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Should I leave my startup after 3 years for big tech?

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Anonymous User at Taro Communitya year ago

I’m considering leaving a startup because of 2 things I’ve seen on Taro:

  1. faang+ early is gold for your resume as a long term investment in your career
  2. IC L5+ looks super fun.

2019 Goal of Joining a Startup

  • Learn a lot about how to be a good software engineer

  • Be an early employee at a startup that makes it big

  • Quickly become an Engineering Manager because I like working with people, helping others

2023 Thoughts on Staying as an Eng Manager or Joining Big Tech

  • Dream of being an EM, is happening on small start up scale with a growing number of reports who like my management so far

  • The dream is to be early at a unicorn and that is close, but

    • The new standard should be 10B not 1B

    • Doing this with a first job is not necessary and high risk

  • In 2-4 years I’d likely still be a engineering manager from a no-name startup

  • L5+ engineer in big tech may fit well with my personality right away based on Taro, where I love collaboration, helping people, product and technical challenges

    • I like not just spending 80% of my time heads down coding and that may be possible and expected right away in big tech, no need to be a manager
  • Getting a 2 FAANG+ badges on my resume over the next 4 years would be more way more worth it than even a million dollar payout from a startup

    • Could have many doors opened for high level roles at startups OR faang depending on what I feel like at the time

    • Big tech stock offer may also easily be worth 1M in 4 years

Priorities 2019

  • Supportiveness of team

  • Growth opportunities

  • Company prestige

  • Maximum outcome (Risk)

  • Compensation

  • Company ethics

  • Product space

  • Technical space

  • Work-life balance

  • Level/title

  • Benefits

  • Location

  • Stability

  • Remote work

Priorities 2023

  • Supportiveness of team +0

  • Work-life balance +7

  • Compensation +2

  • Company prestige -1

  • Growth opportunities -3

  • Stability +7

  • Company ethics -2

  • Remote work +6

  • Level/title +1

  • Benefits +1

  • Location +1

  • Product space -5

  • Technical space -5

  • Maximum outcome (Risk) -10

Taro priorities video is here

Startup Stats

  • 150 people, 25 engineers (doubled from a year ago)

  • Fall 2021 had 50% investment at 250M valuation

  • Dec 2022 450M valuation

  • Revenue has since doubled in last year to 125M

  • Profitable per years with 20% gross margin

  • Growing industry

  • Not venture backed, so not expecting 20x growth

  • Estimated in 2-4 years to sell for 1-2B

How to evaluate a startup video here

Current job stats

  • Team lead for a year after 2.5 years as Software Engineer

  • 0.1% equity, 100k cash

  • 18th employee, 4th engineer

  • Dream of being an early employee at a unicorn, seems close

  • Would lose all stock if I leave before acquisition/ipo

  • Biggest point for discussion: ***2-4 years of being manager at a small startup may not qualify me to be an EM in big tech***

FAANG+ Offer

  • L4 equivalent

  • 190k cash, 350k stock over 4 years, 60k sign on bonus

  • Work life balance is supposed to be great

  • Great food, big tech lifestyle that I’ve always heard/dreamed about

  • Would work to be promoted to L5 in 1-2 years, then manager a year after that.

  • Being a new person at a fresh company sounds very exciting now, I know the business fully and the tech stack of the current place to the point where many things Ive see before and feel stale/boring


  1. Based on my write up about values, priorities, liking collaboration, would I like being an IC L4 coming from being a manager where I have solid tech skills but strong soft skills that I enjoy using.

  2. If I stay at the start up would I be able to get a big tech EM offer with 3-4 years of management experience at the start up? Note this question here shows what I’m learning now as a manager.

  3. Should I down level myself from L5 to L4 if I think I could get the offer at L5 but am not sure about the certainty of success? (Question asked separately here)



  • 1
    Profile picture
    Comstock Software, Inc
    a year ago

    I'd go with the faster-growing company in the faster-growing market segment.

  • 2
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    Comstock Software, Inc
    a year ago

    In 2-4 years, I’d likely still be an engineering manager from a no-name startup.

    REACTION: it all comes down to growth, if your company goes 3-27x, then that likely won't be the case at all.

  • 3
    Profile picture
    Meta, Pinterest, Kosei
    a year ago

    2-4 years of being manager at a small startup may not qualify me to be an EM in big tech

    Unless you have some "unfair advantage" like a strong referral, or very relevant/rare experience, you should expect some amount of working on relatively smaller-scale IC projects (diving back into the weeds of coding) in Big Tech. I'm confident you'll do this well, and I'd view it as a short-term change while you get back to a senior/staff level.

    The other reason to move jobs now is because tech stocks have gotten hammered, so if you get the job, there's a decent chance of gains if you can stay in the company for 2+ years (when the economy recovers).

    Would lose all stock if I leave before acquisition/ipo

    Is there anything that can be done about this? You've been at the company for more than a year, right? Feels like a shame that you can't take part in the company's success if you leave, since you've already done years of great work for them.

  • 1
    Profile picture
    Anonymous User [OP]
    Taro Community
    a year ago

    Thanks for the feedback!

    Its good to know the current option is solid but also great to have the encouragement and push to secure L5 as an IC in big tech when possible.

    RE: stock, it’s unfortunate and a huge red flag for people to look for at startups when joining. For me I’m considering the sunk cost fallacy though and also thinking that depressed stock in big tech looks good right now.

  • 1
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    Robinhood, Meta, Course Hero, PayPal
    a year ago

    Work life balance is supposed to be great

    Maybe I'm misreading the question, but is this your expectation with a FAANG-type position? This is very much not the case for the vast majority of engineers who go into Big Tech companies. You're paid so highly compared to the rest of the industry for a reason: Expectations are high.

    Great food, big tech lifestyle that I’ve always heard/dreamed about

    The food at Meta/Google in particular is known to be excellent (Meta's core campus in Menlo Park is incredible), but you'll need to live in a high cost-of-living area to get to it. Also, Amazon doesn't have free food and is notoriously frugal (though you get excellent bananas in Seattle from what I hear).

    Would work to be promoted to L5 in 1-2 years, then manager a year after that.

    If this is your goal, I recommend going to Meta as the L5 promotion is the fastest (as it's forced). However, Meta generally requires you to be L6 before transitioning to manager.

    The senior promotion at Google is infamously difficult, and it's even worse at Amazon.

    All that being said, if you're in the US and salary is 100k given your experience, your current package doesn't seem the most competitive; FAANG would be a huge boost for sure. In a vacuum, I think it would be a good move, but it depends on how well your startup is doing (and it seems to be doing pretty well).

    Lastly, here's some resources that may be helpful:

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