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Lucas Lima do Nascimento for Wasp

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📕 Start-ups vs. Big Companies: The Best Takeaways For You To Know 📊

I still remember my first day joining a corporate meeting with hundreds of other employees. After a few months of having some successful freelancing jobs, I finally was able to join a big company and the mixture of anxiety and excitement was real. The challenges were now, different, the stakes were higher, and the environment was overwhelming.

But that’s not the only case I got stressed out from. I also clearly remember a day while working on a small startup when I was presenting to the whole company part of the new front-end architecture we were going to use. We were small enough that every person in the meeting was listening with attention to the words I said.

From being a huge voice in a start-up to becoming a small part of a larger pack in a corporation, every experience has its own set of learnings.

Of course, that’s not always the case. Out there, we all know that unprepared companies exist and that’s why this article was created. Here, we will explore some of the key learnings and takeaways I got while working on both, start-ups and big companies, so you can learn it agnostically from the company you currently work at and even decide your next career steps on your own, to see which of them is more your fit.

Processes and Culture


Let’s start with the processes since they are the first very obvious difference. While working on a start-up most of the processes are still being implemented and a huge part of your work can actually involve trying and experimenting with different processes for those tasks.

Culture can also be in the creation phase, so, the shared values that define a company and its people, or the 'way things are done around here.' can change a lot and rapidly!

Of course, this makes the experience way more chaotic but also more flexible. It’s not uncommon to juggle multiple roles and responsibilities, which can be a great opportunity to learn and grow in different aspects, for example, creating new good cultural patterns.

On the other hand, in a more corporate environment, processes are more structured and defined, which can provide stability and clear expectations, but come on the downside of bureaucracy, taking a long time to actually move through multiple pipelines and funnels.

The key takeaway here is balance. Scarcity in processes makes the whole ecosystem chaotic, which is uncomfortable, but too much process and you will not get anything done. Balancing the weights on the absence and the overflow will create a better environment for everyone.

Agility and Adaptability


Working in a startup often involves wearing multiple hats and adapting to changes on the fly. In a fast-paced startup environment, agility and adaptability are key. You have to be ready to pivot, which can make you grow a lot in terms of not getting too attached to your ideas. You also have to be ready to adjust your strategies and embrace new technologies and methodologies if they seem fit.

This can be a thrilling experience that fosters creativity and innovation but also can lead in the long term to a dispersed and stressful environment (where all aspects of your company are on different technologies, and making all that chaos work is HARD).

In contrast, big companies have the luxury of time and resources, allowing for more thorough planning and execution. Also, big companies tend to rely on things they already trust and generally are not too open to new things.

While this is less exciting than the dynamic startup environment, it offers a different type of learning experience. Here, you can deepen your understanding of strategic planning, project management, and other aspects of business operations.

The key takeaway here is learning to be agile, versatile, and adaptable when it’s needed. If you don’t want to take my word for it, I recommend reading this article about boring technology. It’s amazingly insightful and a great read!

OH! And before I forget, this article is only possible because of Wasp, and they’re building a full-stack React + NodeJS framework that’s really cool and it would mean a lot if you could help us by starring our repo on GitHub.

By doing that, you're helping us continue to make web dev faster and easier, and bring content like this to you every week! 🚀

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Networking Opportunities


Another major difference between startups and big companies is the networking opportunities they provide. Big corporations often have a wide network of employees, clients, vendors, and partners. Working in such an environment can open up numerous opportunities for networking and building valuable professional relationships. These connections can be incredibly beneficial for your career growth.

On the other hand, startups, due to their smaller size, offer more intimate networking opportunities. You'll likely work closely with every member of your team, giving you the chance to form stronger relationships and learn directly from your colleagues and superiors.

The key takeaway here is to embrace every connection and try to create a great working environment everywhere you go. This will allow you to sustain rough periods more easily and you’ll certainly grow some friendships for all your life 😃



Now, let’s talk about impact. On larger companies, your codebase is probably accessed by thousands (more probably millions) of people. This means that making a small change can alter the way a lot of people perceive the application and it’s enormously satisfying to see your work being utilized by so many. Unfortunately, the first time you have to deploy a small code change for a code base accessed by millions of users is ABSOLUTELY nerve-wracking — although necessary for increasing your experience and resilience.

On start-ups, you’re probably looking at a codebase accessed by hundreds (with faith thousands). This means, that your work will be seen by fewer people, but, since you can create a lot more, you are probably going to create much more than just a small change. Pages, user journeys, and everything can be at your range alone or with your team. It doesn’t come without a drawback though. Since processes are more scarce, rollbacking and reverting changes can sometimes be a hard (or even worse, undocumented) process.

The key takeaway here is the importance of understanding your role and the value you bring in different environments. Whether you are in a startup where your work directly drives the company's success, or in a larger corporation where your actions contribute to a broader goal, your work matters and you should feel proud of it.

Just to give an example, I’m really proud of making a simple product filter on a huge e-commerce website (that they use until today) and I’m also really proud of implementing/participating actively in the implementation of at least 2/3 of every component of a new design system brought up by the designers of the start-up I used to work with. Good work doesn't invalidate others.


All of the topics into an illustration

If this journey through the realms of startups and corporations has left you inspired, why not lend your support to Wasp? We're crafting tools and content to empower developers like you, whether you're coding solo or conquering corporate challenges.

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Start-ups and big corporations both offer valuable experiences. In a start-up, you get to do different tasks, try out new things, and directly affect the company's future. It's a hands-on learning experience.

In a big corporation, you have access to many resources and a structured environment. You can work with a team of diverse experts, which helps you learn and grow. The established processes, stability, and predictability can help improve your skills and shape your career.

But, it's not about choosing one over the other. It's about learning to do well in both environments. Take the best parts from both and use them wherever you are. Be agile, adaptable, and open to new experiences. Both experiences are important for your career.

In conclusion, every environment has its own unique set of challenges and opportunities. Embrace the differences, learn from the experiences, and leverage them to your advantage. After all, it's these diverse experiences that help you grow both personally and professionally. So, whether you're in a start-up or a big corporation, always remember - your work matters and it contributes to the bigger picture.

What are your thoughts on this comparison between startups and big corporations? We'd love to hear your experiences and takeaways. Please share your thoughts in the comments below!

Top comments (9)

vincanger profile image

I'm definitely a start-up guy!

I need to move quickly, try out lots of new things, and learn new stuff, even if it means suffering a bit on the way. In the end, I suffer more in large, inefficient companies with too much bureaucracy.

llxd profile image
Lucas Lima do Nascimento

I totally understand where you're coming from! The dynamic, fast-paced environment of a startup is perfect for those who thrive on innovation and learning through experimentation, even if it comes with some challenges. The freedom to move quickly for me it's the best part of it 🚀

mmaksimovic profile image

Awesome writeup!

What I really like about startups is that each new employee leaves a visible mark on the product and impact on the company culture.

Also, changing directions is so much easier in a startup than in a bigger company, where you have to change a lot of implemented rules and processes. Sure, elephants can dance, but they're not as fast as a doxie running towards that bowl of food.

llxd profile image
Lucas Lima do Nascimento

Thank you! I'm glad you enjoyed!

I completely agree — one of the best things about startups is the tangible impact each new employee can make on the product and company culture. The agility to change directions quickly is another significant advantage, allowing startups to easily adapt and innovate.

While large companies have their strengths, they can't match the speed and flexibility of a nimble startup. Your analogy is spot on — elephants can dance, but they're not as quick as a determined doxie! 🐕

matijasos profile image
Matija Sosic

This is a pretty good overview! Startup life can be fun and very rewarding, especially when you see your idea coming to life. On the other hand, a bigger company is a unique opportunity to get the experience of building a product at scale, both from the engineering and product perspective.

llxd profile image
Lucas Lima do Nascimento

Absolutely! Startup life can be incredibly exciting and fulfilling, particularly when you see your ideas come to fruition. Meanwhile, working at a bigger company offers invaluable experience in scaling products, providing insights from both engineering and product management perspectives. Both paths offer unique learning opportunities and rewards. Thanks for sharing your thoughts, Matija! 🚀🏢

oliviadavid profile image
Olivia David

Outstanding comparison between Start-ups vs. Big Companies.

Thanks for Sharing...

Professional Networking Website in the USA

llxd profile image
Lucas Lima do Nascimento

Thank you! I'm glad you enjoyed the comparison. Each environment has its unique advantages and challenges, and it's great to see discussions about them. If you have any more insights or experiences to share, I'd love to hear them! 😊👍

atsag profile image

Thank you!