Cover image for Start-up vs. Corporate Life: What should you choose?

Start-up vs. Corporate Life: What should you choose?

ilonacodes profile image Ilona Dee Codes ・4 min read

Since we want to pursue a career in software engineering, which seems to be one of the most desired ones nowadays, it's essential to understand the overall IT and software industry.

Primarily based on the work involved, there are product-based and service-based companies:

  • Product-based companies are those that create some products like Microsoft, Amazon, Google, etc. They are driven by an idea to help different customers. Here the main focus would be what I do to make my product better.

  • Service-based companies are those that work on these products to provide service to the client. They are driven by customer needs. They offer services and solutions as per customer requirements.

Also based on the size of the company, they are further classified as start-ups or big companies:

  • Big companies already started to make revenue through its idea with a substantial investment and big offices and have a significant headcount. Having worked for long, these have settled for a specific type of projects and technologies to work on. Usually, all the employees are expected to follow the set process with less room for innovation.

  • Start-ups are small companies that started with the idea that it is to be developed into reality by a small team in a small office. Here everyone gets to manage and be solely responsible for the work assigned. But one gets the chance to innovate to make the job more straightforward than before. Most of them use the latest technologies as they intend to make a mark in the future.

It depends on what you value and what you expect to gain. Here are some, off the top of my head:

πŸ‘‘ Sence of Ownership

Working in a start-up, you will have a great sense of ownership. Partly because of the stock option grants you get, but mostly because there are fewer people, so there are not many people to take on more responsibility.

In a big tech company, usually, you will have backup people for anything important, and mostly you will not really feel you are doing something important.

It becomes hard to wrap your head around the importance of your work. There are so many layers and indirection between your work and its impact. Moreover, there will be a lot more competition.

πŸ“š Learning

Start-ups will have a faster learning pace in terms of setting up stuff and getting things done quick and dirty. There is always too much work to be done and too little time, because for start-ups:

"The only way to win is to learn faster than anyone else." β€” Eric Ries, Lean Startup

πŸ“Œ Rules, regulations, processes

Big firms need to have processes and protocols in place to keep the ship sailing smoothly.

You might have to wait days or a week or more, sometimes, just to get a line of code in or to get a configuration change on a production box.

You might have to do extra work to make sure your system will not break existing products (more unit tests, integration tests, metrics for alerting). There might be multiple people doing mostly the same thing.

πŸ’Έ Money

Working in a start-up, you might earn less (most start-ups will fail to make you wealthy) but have a small shot at making a lot of money.

At a big company, you will generally make more money, but you aren't retiring any time soon.

πŸ•Š Freedom

In a start-up, your goal is usually clear, and you are free to do whatever it takes to meet it. There are no shackles of bureaucracy. You are focused on getting your company up and running and survive another quarter.

In a big company, you have the freedom to go home at 6 pm. You have freedom in a sense you will have company outings, more holidays, less headache in terms of operational support.

πŸ’¬ Conclusion

Your company choice should be based on what you are looking for at this point in your life, and what the goal you want to reach by working there in the end.

Both have positives and negatives.

πŸš€ If you join a start-up, you might get more knowledge and practical experience than at a big company. However, the workload might be excess, most of the things you have to learn everything on your own, and the salary will be much lower compared to big companies.

🏒 At a big company, you might be playing a limited tole technically while in a start-up, you can play more than one role. But personal safety and benefits are more and better at big companies. You also can be lucky and happy if you get an opportunity to work in the domain which you like.

Nothing is wrong with either choice. Listen to yourself, your intuition and instincts. Choose the right company for yourself, which lets you on the path your dreams and career.

Photo by Peter Nguyen on Unsplash

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Ilona Dee Codes


I help developers to condense finance + investment knowledge via my tiny newsletters (+1000 readers) πŸ“¨ Get top-15 tips on how to save more cash monthly πŸ‘‡


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What I would add to the πŸ•Š Freedom on start-ups:
You are also free to work more or have more crunch time. Some investor meetings are coming up or you need to finish that feature you promised your one big client.

Regarding the πŸ“š Learning
I would say you learn different things. Learning how to reach your goals in a big company is way different than doing that in a start-up. You will also learn different things in a big company. You are building complex systems and that on top of legacy systems.

In a startup, you usually build it from the ground and you don't care for good architecture and testing and all that stuff. This is also the reason why many startups fail after some years. Because they are optimized for building features, not for systems that work well.

I would say you have no clean-cut here in general.

Ever worked with a micromanaging founder? That does not know anything about software development but wants to know everything?

In the end, it really depends on the company you work for and in what department/team.


This is true. The worst micromanager I have worked for was at a big company. The same big company also had a different department that sounded really quite good and modern.

My experience has been that bigger companies mean more bureaucracy though.


A good manager will always do their best to make every situation a win-win, or a compromise at the very least. And micromanagement is rarely a useful method. While it is obvious that managers and decision-makers first need to know as much as possible about whats going on projects, so micromanaging as a social phenomenon poses more problems than it solves.


Sorry, but I can't agree with your depiction of a Start-up vs Corporation life comparison. I've worked for every range of tech company there possibility could be and your vision is jaded. The since of ownership, learning, freedom, money, etc can all be found equally no matter the company size. But no matter the size, it does take resilience to find one's foothold within any workplace to reach your goals. If you can't find your foothold to obtain your goals, then it means that company or division of a big company isn't right for you.


Great.. it's a nice article about product based company & Service based Company .. As my previous experience i can say Product based company are best for a job holder(it's my personal opinion based on my previous experienced) other hand i want to include this that choosing established company rather than startup is more wise aspact of financial securit.
Thank you for this nice article