Acquihire vs. normal HF job after a startup failure
In the past, I worked in hedge funds / for 4 years (equity long short, global macro) after a 2-year stint in M&A. Afterwards, I took a risk and tried to start a company for 1.5 years with some success, but ultimately this was a failure. We raised a bunch of money, had 1,000s of customers and learned hard-won lessons, but at the end of the day we failed. I am in the process of shutting the company down and I have two options... and I wanted WSOs feedback on which option is better.
Option 1 is to liquidate the company then immediately find another job at a hedge fund or a prop trading firm right away. I have a lot of issues with the finance industry as a whole, the major benefit of this option is that I like being an analyst more than being an operator. Analyzing companies is sort of fun to me and I have a highly-valued skillset / career path (built through blood, sweat and tears) that I don't want to lose by being away from it for too long. The other benefit is that my pay would likely be $500-550K (which is likely more than what I would make with the other option) and that I'd continue down a lucrative career path. The story you'd say in a future interview in this case is something like "I tried this thing I cared about and failed while learning many lessons, but now I'm back to the HF industry with a fresh perspective of having been an operator / entrepreneur."
Option 2 is to be acqui-hired and work at the acquiror for 1 year, before (hopefully) finding a similar job at a hedge fund or prop trading firm. An acqui-hire is just getting a job at the acquiror with good terms - that's it. Even if it is pitched to the press / public as a "acquisition" - it's really just a job with a modestly larger signing bonus and equity package than normal. The benefit of this option is that I can point to press / news articles saying that I was acquired by a Series A venture backed startup with 30-50 employees for an "undisclosed sum" (the reality is the sum is laughably small but, like with many acqui-hires, others will not really know that) and became a Vice President (which is a real title at a startup unlike in finance) at the acquirer (which otherwise would be really unlikely for me to ever get in an operating non-finance-related company). After year 1 my total compensation with the "signing bonus" (which is sort of the acquisition premium being paid in this case) would be $400-450K cash and ~$300K in vested (though highly illiquid) stock. My year 2 comp would only be the $220K base (since the signing bonus does not recur). This is a massive pay package for a startup (which would be the appeal for most people), but its still less than I'd make if I went back to working in finance right away (especially in year 2). Like I said, I'd still want to work in finance after a year or so after joining the acquirer (and so perhaps I could pitch it as kind of like the PE associate that gets a year of operating experience at a PortCo to get operating experience, but with the added benefit of looking like I was sort of successful at it rather than a failure.)
What would you pick if you were me and why? Would it be an easy decision or no? What story would you tell intook the former vs later option? I get that these are TOTALLY different options from one perspective so it's an apples / oranges sort of situation. But over the long-run I would still plan to return to the finance industry either way - it's just a 3 year total detour in one option vs. a 2 year detour in the other.