Am I insane? (NEED ADVICE)

Background: I just graduated from college and after interning last summer in NYC at a boutique bank (not a big name, but big in their niche, (tech)) I got a return offer and accepted it. 

This past fall I started working on a start-up with one of my friends at school and it has gotten 1000x more traction than I could have ever imagined. We have started to see some massive success with it, (B2B fintech software solution), have signed one major corporate player in the U.S. on an LOI and now are waiting for our software to be completed to roll it out so we can go to market with it. 

I am supposed to start my banking job FT on June 10th and am at an absolute loss at what to do, on the one hand if I go the banking route, I know for a fact I will have job security, 0 risk and make over 115K my first year out of college as a 21 year old which is amazing.


On the other hand, we have started pitching to VCs that are extremely excited about our product offering and I am confident our revenue in the first year will more than double what I would make at my bank. But of course, 9/10 startups fail so a year from now I could be sitting here asking myself what the fuck I was thinking with $0 in my account.

We have $0 in revenue so far and only letters of intent

 My cofounder is an Ivy league CS guy who is going to pursue this full time and I dont know how I can support the venture if I am working FT IB, he is adamant that if I start my banking job he is going to find another co-founder.


I am not an idiot, I know this could be the worst mistake of my life, but at the same time, what successful founder didn't take a massive risk to get there? When I think about what I want in life it is working for myself, putting in 100 hours/ week for myself sounds a lot better than for my MD. 

Every tech. startup person I have spoken to has told me to go all in on the startup and every banker i have talked to has told me I have to go into banking. 


I am torn between what would feel worse: sitting at my computer, miserable at my job reading about my co-founder making it big and exiting an idea that was once ours and sitting at my house 2 years from now with 0$ in the bank and wondering what I was thinking. 


My questions are:

  1. For long-time bankers: when you first got in did you think you would ever pursue something entrepreneurial? Why didn't you ever do it? 

  2. My thought process behind not starting is that I could just say I didn't get a job out of college as the market was brutal and I think this looks better than me working IB for 2-8 months before leaving to go after my start-up, thoughts on this? 

  3. How will future employers look at my resume if I am a failed founder? Will I ever be able to get a job in banking? 

  4. What is the minimum amount I need to stay so that I have the "investment banker stamp" on my resume?

  5. Am I fucking insane?

  6. What the fuck should I do??

I also know I will never ever be able to take the risk I can take today. I will never be able to just say fuck it and go all in on something like this.

I know you can easily meme me in the comments and tell me I am a dumb ass for even considering not taking the job but please just give me advice, if you read this long thank you!


*UPDATE: I have 60% equity

Start up or IB

Start the job as expected
6% (33 votes)
Go all in on the start up
71% (389 votes)
wait 6 months, save some money and then go all in
23% (124 votes)
Total votes: 546
 

If it’s me, do your startup 100%. Life is way too short to not take risks. If you’re smart enough to get into banking in the first place + have a legit startup then there will always be high paying jobs you can get if it doesn’t work out.

 

1. you don't need to be very smart to get into banking. what you need is to learn about banking, banking recruiting process, and banking interviews and how to prepare for them when you're 18. if you miss the timing, you will be auto-rejected no matter how smart you are. I've met a lot of smart people who focused on classes and only learned about banking and prepared for banking interviews in their junior or senior year and they just didn't get any interviews cause banks think they missed the train.

2. life is too short to take risks. you'll spend 5 years after college on a start up that doesn't work out and you'll end up with no money, no job, and no opportunities.

3. IB, PE, HF will not give you an interview if you are multiple years out of college and have no relevant work experience other than a failed business attempt. not sure what other high paying jobs you have in mind.

 

This is simply not true, I have multiple friends who got into IB at the age of 30. It has a lot more to do with why and not the nominal number itself.

I didn’t goto IB right away because of XYZ.

If XYZ is a thorough answer that shows you learned from it (military, business ventures, other finance jobs) then you will have a good chance getting into IB later as well.

 

Bump

I have no qualification to help you. Sounds like you have a real life decision on your hands, good luck! My intuition says go with your startup, but if cooperating with your cofounder is possible to allow you to work for a couple months to create financial stability for yourself, and perhaps some cash for the startup, that may be best.

 

Try to defer the FT start date by a year to see if the start-up works out?

 
Most Helpful

Go for it - if you're going to fail, fail while you're young and unattached, not when you're 40, have a wife, kids and a mortgage

Worst case you wash out here, get a normal job and figure out next steps.

Best case, you do something real and it's a springboard.

I wouldn't try to moonlight, you'll end up killing yourself.

To add - I never went for it because I was poor and didn't feel comfortable with the risk. I also never had a supportable idea. I'd love to try something with a start up but I wouldn't feel comfortable asking my family to take on that risk.

As far as work, I'd jump into the start up - who cares if you were an investment banker? If you need to re-interview, say you got the offer but decided to pursue a passion. It didn't work because of X,Y,Z, I learned X,Y,Z and I think it'll be helpful in this new role because of X,Y,Z.

A lot if people might shit on it, but the right people will recognize that you took a risk and shit happens. You might even move up the curve faster by actually doing it with real risk. 

 

you’re completely wrong here Kevin. I am 30 yo, at a single manager HF, close to $2m in liquid assets. Have worked in banking/pe before and have hired a number of people. I would not hire you just given your repeated posts clear lack of reflection/willing to consider counter arguments. You must be terrible to work with. 

There would be no aversion towards hiring someone who attempted to start a business and failed. In fact I’d view this as a major positive. My opinion on this isn’t idiosyncratic: just six months ago I recently hired someone who failed spectacularly in a startup after quitting banking (he was only in banking seat for a year before quitting), with the full support of seniors at my firm.

That said, even if the startup for whatever reason foreclosed OPs ability to join banking/pe/consulting (though again, I disagree with this premise strenuously), there are hundreds if not thousands of ways to make similar money in other fields via grad school. For example he could go to medical school, law school, dental school, get an mba focusing on real estate like the program at Columbia, etc

 

You mean they don't have 100% acceptance rate into H/S and bitch and moan about it constantly. Plenty of people get into the top programs from all sorts of backgrounds, including the startup world. Being a founder is more differentiating than being PE kid #123 in the applicant pool too. IB feeder programs (which include more accessible schools than H/S) place people of all backgrounds into IB, including vets and TFA.

 

Yikes - lots of projecting here and not sure why so hostile. MBAs typically bring 3-8 years of work experience. This person already has an investment banking internship, will be a founder, and has plenty of time to fill out an intriguing profile including stops in corporate America should the startup lose steam. That’s differentiated. You may not realize it, but if someone’s first job doesn’t work out, they don’t just fall into a black hole and die.

There are plenty of MBA programs with well defined IB feeder systems (take your pick in the top ~15-20). If that is not attainable, then banking is probably not a fit anyway. But this person seems very capable.

 

Not necessarily true in PE but the only people applying to an MBA from any decent hedge fund are guys who failed at their hedge fund. If you do well at a hedge fund you are continually paid more and more, though their can be a ceiling at certain single managers. This point in MBAs wasn’t true historically but MBAs just aren’t common anymore among young-ish HF guys (senior analysts or newer PMs in their early 30s).

 

I’m really confused.

You are a true founder and have 60% equity, yet your co-founder has the power to fire you? And take all the IP with him?

What kind of friend is this that he can’t give you a chance to juggle both the job and the start up?

 

Lot of gd points, and kind of echoing here in a couple of parts..

If you're gonna do start-up, go all the way or not at all (for several reasons, most important IMO is so that you can retain max equity - not wanting that to be a topic of conversation when you decide to shift back to the start-up along with giving yourself the best possible chance for success, and moonlighting as mentioned just too much on your plate at one time).

You also have to see if VC's are real about offers or just blowing smoke in some way - just saying, are those term sheets real and will be executed and as outlined.  It's this along with understanding market adoption rates, methods for finding customers and methods for generating MRR.

Generally, I'm of the opinion it's better to bootstrap as much as you can and push that seed round as late as possible to a point in time that an investment can create a substantial impact (obv depends on market dynamics, if you have to make the push early and need the backing, then so be it).

Go for it.  As mentioned corporate america isn't going anywhere and if you have a great story to tell with some moderate success and end up back in corporate, thinking that it shouldn't effect you much / would actually in some ways set you apart.  Best of luck!

 

1. Try to ask your bank to defer for a year. Not sure what works these days, but I know people who have done it for example to pursue professional sports or acting. 
 

2. Do it anyways, even if the above isn’t an option. You will not be dinged for a failed start up as long as you can speak to the opportunity and why. Doing it while you are young is ideal. The opportunity cost is way lower. I spent 10 years in IB before I left to found a company, which fortunately worked out. Leaving a $750k job with kid(s) on the way is a lot harder than doing it straight from college. 

 

the answers in this thread are from bankers. vast majority of them got into banking from traditional path from college or MBA internships converted into full-time. in reality, if you don't get into banking now, you'll not have a chance later, cause banks have very strict recruiting rules. banking is a clear path to fat guaranteed checks.

on the other hand, you can try your hand in business any time you want. it's much easier to do when you have savings and won't end up homeless if your business fails and you can't get your previous job back.

in the business world you'll be competing against everybody, cause there are no boundaries to starting a business. whereas in banking you'll be competing only against those who knew about banking recruiting process and prepared for banking interviews during their freshman-sophomore year. these people are not necessarily smart or anything, they just happened to know about banking early. a lot of them will burn out or jump ship to PE or some chill corp fin job.

 

It can work the other way around too. In banking you're competing against extremely high achieving people following a conventional path in life. In startups, you're competing against all sorts of people, some of whom are high achieving and some who had no choice but to start a business because they couldn't hack it in a traditional career.

 

people who have no choice, whose livelihood only depends on their ability to build a business, may represent fiercer competition than people who have a lot of choices and can drop out of competition any time they want. in addition, among people who have no choice there are plenty of people who are very smart and hard-working. and overall, if you can't handle IB, you can drop out into corp fin or something. while if you wasted a lot of time and money of a failed business attempt, it will be tough to find a decent job.

 

If you seriously believe in your idea, try to defer. If they decline, I'd take banking over start-up. But that's the risk-averse me talking.

And note: your cofounder is taking his FT position? Bad sign... would think twice if this will work for you.

 

Like others mentioned, make sure the equity is ironclad on paper first.

Here are my two cents as a neutral party - someone not from ib or startups, but I am surrounded by both parties in my friend groups and professional network. Based on my observations from my peers from my undergrad and mba program, it is much easier to recruit back into banking versus hot startups/VC. It’s not that hard for people who have worked at startups that have blown up to get into M7 mba programs and recruit as an ib associate, this was the exact pipeline for many of my classmates. Even if their startup failed, M7 schools (including Stanford) still took them as long as they had an interesting story to tell.  On the flip side, if you decide to go with IB, once the ship has sailed for that startup, you missed your opportunity. And since there’s no formal recruiting pipelines for startups, you’ll only have your personal network to go off of, and who knows if another startup opportunity like this will fall onto your lap.

 

Also, if you decide to go with the Ib job instead, is your co-founder friend looking for more employees lol. Have consulting experience and currently a second year at my mba program rn. Also willing to work part-time during my school semester, not trying to go back into consulting. I already completed my core classes and have a high gpa, so I could slack off, take on work projects, and not show up to any classes for my last semesters and still pass.

 

so... as an ex-banker turned founder who has raised from VCs... I have some thoughts.

You're probably 22 (ish) so you're going to need some amount of salary soon unless you have a massive trust fund (if so good for you and wtf are you doing banking). You have a gap risk problem with this VC funding. "Really excited about our product" is awesome, but the current pre-revenue startup fundraising market hasn't totally recovered and VCs can be a slow to properly commit money. Ideally you want term sheets signed and cash on the way before you quit this job. If you have that, and you know you have >12 months of runway to hit these revenue targets, you materially de-risk this venture for yourself. Work that requirement for securing funding into the conversation with your cofounder. It's reasonable. It may even be something you can use to put a bit of timing pressure on the VCs you're speaking with. 

But to play devil's advocate, the money you get from a few years in banking can provide the freedom you need to improve the odds of success with any startup you found in the future. The question you need to ask is whether this is THE startup, or just a startup.  

Whatever you decide, good luck!

 

This is a cliche answer but truly only you can answer these questions because we don’t know the product. We look at all the billionaires in the world and a common answer they give is that they had to believe and trust the product before anyone else did because no one knew the capabilities. So I would change your approach to the following.

1. Is the product a true need that will last more than 5 years?
2. Will/when will it make a profit, how will I survive till that point.
3. How important am I to this project considering my partner is getting ready to dump me. Does this importance secure me to the project?
4. What is my point of entry and when do I get out or do I ever get out?
5. What other hoops am I going to have to jump through to make it worth it ( I promise you this won’t be the last one).

Really the goal isn’t to question whether you should pursue your venture but more if it’s worth it. What’s the equity in it for youuuu. There’s a million of these, when I started my business I had a notebook that I kept all my questions and answers and I probably filled out about 100 pages worth lol it’s a lot to think about but we can’t answer this question for you. You’re officially at your first cross road. Good luck! lol

 

Personally, I don’t think anyone can answer this question for you without getting explicit detail on your startup. You’re investing in this company with your time and opportunity cost from IB, so I won’t give you an investment recommendation with little info.

What I would ask you is if you could do both until revenue comes in? Sounds like you’re not on the dev side so not sure why it would matter

 

One thing to think about is founder dynamic. If your cofounder is a guy who’s willing to drop you for not pursuing this full time (the risk of this failing is very real as with all startups), do you really want to be starting a startup with no backup plan with them?

 

Know a bit about raising capital for early stage companies (source: work at a boutique that does a lot of those transactions). For the love of god, TAKE THE BANKING OFFER!

Even with one or several LOIs, that doesn’t guarantee anything revenue-wise. So, in the eyes of VCs, you’re still pre-revenue, haven’t raised a dime in the past, and have zero FT experience running startups or even working in business. In this fundraising environment, especially, you’re at a major disadvantage. This isn’t 2021 anymore. VCs are very picky past initial meetings nowadays. I’ve seen VCs show a huge amount of enthusiasm in a company only to see everything fall apart during DD. PM me if you want more specific examples of what I mean.

After doing these types of transactions for nearly two years, in my opinion, if you go forward with the startup, there’s a very real chance you walk away with no funding. If you take the banking job and shelve the plan to work at a startup, however, you’ll at least have some FT experience under your belt and can always go back there or another startup after 2-3 years.

My bad if this may seem harsh but I’m only trying to help.

 

The banking jobs will always be here. It’ll run with or without you in the system. You’ll be as memorable Patrick Bateman is.

Which path do you think you’ll regret more if you didn’t take it?

Which path do you think you see yourself not only benefitting more from financially, but have a real shot at changing a small part of the world for the better?

Which path aligns more with who you are as a person?

I think you already know the answer.

 

The banking job won't actually always be there because if he passes up now he won't have an entry route unless he spends a lot of money ona target masters or MBA

 

MD in banking here.

Take the startup opportunity. It’s most likely going to fail (statistically speaking) but who cares. Even if it does, you’ll learn things valuable to you for the rest of your life. There are so many paths back to banking or corporate life, you just have to network a bit. I will tell you this - if I saw a candidate with sufficient academic credentials and an experience building a failed startup vs the perfect banking CV, I hire the former any day. 

 

BB AN here, take the startup. IB isn’t going anywhere and the relative upside of the startup (experience, risk, comp, network, qualitative skills, etc) while knowing you can fall back on IB is meaningful. IB can be pretty soul crushing and it’s clear you are personally engaged in the work here. Set an intentional plan (1 year and reassess, how much money going in etc) and rip it. Corporate America will unfortunately always be there for you but this opportunity with relatively zero life responsibilities outside of work won’t be

 

DO THE STARTUP. You have an opportunity to do something extremely cool and imo do not have anything to lose from a learning and experience perspective. If the startup doesn’t work out even after multiple years, you will be able to be at least a post MBA associate and will be fine. With the picking up success and a smart cofounder I don’t see why you’d be like us and be a banker to start.

 

Do the start-up. Good advice on this thread but I think worth mentioning that even IF you fail, and have $0 in your bank account at the end of it all and it goes belly up - you will have learnt and worked with so many individuals that your personal growth will be 2 steps ahead. Also worth mentioning that, if ever, you do get an idea that you think is the 'next big thing' - you will know where to tread your feet and find your footing and avoiding the mistakes people make when doing a start-up for the first-time. 

Make the mistakes, screw up your pitches to VC's - but at the end of it all, you will know how to do everything.

 

I also suggest you do the startup. A million students have gone the conventional route of IB->PE, so being the million and first person to do this won't help you find unique opportunities in this world. In the best case scenario, the startup takes off and you make out like a bandit. In the worst case, it fails but you learn a lot and pivot to another startup or go back into IB after an MBA.

 

A lot of young people here are giving poor advice. You have a pretty solid call option here and there’s a right risk adjusted way to play it.

-Go to the IB job for 9 months - 1 year and come back to the startup if it keeps growing. Keep in touch with your co-founder and accept that you will accept some dilution. The reality is if the startup is continuing to grow, you coming back will be welcomed and appreciated, you also will add experience and credibility that you can use to help the startup scale further. Capital markets are pretty bad right now and there is a huge difference between committed capital and funding and “good prospects”. Hell, there’s even a difference between seed funding and having a sustainable path to cash flow positivity and a path to future funding.

People talking about “taking risk when young” just aren’t thinking about the optionality and training a banking job out of school provides.

Doing even 9 months of IB will allow you to go about anywhere riding off that experience. If you ever want to come back to a more stable job, it will be much harder coming from startup exclusive background and might require you to get an MBA to rebrand and that in turn could majorly set back financial goals you have for yourself.

The IB experience will help you and your friend be better ceos and make better decisions and will give you way more career flexibility and credibility.

 

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