In Blog, VNN

In mid-markets like West Michigan, startup folks are still looked at like leprechauns.

So why do some of the most talented people from around the country turn down Corporate America to work at startups?

Corporate America Compensation

  • Hefty salary
  • Generous perks
  • Comfortable pacing
  • Stability

Most people are thinking: check, check, check and chickety-check.  What more could a hyper-talented person ask for in a job?

Actually, everything.

VNN has attracted 29 people smarter than me over the past 2+ years, offering a different type of compensation.

Startup Compensation

  • Compounding intelligence
  • The Must factor

Compounding intelligence

Peter Thiel and Max Levchin summarized this concept neatly (image below).

Screen Shot 2014-04-12 at 4.16.24 PM

The byproduct of a comfortable life is comfortable level of intellect and curiosity.

The best people, those driven to make their impact on the world, can’t afford that.  They want to be pushed out of their comfort zone, every day, by people better than them.  It’s the only thing that will ever train someone to change the world.

We train people to change things.

The Must factor

Elle Luna diagnosed the difference between what you should do and what you must do (must read for anyone under 60).

People work at corporations because they should.

We’re conditioned to covet the American dream.  To believe that we should follow the school->college->career->retirement path.  To believe we should be “balanced”, meaning a clear separation between work and life.  It’s so ingrained into our culture that many people don’t even pause to question it.

We question it.

People work at startups because they must.

We don’t follow any predefined path, and we’re not balanced.  Our work is our passion is our life.  They’re all intertwined and mushed together into one big, amazing mess.  And it’s uncomfortable here, which is what we’re looking for.

We offer competitive salaries and weird benefits too (unlimited vacation, UGJ policies), but to the right people those are only the excuses to do what they really want.


The right people want to push themselves to be better every day.  They want their dreams.

Corporate America offers great perks at the expense of your dreams.  And startups offer your dreams, at the expense of your comfort.


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