Why talented people get hooked on startup life


When people talk about what it’s like to work for an emerging company, they often use a lot of construction-oriented language. “We’re building from the ground up,” they’ll say, or “we’re reframing our market space.” These allusions make a lot of sense. People sign on to startups because they want to create something new, just like architects and carpenters who plan and build on a site that was previously empty.

We see it slightly differently. Because the product we’re creating is one that will illuminate intelligence in data, we’re partial to that lighting metaphor. Startup life, from where we sit, is about turning on a light in a room that was dark, or introducing Technicolor to a black hole.

How many people can describe their work lives this way?

Many talented, potentially creative professionals spend their days in jobs where they never experience that feeling of turning on a light above something that had been invisible. Once they experience it, once they get a taste of changing the table stakes in an industry, it’s hard to give it up. That’s why you’ll see engineers, marketers and salespeople who come in during the early days of a company, stay for a long time until it’s realized its mission, and then join or found another startup.

So, why does anyone do this? Why does anyone sign up for the pressures of developing products that defy existing rules? Of defining a whole new space? Of endeavoring to do something that will change a market forever? Because they’re hooked, of course. They have a passion for an idea, a hunger to solve a problem, a yen to create and an understanding that there is a particular kind of company where they can do all of these things.

That sentiment defines our company culture. We’re inspired by the prospects who see the business value in what we’re doing and our ability to tie together departments that have – until now – existed in silos. We’re inspired by the knowledge that the product we’re building will transform IT from a service organization into one that delivers strategic business insight. We know why people get hooked on startup life.

Startup junkies are addicted to problem solving. They thrive on the excitement they hear from customers, who assign hero status to solutions that make tasks easier and capabilities sharper. That excitement is understandable; building a revolutionary product is a singular professional experience. It’s hard to settle for anything less once you’ve gotten a taste of it.

Have you worked at a startup where the technology changed customers’ lives? Tell us here or tweet to us @DataGravityInc and include #startuplife.

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Paula Long

Paula Long is the CEO and co-founder of DataGravity. She previously co-founded storage provider EqualLogic, which was acquired by Dell for $1.4 billion in 2008. She remained at Dell as vice president of storage until 2010. Prior to EqualLogic, she served in engineering management positions at Allaire Corporation and oversaw the ClusterCATS product line at Bright Tiger Technologies. She is a graduate of Westfield State College.