By Matt Cynamon
Sometime around 2008, at the height of the Great Recession, a massive shift began to take place across cities, small towns, and universities.
As the comforts and securities of traditional careers began to dry up, excitement in the tech-startup world was reaching a fever pitch. These companies seemed to spin up overnight, raising millions of dollars and impacting millions, if not billions, of people. By 2009, with the economy still reeling, more new businesses were formed than during any time in the previous 15 years. Playing the “safe route” in traditional industries wasn’t safe anymore; the wealth of new opportunities emerging in the tech-startup world transformed how people conceived of, and built, their careers.
One of the more the famous stories from this period was that of Instagram, a two-year-old photo-sharing app with 13 employees that was bought by Facebook for $1 billion. To put this into comparison, Walmart, which had thousands of employees, hundreds of physical locations, and almost 30 years of history, was worth only $31 million in 2017’s dollars when it was first listed on the New York Stock Exchange in 1970. Never before could a company get started so quickly and cheaply and be worth so much.
But it wasn’t just speed and money that fueled the growth of tech startups. There was also a larger cultural shift in what people wanted out of their careers. Flexibility, freedom, meaning, and purpose started to become intertwined with people’s career aspirations. Tech startups provided the perfect respite for all of this. The small size of the organizations allowed for jobs in which one could work intimately with teams and technology that had the potential to impact millions of people across a broad range of industries.
Since the Great Recession, startups and startup jobs have become a major force in society and nearly all net new job creation. They’re sexy, growing, and provide an opportunity to find meaning and purpose in your work (and sometimes even get you rich).