If you had a choice between taking a stable, well-paying job that would allow you to travel the world and founding a company that might well go out of business shortly after its founding, which would you choose?
For a time, two-time entrepreneur and Upfront Ventures partner Mark Suster chose the former. He worked as a strategy consultant — a job he described as “soulless” multiple times throughout tonight’s PandoMonthly event — and was able to travel around the world because of it. But when he speaks on college campuses he tells students that waiting until he was 31 to found a company is his biggest regret.
“I did companies in high school. I feel like I had this entrepreneurial spirit,” Suster says. He lost that when he accepted the consulting job, which he took largely because he wanted to “live life unencumbered” and experience the world. The appeal of traveling the world and living without worrying too much about money proved to be more powerful than the drive he had in high school.
Eventually, though, the desire to build a company reached its peak. The only problem was that Suster decided to stick with his consulting job a bit too long, rather than jumping ship to found his first tech startup.
“Every year there was just more and more money thrown at me, and it became harder and harder to leave,” he says. “I don’t want to say that I had golden handcuffs, but that’s what it was.”
Instead of leaving consulting when he was 27, then, Suster waited until he was 31. So now he tells college students that they’re better off founding a company than taking the stable job, even though he did the opposite far longer than he would have liked.
“I feel like if you’re gonna try [to do a startup], if you’re young and you have the ambition — and it’s not for everybody — then you might as well try,” he says. “You have nothing to lose.”
Put another way: do as Suster says, not as Suster did.
[Photo by Rebecca Aranda for Pandodaily]