So, I upped and quit my job in order to create a startup.

This is my story. I’m going to blog about the experience — of moving from the corporate world to the startup scene. There will be ups and downs, I am sure — and I kind of suspect those ups and downs might be quite interesting.

I’d had a hankering to do something like this for a long time. And based on the reaction of many colleagues on the announcement of my plans, these are common thoughts. People are motivated to be in charge of their own destiny, to build something, and to “make a dent in the universe”. Sadly, life in many big companies often frustrates these very human desires. I don’t pick on my former employer here — my impression is that all large companies suffer the same challenges.

I believe deeply that we need to change the culture of work. People need more autonomy and stronger opportunities to make things happen. They need to feel both supported and trusted. Command-and-control cultures have had their day, in my opinion. But, equally, I understand the nervousness in large companies of changing things. But change they must. Corporations need to foster new ideas and even break-away businesses as their employees grow in experience and stature. People need to see new possibilities and be encouraged to reach for the stars. Finding ways to make this happen is, perhaps, the biggest challenge traditional businesses faces.

Comedy is littered with examples mocking corporate life. Be it the irrepressible Reginald Perrin (still the best), the Telephone Sanitisers in Hitchiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, The Office or Dilbert — the message is the same. Too many people feel the world of work is one of futility.

So here I am creating my own new reality. I hope I will be part of something awesome. I believe that, even if I fail, the experiences will be invaluable and open other options.

But I’m not doing this on my own. I quit with two very special people — together we hope the three of us can build something awesome. We’re the only people deciding what we do and how we do it — we think that’s a good thing. But we’re sure to trip up along the way. But the mistakes will be our mistakes, not ones forced upon us by others. As a result, we think we will grow as people in ways we could never do elsewhere. Isn’t that what life’s all about?

Having spent some time talking to a wide variety of folks before and after my leap, I’m convinced we have two things in our favour:

  1. We’re planning to “scratch our own itch” — to solve a problem we’ve discovered and experienced ourselves. We understand the problem and have deep experience in that space and with the type of people who also have that problem — so we’re not guessing (or not too much, anyway).
  2. We’re a small team — it’s not just me. The three of us complement each other and together we have a really interesting set of experiences and skills that should equip us well.

So at the outset we feel optimistic that we’re not just the usual startup hopeful. We have something a little special and we think this will stand us in good stead. We may be a little mad, but we’re not completely mad.

Yesterday, I had the immense privilege to be invited to a live audience with Simon Sinek, someone whose attitudes and ideas I greatly admire. Simon’s new book, “Together is Better”, has a somewhat prophetic first page. Remember, the size of my new team is three.

But lets be honest — this is a personal risk. I left a very well-payed job for a high level of financial uncertainty. At my leaving drinks one colleague said to me “I’d love to do what you’re doing — but I have too many commitments and just can’t”.

Is there a lesson here? Yes, I think there is. We live in a world where it’s all too easy to commit our future earnings in order to bring forward gratification. But that locks us into a certain lifestyle, a need to behave in a certain way to get the next bonus or pay-rise and a commitment to a corporate prison of sorts. High house prices, and by association debt, come at a cost. The consequence can sometimes be a pressure to “fit in” in order to “get on”. I humbly suggest that those motivations are not the ones that we want. Instead, we need people who express honest opinions freely and who are willing to take calculated risks. Perhaps society needs some adjustments.

Eclectic tastes, amateur at most things. Learning how to build a new startup. Former CTO for IBM Watson Europe.

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