I get asked this question a lot by the corporate community with whom I am typically engaged with, usually this would comprise of senior figures from the BFSI community. The people I am usually in conversation with have never worked for a start-up, let alone have had any professional dealings with any. For those that know me well, I am not short of an opinion or two on this subject or anything else for that matter.
My Start-up Journey
Before leaving the UK in 2015 to embark on my own professional journey to Asia where I am firmly based, I had no idea of what is was truly like working for/with the start-up community. The UK, in particular London, is a hotbed for FinTech talent and is laden with a number of great start-ups. I had the privilege of knowing a few of these guys but wasn’t really involved in what they were doing to the extent I am now and have been these past 2+ years.
Making the move to APAC was probably the best thing that could have happened to me, and I am in no regret for swapping a very comfortable life in the UK for the opportunities that Singapore, APAC and now India and South Asia present to me. The FinTech ecosystems in this part of the world have developed very quickly in the last couple of years, Singapore more so than any other region and India isn’t too far behind in some respects.
The Start-up World
Having worked for a young start-up in Singapore, I am fully aware of the challenges that these guys have to go through and it really is a different world to the corporate environment I have grown up with. Firstly, I didn’t have the resources (people) available to me and had a very limited budget to do what I needed and had to adjust very quickly to a different way of working. Secondly, I had more autonomy and decision making freedom compared to my previous life which was refreshing in order to get things moving along quickly. The above points seem obvious in black and white, but once you’re in this environment you only begin to realise it.
There are obvious pros and cons but I am certainly glad that I had the opportunity to live and breathe the start-up world for myself, otherwise my opinions would be pretty meaningless and not really based on anything tangible.
Advisory and Mentorship
My experiences working within the start-up world has really had an impact on my professional career to-date. I am now working in an advisory/mentorship capacity for start-ups across India and APAC via three FinTech accelerator programmes. If I am able to support start-ups through these programmes, I am more than happy to do so. It’s a combination of giving something back to the community, but in my case an opportunity to learn. I am continually amazed by the intelligence, determination and desire to make a difference by young people at the ages of 19-25. The FinTech world is a chaotic seen globally right now, there is a lot of noise and continual media frenzies. However, away from the noise, on the ground, I am seeing young teams of start-ups doing some amazing things from a product/solution level.
In summary, I would recommend anyone to at least try and work for a start-up once in their careers, it’s a roller coaster ride of emotions, energy, happiness and adversity to name but a few.