We’ve all got them: friends, ex-colleagues or LinkedIn connections who’ve made the move from a big corporate to a start up. I was about to follow suit.
The fintech boom was attracting more and more people from some of the large corporates I’ve worked with, but the rationale of the exodus was made clear one night over a drink with an old friend. They worked in fintech and as the night went on I realised: that’s where I wanted to be. I began investigating new opportunities, but what I found was slightly more groundbreaking...
Three months ago I attended a TechHub demo night and one of the companies presenting was Bud. Their bearded, ‘Bud’ t-shirt wearing Head of Customer Experience, Jamie, was on stage walking the audience through the product. A site that acts as your financial assistant - allowing you to view and interact with all of your financial services in one, easy to use, platform. Right away I could see how this could benefit me. I have several bank accounts across different providers, ISA’s, a mortgage, pensions and more… With Bud I would be able to bring all of these together in one screen and use the data to make better financial decisions.
As a customer I wanted to use it. As a digital marketer I wanted to know more.
I grabbed Jamie and the CEO, Ed, for a chat. And a few emails later I was in their office bouncing ideas around. It was quick. It was actionable. And it was fun… It was a sign.
Simon Sinek famously said “Working hard for something we don’t care about is called stress; working hard for something we love is called passion.” That passion was immediate at Bud. At the time I was transitioning out of my corporate role so the timing was perfect. I started consulting almost immediately. The excitement continued to grow. Inspiration continued to flow. Energy was at an all time high. It was week two…
Of course, startups are a world apart from corporate life. Having worked for some of the largest and most respected financial services in the world I knew it would be different, but the extent is truly eye-opening. Bud had no live product, no customers and no external investment. But what they did have was a BIG vision, a sincere belief in what were they were doing, a small but determined team and energy which I hadn't seen in any place I had worked before. Making the jump was surprisingly easy and immediately fulfilling.
I’ve always enjoyed cultural nuances of companies, and I’d got involved in leading employee engagement at my previous jobs. What I noticed was that Bud offered what employees have been asking for at corporates for years: open dialogue across the business, collaborative decision making, opinions listened to and respected, actions taken quickly and results monitored to ensure continuous improvement. And yes, it’s easy to say “those issues are easily addressed in a startup. There’s no hierarchy, no legacy systems, no bureaucracy…” But that doesn’t mean they aren’t without their own struggles.
Starting from ground zero is as refreshing as it is daunting, and only the brave or stupid (I’m hoping I'm not the latter) make the jump. You’re constantly looking for the edge, constantly looking for revenue, looking for customers, and budgets?? forget about it. There’s nowhere to hide and no one to cover for you. At some points it feels like the Wild West. It’s ‘do or die’ with no safety rope, a real life ‘David and Goliath’ but with more coffee and Apple products!
Don’t get me wrong, I've had many amazing experiences and learnt a hell of a lot over my corporate career but this massive change feels right and natural. My advice to anyone thinking about doing the same is simple: if you believe in the proposition and team, JFDI! (Just f**king do it). My outlook on life has never been more positive. I know that it could all change quickly, but as Del Boy famously says “He who dares Rodney”...