Leaving a Successful Career for a Startup

This article is written by Munira Hussein, a Contributor Author at Startup Istanbul.

Mark Little is the former vice president of twitter and the founder of Storyful.  Before that, he had a successful career as a journalist but he recounts a moment when he was at a wedding in Ireland and at a corner, there were a group of relatively young people on their phones. On inquiry, he learned that Michael Jackson had passed on. He was intrigued to find out that they found out about this on twitter. He felt obsolete as a journalist.  He couldn’t be the gatekeeper anymore. His light bulb moment came about at that time. 

He identified a problem. Everyone was telling a story, there was so much content and there was need to know what it is that mattered. His idea then, was to take a big news agency, break it apart and start from scratch in an era of social media. Eight months later, he informed his boss of the decision to quit his job.

In writing down the ideas, he realized that they were too broad and needed a point of focus. He had an advantage in terms of a lightbulb moment he could describe when pitching and he was a natural storyteller. His company picked up and he got some investment interest from some angel investors. If he didn’t accept their offer, the company would collapse but something was off.

He learnt the importance of thinking small. Innovation is about thinking about small things that when you add them up sequentially in a planned manner, add up to something big. You might focus on the big things and miss out on the small things that will eventually kill your idea.

He came to the realization that his potential investors didn’t get his idea. He sent them an email turning down the offer. He had failed and he was embarrassed to tell his wife. He gathered the courage and told her anyway and she was okay. The worst that could happen was that he would go back to work and if son ever asked him what he did with his idea, he could tell him that he tried.

All the time they had invested in the company had not paid off but he had come to face the worst of his fears; the fear of failure. Facing his greatest fear came with a sense of liberation. He could relax even when he felt defensive.

He got other investors with whom he was more comfortable. That came with the lesson on the need to be authentic. Understand what the ideals of your company are and don’t take your eyes off the goal post.

He made a series of mistakes after that but he had learnt so much through the series of failures and mistakes he made. This led to the success of Storyful which he later sold.  Selling a company is not always a bad decision. Understand whether exciting is the best decision for your company. 

─ November 3, 2019