Today I was interviewing someone for a job at Yahoo. Near the end of the interview, I asked one of the questions I always ask: "Do you have any questions for me about Yahoo?"

He asked one that nobody has ever asked me before. After confirming that I'd been at Yahoo since some time in late 1999, he asked "Why are you still here?"

In the course of explaining why I'm still at Yahoo, I mentioned that fact that I've changed jobs a few times and had the chance to move around in the organization. I said something about how I generally get bored of what I'm doing (or some technology) every few years and need to change.

"Ah..." he said, "you're a startup guy."

The funny thing is that he's not the first person to tell me that.

In my defense, each time I switch jobs I end up at a company that has fewer employees than the last one. But at this rate I'll be 85 years old before I work at a startup. I'm told that it's a crime to be in Silicon Valley this long and not try it out.

I've interviewed at a handful startups in the last few years. Some have been massive flameouts and others are still going quite well. I try to keep an eye on what they're up to, just in case I ever start to wonder what I might have missed.

But you never know where I might end up in a few more years.

Posted by jzawodn at April 06, 2005 08:59 PM

Reader Comments
# Dan hugo said:

That IS an excellent question. I have found myself asking the same thing of some people I've known in my travels. I myself always managed to switch companies, but that was back when the ol' answering machine was full of headhunter calls.

If you (Jeremy) are a "startup guy," you're clearly taking advantage of the oft-deceiving adage:

"It's like a startup, but with all of the resources of a big company."

When it actually works out that way, it's a great thing.

If you do find a cool startup and decide to take the leap, make note of my email address...

on April 6, 2005 10:14 PM
# A said:

Moving around in a huge organization is NOT a "startup guy".

on April 7, 2005 12:14 AM
# BC said:

"Moving around in a huge organization is NOT a "startup guy"

So true. Start-up guy risks the LOT. Employees never do.

on April 7, 2005 03:27 AM
# Vidar Hokstad said:

I guess I fall in the "startup guy" category... Of the companies I've worked in, I co-founded two, was the first paid employee in another, joined in the first year of operations at a third. So when I joined Yahoo! about two years ago it was already the oldest company I've ever worked for...

I do like the possibility of moving around, but at the moment I'm actually enjoying the relative stability of not having to get involved in financing rounds, being dragged into all kinds of projects not even slightly related to my main role and doing five different roles at once.

And then of course working for a company that actually makes money... It's always gruelling working in an environment where you're always X months from running out of money and don't yet know if you'll be able to get the company profitable.

on April 7, 2005 04:28 AM
# Lanny Heidbreder said:

So did the guy get hired? :)

on April 7, 2005 06:21 AM
# Thumper said:

Not intended to be a slam, but start-up guys don't interview. They start up. Like a previous poster said, moving around from company to smaller company or from job to job in large company ain't a start-up. Too much is already done for you in an existing company to call it a start-up. Try having nothing to start from--where you have to do everything. Good luck when you try it, and you probably won't understand this comment until you do.

on April 7, 2005 06:57 AM
# Dan Hugo said:

Thumper's comment and the general "you're not really a 'startup guy'" are not completely off the mark, but I would suggest that starting a new development group or project or joining a new one inside a large company is a challenge all its own, and one that is probably good preparation for a "real" startup.

How many startups in the 90s in silly valley were formed by people who were tired of the politics of a big company, who struck out on their own to deal with the politics of VC firms, boards of directors, and the open market ?

Someone who likes to stay put, doing the same thing year-in, year-out is NOT a "startup guy" (or "startup person" if you will). Moving around from project to project in a large company or moving from company to company is "gaining momentum."

on April 7, 2005 11:31 AM
# Stanley Wong said:

In my career I have worked at a large company (Apple), a startup which turned into a large company (Yahoo!), and now back to a startup (BetterPPC).

In this experience, biggest differences are "startup guys" are just more willing to take risks . A startup guy is willing to do whatever it takes to build a company (wants to drive the bus). A corporate guy is not comfortable with risk and values comfort and security more. A startup guy is willing to define a vision and is able to deal with uncertainty. A corporate guy only wants to do what has been defined for them (wants to ride the bus). A startup guy is essential, a corporate guy is expendible.

There isn't any right and wrong with either being a startup guy or a corporate guy. Corporate guys can become startup guys and vis versa. It is just a different frame of mind.

Jeremy: I'm not so sure that you are a "startup guy" but you definitely show potential if you choose to be.

on April 7, 2005 12:19 PM
# dave said:


Have say I have thought the same thing! Otherwise, I don't understand why you would attend *any* 106 Miles events

on April 7, 2005 12:25 PM
# TDavid said:

Friendster is #5 in the top dating/personal sites list for March 2005. So at least they are in the top 5 on something, Jeremy :)

on April 8, 2005 11:08 AM
# Gerald said:

But, did the guy hire on at Yahoo!? :)

on April 11, 2005 10:11 AM
# GrumpY! said:

I think you will find it hard to locate a startup that needs a developer to blog and attend conferences.

on April 12, 2005 12:40 PM
# Daryl said:

I'm interested not so much whether or not he was hired, but what impact did that question have on your opinion of him?

As a job seeker, it takes guts to ask such a bold question like that. You never know how the interviewer would interpret a question like that.

Another bold response is when the interviewer asks "Where do you see yourself in five years?"... you respond with "I want *your* job."

on April 19, 2005 12:43 PM
# Chris said:

You guys are being too hard on Jeremy for this.

What you're failing to recognize is the difference between a "startup guy" and an entrepreneur. While there are many similar charcteristics, the two roles are not the same, and an entrepreneur will often rely on several startup guys to build his business.

I agree with Jeremy. He's a startup guy.

on June 15, 2005 06:35 AM
# Jeremy Zawodny said:

Agreed. I'm no entrepreneur.

on June 15, 2005 07:04 AM
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