Guest Post | Should you take the leap from BigCo to a Startup?

This week, Cintrifuse welcomes Guest Blogger, David Hollabaugh, to share his thoughts on #StartupCincy and the relationship it has with its BigCos in the ecosystem.

Hollabaugh is currently Co-Founder and CEO of TrekMarker a simple artificially intelligent tool that helps software creators better understand their end users needs. Hollabaugh has experience with launching and growing multiple startups in the area since leaving his Fortune 500 roots. In his free time, he changes his five-month old’s diaper and enjoys seeing his wife roll her eyes at his dad puns.

I was born and raised in the Midwest. My story involves persistence in saying “yes to Cincinnati” and not taking offers to leave for Japan, Austin, or another city. But saying “yes to Cincinnati” wasn’t one of my hardest decisions. The hardest decision of my professional career was choosing to leave one of Cincinnati’s Fortune 500 companies to pursue the world of entrepreneurship in #StartupCincy. Outside of proposing to my wife and having our beautiful little girl, this was still one of the best decisions of my life. But don’t let that fool you, the pain of this transition was incomparable.

Let’s start by addressing the BigCo in the room. As “cool” as working and starting your own company is, there are a lot of great benefits to working at a BigCo. First off, we all want to be them. If you are a startup building a business, then you one day only hope to be part of the minuscule percentages that become a P&G, Great American, Kroger, GE, or Macy’s. BigCo’s have also figured it out in terms of work-life balance and providing their employees with stability. There is nothing wrong with wanting to work 40 hours a week and spending your valuable time with family and friends. Many in the startup world still have very heated debates on the topic of the proper amount of work in a week.

So whether you work right now at a BigCo or are in a fast growing startup, let’s celebrate that we have so many successful Fortune 500 companies here in Cincinnati. This article is to open the conversation on what fits you best as an individual. It isn’t BigCo vs. NewCo in this city. We are about helping each other decide should an individual go from BigCo to NewCo, and if we make the leap, let’s work together to help them build the next BigCo.

Why is it called a leap? For most in this scenario, it is because you go from a bi-weekly paycheck to a sudden halt in incoming cash. There is no money being deposited into your account because your venture is too early for capital or substantial revenue. Then you raise money, but not a lot and get paid very little while trying to repair your bills and cash balance. You feel good about everything, as slow as the progress seems. Then the money runs out. Your company shutters. What do you do? Find a job at a BigCo? Or do you take another risk on another startup knowing you will statistically go through this cycle again?

If you answered the latter, then you are clinically insane – a true entrepreneur.

If you are 21 and leaving college, this lifestyle doesn’t sound that bad to you. Let’s be honest, most people in college live this way already. However, if you are older and have a family and kids, this seems much less appealing. These latter individuals though are often times the most successful entrepreneurs. They have just enough experience and are pursuing something they are passionate about, not simply because it is hip and the dress code is casual. These individuals that leave their stable jobs are the reason we call it a leap.

For anyone reading this article and is considering taking the leap, think about what words resonated with you in this article. Was it “balance” or “family and friends”? If so, don’t compromise those key values by taking this risk. Enjoy and embrace them every day. Not to say you can’t as an entrepreneur, but it is A LOT harder. Did the words “build” and “passion” compel you the most? If they did, then go build your passion and don’t let anything hold you back. As someone that took that leap, trust that Cincinnati is a community that will help you land on your feet.


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