terrible work life balance, it depends on the company. Likewise, a big corporation does not necessarily equal big pay, again it depends on the company.

answered Jun 27 '11 at 02:33
Todd H
196 points

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