Since starting to work, I've really only ever worked at startups. I like the close, friendly atmosphere and I enjoy the fact that my work immediately makes a difference in our products.

I'm pretty sure that a big company isn't for me in the long run. However, I've had multiple people suggest that I should try working at a larger company at least once, if only just to see what it's like. I can't help but wonder if there is truth to this.

Am I missing out on important business skills by only working for startups? For example, things regarding organizational structure or workplace dynamics? Would this hinder me in someday scaling my own startup to something larger?

If there are skills that I am missing by not working in larger companies, how can I develop those skills (other than by going to work at bigger companies)?

  • @JoeStrazzere I'm having a hard time understanding how this this sounds like a "what job should I take" question to you. I am simply asking whether I am missing out on important business skills by never working at a larger company. Regardless, thank you for your advice. – Ari Mar 23 '14 at 13:10
  • I have edited to focus more on the core of your question (whether working at startups means you miss out on important business skills). Hopefully this should be enough to get it reopened, because I agree with you that this isn't a "what job should I take" question (I think it was just worded a bit to sound like one and that's what got it closed). If you feel like my edit changed the question too much from what you were trying to ask, you can make further edits yourself to adjust the question. – starsplusplus Dec 17 '14 at 15:46

The answer, as ever, is "it depends."

Unless run by the same people, no two companies are the same. Even within larger companies, the hierarchy and workplace dynamics are usually dependent on the corporate culture and leadership within that company.

Thus, it really depends on what you want to do long term. If you're thinking about how to be able to potentially scale a start-up into a more established company, the best course of action is to bring in someone who knows how to scale companies and has done it before, especially, if possible, in your industry. Working for a large company may not give you that experience or knowledge; you will only see the result of the scaled company, not how it got there. Furthermore, you'll only see 1 example of a scaled company.

However, what working for a larger company will give you is experience in how, at large, the industry you work in actually works. This knowledge is certainly helpful when working with (and possibly scaling) start-ups, and can give you credibility in the industry (with both start-ups and established firms) long-term. If this is what you want, then I'd certainly recommend working for a couple of years for a larger firm.


In general yes, it's good to have experience with different types of companies.

However, a lot depends upon your specific circumstances. It sounds like you've already discovered that you're happy with a startup-style culture. And that at least conceptually, the idea of working for a larger company doesn't appeal to you.

So if the proposition is that you leave a job with a startup company that you're happy with for one with a larger organization that you may be unhappy with, all for the sake of a learning experience, then no, I don't think that makes sense.

There's value in having experience with different types of organizations, but not so much that you should abandon a job you're happy with to get it. If you go that route, the best-case scenario would be that you discover that you were wrong and that you actually love working for a large company. But the worst-case is that you find that you were right, you don't like being at the big company, and now you've given up your job you liked at the smaller company and may be unable to get it back.

I'd suggest that in your case, you wait until your employment with your current startup company comes to its natural end, whenever that happens to be, and then go ahead and seek a position with a larger organization if you still want to see what it's like.


I've worked with small companies that were well run and I've worked at companies that were Backstab Central. Don't idealize small companies, the politicking there can be awful bad.

Large companies deal with issues that are not apparent to you in a startup environment and hopefully, you'll get to learn what it takes for a small company to successfully navigate the transition to a large company. You'll most likely see that informal arrangements are no substitutes for standardized procedures - but then, you'll have to ask "which standardized procedures and how do I go about standardize them?" In a startup environment, you wear multiple hats and that's why I like being in a startup environment. Large companies rely heavily on specialization - That's why you have full-time lawyers and such. If you are naturally observant, it doesn't hurt to get both perspectives and I hope that you get lucky and choose a well run large company :) Be careful though, large, well run companies can have some horribly run departments and you might end up in one of them, as I did once upon a time :)


It's impossible to know what you are missing out on unless you decide to go get that experience.

Maybe you aren't missing out on anything and maybe you are. I'm trying to think of reasons why past coworkers would tell you that you need to work for a large company. Perhaps you have some expectations or demands that are simply not in line with what a small company can provide. Without knowing you, I can't give that advice.

What I can say is that different experiences enhance our perception of life. By working for a large company for a year or two you might gain a bit of insight that will be a big help to you.

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