Is joining a startup almost like joining a cult?
I was talking to an software engineer on my Sunday bike ride. He works in Shoreditch and he codes 9-5 for a corporate. He's happy; he gets to ride his bike, earn good money and do great tech.
I asked if he'd considered working in a startup. He had been approached several times but he said he wasn't convinced about working extreme hours and that startups seemed to him like "joining a cult". "They work insane hours and they have no life".
I guess startup life is not for him.
It got me thinking though. Why did he think "startup" and "cult" in the same sentence?
One thing is clear to me; startup teams have a strong identity with their purpose. Passionate abot what they are trying to achieve. Cult is a loaded word, culture I'd say is a more relevant word. Startups often do have a strong culture which makes them great places to work - if you share the passion.
(A sidenote on passion. Passion is derived from the from the Latin verb patī meaning "to suffer". If you sacrifice comfort to achieve your goals, you're passionate).
You need a strong culture if you want to change the world. I wrote about that in my post on Tuesday about 13 tips to make change easier.
A key point to re-emphasise from that post is that the single most important motivator for most people is identity. (It's not the only motivator but it's very very powerful). Startups might seem from the outside to be almost like a cult but that's missing the point. I prefer to think of it this way; startup teams passionately believe in and identify with their cause. It's what keeps them fuelled. It's why they can work insane hours and not even notice. It's why working for a startup can be so rewarding.
I doubt my cycling friend has any such identity with his company. He was just doing his job. He is comfortable and he is happy. He wasn't passionate about his work.