Warren Buffet famously said, “Be fearful when others are greedy. Be greedy when others are fearful.” Now is the time to be greedy about your next career move. Who will be the next Google, Amazon, or Meta? Will FAANG recover and reignite hiring? Will they still be as an attractive employer as they were before? Should you join a hot AI startup to ride the wave? Or should you take the dive into entrepreneurship and start a company? For smart and ambitious professionals, that is a lot to think about.
I have been through two downturns: the dot-com explosion and the great financial crisis of 2008. I have seen careers ruined, but I have also seen plenty of success stories. I would like to offer you several observations.
First, the current hype around ChatGPT and AI reminds me a lot of 1995 when the internet browser suddenly became popular, and Netscape had its IPO. The dot-com boom followed. Regardless of what you will do in your career and which company you will join, in the next 12 months, you should focus on upgrading your skills and learning how to harness ChatGPT and AI technologies.
Second, bet on people and a team, not on VC or prestige. It is virtually impossible to identify which company will become the next Google or Facebook. Instead of trying to figure that out, I encourage you to find the best possible group of people you want to work with. Do you respect them? Will you learn a lot from them? Have they built or sold products successfully? I look for a track record of delivering solid product and sales in the trenches. The prestige of VC behind the company, the amount of media coverage, making Fast Company/Business Insider top company list — none of these matters.
Third, the best opportunity for you now might be in startups. This is because startups innovate a lot faster. Startup valuation has also gone down significantly. Your upside is potentially a lot higher. However, startup equity is a gamble. I would not bet on it. The startup experience is more likely to serve as a stepping stone for you. Larger companies will need to catch up on AI, and they will look for people with specialized skills and exposure. One tip: if you are joining a startup from a much larger company, you should try to get a bigger job title. It will be beneficial down the road.
Fourth, if you have always wanted to start a company, now is a better time than ever to start one. We have a new powerful emerging technology in front of us. With a remote or hybrid work model, you have more control over your spare time. Software development tools and ecosystems have evolved so much that it is cheaper and easier than ever to start a company. My contrarian advice for aspiring entrepreneurs is to bootstrap your startup. Don’t take any outside money. Put in your sweat equity. Get your startup to cash-positive as soon as possible.
In summary, be greedy when others are fearful. Now is the time for you to be strategic, deliberate, and opportunistic to find the next great opportunity.