Start-up vs Commodities Trading

eicps's picture
Rank: Chimp | 7

I've got some decisions to make in the next few days and I'd love to hear your thoughts just to see if I've missed any lines of reasoning.

I have an offer for a trainee program at one of the major commodities trading houses (Glencore/Traf/etc). 6 months ago this was hands down my dream job and I fought hard to get it. It's a non-US placement so the chance to travel is a big plus. Unfortunately, I'm having a hard time sizing up my chances of actually making it to a trading position a few years in so input on this would also be welcome.

At the same time, my start-up is finally starting to take off and we just wrapped up a sizable seed round. The start-up is in a a consolidated industry that is very competitive and somewhat insular. We're getting some great attention and if we don't totally fumble it I could see an acquisition exit within a couple of years.

I'm having trouble shaking the idea that the former is a once in a lifetime opportunity whereas I can always build another start-up.

Posting from an anonymous username. There are a lot of posters on here that I respect and I'd really appreciate any advice. There's way too much hype around startups and too little respect for trading in my peer/mentor network.

Comments (9)

Jun 19, 2013

I'd say go with the startup. You won't have the time to do both if you accept either one, I can guarantee you that.

The HBS guys have MAD SWAGGER. They frequently wear their class jackets to boston bars, strutting and acting like they own the joint. They just ooze success, confidence, swagger, basically attributes of alpha males.

Jun 19, 2013

glencore. although i wouldnt have taken the seed round if i knew this was a possibility, my ethics head says startup out of principle, but my risk vs. reward hat says glencore.

Jun 19, 2013

Thanks so far guys. I should probably clarify and say that I also have a co-founder and we're currently trying to hire more people so the startup will go on. If I leave I will be taking a big equity cut because I believe in founder vesting but will still hold some stake in it in the form of equity/board seat.

Jun 19, 2013

Personally, I think that if you were able to get an offer from Glencore/Traf/etc (congrats by the way), you should have no problem getting an offer at a BB in commodity trading or at a supermajor in the future. So if the start-up is a once in a lifetime opportunity, I would take solace in knowing that you could get a BB or supermajor position. However, like you said, glencore or trafigura offers are pretty rare...

Jun 19, 2013

What makes you tick? Trading, or entrepreneurship? Forget risk/reward, sounds like you have a good enough handle on that.

From what I am reading, it sounds like you want to trade.

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Jun 19, 2013

This is a mighty fine problem to have. What are you more suited to, what do you want to do long term? Something I've been starting to realize is that there are many ways to make it and how you make it matters. I don't always subscribe to the 'go where youre passion is', but in this particular instance I'd say that would be the answer as both are solid opportunities.

Would be interesting to find out what the current time commitment is on both. I'm at a large integrated OG company and hours are pretty normal 40-50hr weeks (commodity research on trading floor). How many hours / week does the start up require? Is there a way to scale back a bit but not as much as you mentioned before?

Jun 19, 2013
Alexander Supertramp:

Personally, I think that if you were able to get an offer from Glencore/Traf/etc (congrats by the way), you should have no problem getting an offer at a BB in commodity trading or at a supermajor in the future. So if the start-up is a once in a lifetime opportunity, I would take solace in knowing that you could get a BB or supermajor position. However, like you said, glencore or trafigura offers are pretty rare...

Working for a BB trading commodities, having a Glencore offer is a major step-back. FYI.

The HBS guys have MAD SWAGGER. They frequently wear their class jackets to boston bars, strutting and acting like they own the joint. They just ooze success, confidence, swagger, basically attributes of alpha males.

Jun 22, 2013

Thanks guys and sorry for disappearing for a couple days. The startup is a very sporadic time commitment. It falls in the "there's always stuff that needs to be done and sometime there's stuff that REALLY needs to be done NOW" category. Shit always comes up. I don't think I'd be able to commit to anything more than the occasional board meeting, especially since I'll be in another country. As an entry level kid I wouldn't want to come across as a self-important slacker.

The thing about the trainee programs at these places is that they typically want recent grads and, well, I'm only a fresh grad once - they don't seem to care much about MBAs although I did meet a few while interviewing. If I wanted to get into the physical side again, I imagine I'd have to claw my way up from a scheduling/ops job at a different firm. I like to think that I'm a rather persuasive person but after a couple years at a startup, my profile wouldn't really fit what a BB/supermajor is looking for in these types of positions either.

Risk/reward over the long term might indeed be commodities, especially since I'm essentially hedging my odds by continuing to hold some equity in the startup. But, I think I'm starting to realize that part of the question is whether I want to be starting over at the bottom of the food chain. I would be going from having an extremely strong network and some level of respect to absolutely nothing. In a sense, this is also very liberating.

@Sonny, do you mean that working for a BB trading commodities is a major step back from a Glencore offer or that having a Glencore offer is a disadvantage?

Jun 29, 2013
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