Why I'm not a founder
It's okay to be a perfectly happy employee.
A while ago Chris Dixon wrote a blog post saying that there are two kinds of people in the world: you’ve either started a company or you haven’t.
Okay, that’s true.
But my bigger issue is that the theme of this statement pervades Silicon Valley. Even founders of relatively boring and unsuccessful companies are revered, some even have entourages of fanboys. Thousands of people every year try to emulate that success by starting something of their own. And almost all of them fail.
I don’t want to found a company right now. It’s a conscious choice and one that I am happy with.
I respect founders immensely—I’ve worked for them my entire career. But me not founding a company is not a question of risk, a lack of ideas, or that I don’t want to change the world. I simply value other parts of my career more.
Optimize for happiness
My life philosophy has long been “do what makes me happy.” It sounds selfish, but I think me being happy is the best way I can help others to be happy as well. One of my favorite quotes is from Roger Ebert and helped clarify why happiness is my number one goal:
I believe that if, at the end of it all according to our abilities, we have done something to make others a little happier and something to make ourselves a little happier, that is about the best we can do. To make others less happy is a crime. To make ourselves unhappy is where all crime starts. We must try to contribute joy to the world.
I want to be happy.
I’ve been incredibly lucky to find a company like GitHub who has made happiness the most important value we have as a company. I stole the phrase “optimize for happiness” from Tom’s talk on the subject. We want employees, customers, and everyone we interact with to be as happy as possible. Working at GitHub, using our products, and interacting with the employees should be as awesome as we can make it.
If I thought that I could not be my happiest here, I’d leave. I’d have to. Maybe it would be to found a company, maybe it would be to work on different products.
What makes me happy?
My co-worker Julie recently tweeted that she’d rather work with awesome people than be a founder of a company.
For me, it comes down to this: The best opportunity I’ve ever had to work with brilliant people is at GitHub. I work with over 100 of the most motivated, creative, and ambitious people I’ve ever met. It’s exciting, challenging, and ridiculously fun. Every day I find out that some piece of open source software I use is actually written by a co-worker.
I could get that at a company I founded but I already have it.