top of page

Startup vs Big Tech: Pros and Cons for Developers

Updated: Jun 28

Startups paying obscenely high salaries isn’t news. It’s a pretty well-known fact by this point. Startups want the best talent to build their products and services. They’re funded very well and therefore, they don’t mind paying a lot to attract the best talent. One look at our tech job openings will tell you that.

Of course, horror stories are plenty, too. Long hours, the pressure, lack of a life outside work — you get the idea.

Established companies seem like a great idea, then.

You get a stable job, work-life balance, great pay — what’s not to like?

Well, a couple of things.

If you’re young and you want to learn a lot and progress in your career quickly, big corporations may not be the best. Also, there’s a ton of bureaucracy to deal with, you won’t really see the impact you’re having on the business, and there’s a high chance that your career will stagnate after a certain point.

startup vs a big, established company

So, what should you do?

Should you go with a trusted name or should you just take a leap into the chaotic world of startups?

That’s what this article is about. We’ll take a look at the pros and cons of both, startups and established businesses and finally analyze what your best options are.

Let’s get started!

Working at a startup vs a big company:

Working at a Startup: 5 Pros Every Developer Should Consider

Working at startups can be an amazing experience. There's so much to learn! Here are five advantages of working at a startup:

Greater Opportunities for Growth and Career Advancement :

One of the most significant advantages of working at a startup is the potential for rapid career growth. Startups often have smaller teams, which means you'll have more opportunities to take on responsibility and showcase your skills.

Additionally, working and collaborating with multiple teams on a daily basis will boost your soft skills, too.

As the company grows, you may find yourself quickly moving up the ranks, with promotions and new roles opening up regularly.

Moreover, the fast-paced nature of startups often requires employees to learn quickly and adapt to new challenges.

This accelerated learning curve can help you develop a wide range of skills that can be invaluable throughout your career.

By embracing new responsibilities and pushing your limits, you'll be setting yourself up for long-term success in the tech industry.

Exposure to Diverse Tasks and Technologies:

At a startup, you're more likely to be exposed to a variety of tasks and technologies, as opposed to being pigeonholed into a specific role.

This can be an excellent opportunity to expand your skill set, explore new technologies, and gain experience in different aspects of software development.

As a developer, working on diverse tasks can help you become a more versatile and valuable team member. You may find yourself collaborating with cross-functional teams, giving you a broader perspective of the business and helping you understand how your work fits into the bigger picture.

This hands-on experience can make you a more well-rounded professional and increase your marketability for future job opportunities.

A Close-Knit Team and Informal Work Environment:

Startup culture is often characterized by its informal and collaborative work environment. With smaller teams, you're more likely to form strong relationships with your colleagues, fostering a sense of camaraderie and teamwork.

This close-knit atmosphere can make for a more enjoyable and fulfilling work experience.

Startups also tend to have a flatter organizational structure, meaning there may be less bureaucracy and hierarchy.

This can lead to more open communication and easier access to leadership, allowing you to contribute ideas and make a real difference within the company.

Potential for Equity and Financial Rewards:

While startups may not always offer the same salary and benefits as larger companies, they often provide employees with equity or stock options.

This means that if the company succeeds and its value increases, your equity could be worth a significant amount of money.

For some developers, the potential for a financial windfall can be a strong incentive to join a promising startup.

Opportunity to Make a Direct Impact on the Company's Success:

Finally, one of the most rewarding aspects of working at a startup is the opportunity to make a direct impact on the company's success.

As a developer, your work can directly contribute to the growth and performance of the product or service.

This sense of ownership and pride in your work can be incredibly fulfilling and motivating, driving you to achieve your best.

The Flip Side: 5 Cons of Working at a Startup Every Developer Should Consider

While working at a startup offers numerous benefits, it's essential to be aware of the potential downsides as well. Let’s look at 5 important disadvantages of working at a startup:

Limited Job Security and Stability:

One of the most significant concerns when joining a startup is the limited job security and stability.

Startups, by nature, are risky endeavors, with a high percentage of them failing within the first few years.

As a developer, this means there's a possibility that the company you join may not be around for the long haul, leading to job loss and the need to search for new opportunities.

Additionally, startups often experience fluctuations in funding and business plans, which could lead to restructuring or changes in the company's direction.

This uncertainty can be challenging for developers who value stability and predictability in their careers.

Longer Working Hours and Higher Stress Levels:

Working at a startup often means longer working hours and higher stress levels, as employees are typically expected to wear multiple hats and meet tight deadlines.

With limited resources and a smaller team, you may find yourself juggling multiple tasks and working under pressure to deliver results.

The fast-paced, high-pressure environment at startups can be exhilarating for some, but it can also lead to burnout and work-life imbalance for others.

It's essential to evaluate your own stress tolerance and personal priorities before deciding if a startup is the right fit for you.

Less Structured Work Environment and Processes:

While the informal atmosphere of a startup can be appealing, it often comes with a less structured work environment and processes. This lack of structure can make it challenging to manage tasks, prioritize workloads, and adhere to best practices in software development.

The absence of formal processes can sometimes lead to unclear expectations, miscommunication, and inefficiencies.

As a developer, you may need to be proactive in establishing your own organization and time management systems, as well as advocating for best practices within the team.

Limited Resources and Support Systems:

Startups typically operate on limited budgets and resources, which can affect the tools, technologies, and support systems available to developers.

You may have to work with outdated or less-than-ideal equipment, or you might lack access to specialized software and training programs.

This constraint can be frustrating and may limit your ability to deliver the best possible results.

However, it can also push you to become more resourceful and creative in finding solutions to challenges, which can ultimately be a valuable skill in any work environment.

Potential for Lower Initial Salary and Benefits:

Finally, it's worth considering that startups often offer lower initial salaries and benefits compared to established companies. While you can always negotiate a great salary package, the fact is that when you're new, there's not a lot that you can do.

While equity and stock options can be a significant incentive, they're not a guaranteed payout, and the lower salary may be a concern for developers with financial commitments or those seeking a higher standard of living.

Before joining a startup, evaluate the complete compensation package, including salary, benefits, and potential equity, to ensure it aligns with your financial goals and needs.

Opting for Stability: 5 Pros of Working at an Established Company for Developers

When choosing between a startup and an established company, it's crucial to consider the unique advantages each option offers. Let’s look at 5 important advantages of working at an established company:

Job Security and Stability:

One of the primary benefits of working at an established company is the increased job security and stability. These companies have a proven track record of success, which often translates to a more stable work environment and a lower risk of layoffs or restructuring.

As a developer, this stability can provide peace of mind and allow you to focus on your work without worrying about the company's financial health or long-term viability.

In addition, established companies usually have more predictable career paths and advancement opportunities, which could make it your dream company.

Access to Resources, Tools, and Support Systems:

Established companies typically have more substantial budgets and resources at their disposal. This means that, as a developer, you'll likely have access to cutting-edge tools, technologies, and support systems that can help you excel in your role.

In addition, established companies often invest in employee training and development programs, providing opportunities to expand your skillset and stay current with industry trends.

This investment in your growth can be invaluable in building a successful and fulfilling career in the tech industry.

Structured Work Environment and Processes:

A structured work environment and well-defined processes are another benefit of working at an established company.

These companies often have established best practices, workflows, and project management systems in place, making it easier for developers to collaborate and stay organized.

This structure can lead to higher efficiency, better communication, and more consistent results across the team.

As a developer, working within a well-defined framework can help you hone your skills, improve your productivity, and ensure that your work meets quality standards.

Competitive Salary and Benefits:

Established companies typically offer competitive salaries and benefits packages, including health insurance, retirement plans, and paid time off.

These companies have the financial resources to invest in their employees, making them attractive options for developers seeking a stable income and comprehensive benefits.

When evaluating job offers, it's essential to consider the entire compensation package, including salary, benefits, and potential for growth, to ensure it meets your financial and career goals.

Opportunities for Networking and Collaboration with Industry Professionals:

Lastly, working at an established company often presents opportunities to network and collaborate with industry professionals.

These companies tend to have larger teams and may partner with other leading organizations, providing you with the chance to build valuable connections and learn from experts in your field.

By building a strong professional network, you can open doors to new career opportunities, stay up-to-date with industry trends, and gain insights that can help you grow as a developer.

Playing It Safe? 5 Cons of Working at an Established Company for Developers

While established companies offer numerous benefits for developers, they come with their own set of drawbacks. Here are 5 disadvantages of working for an established company:

Slower Career Advancement and Less Growth Potential:

One potential downside of working at an established company is slower career advancement and less growth potential.

With a larger workforce and a more defined organizational structure, climbing the corporate ladder can take longer than it might in a smaller startup.

Promotions and new opportunities may be less frequent, and you might find yourself competing with more experienced colleagues for coveted positions.

Additionally, the learning curve may not be as steep as it would be in a startup, where you're often required to adapt quickly and learn new skills on the fly.

If rapid career growth and diverse learning experiences are high on your priority list, an established company may not be the best fit.

Limited Exposure to Diverse Tasks and Technologies:

At an established company, developers may have more narrowly defined roles, limiting their exposure to diverse tasks and technologies.

These companies often have specialized teams, which can lead to a more siloed work environment, making it difficult for developers to gain experience across different areas of the business.

While specialization has its benefits, it can also limit your versatility and adaptability, which are crucial skills in the ever-evolving tech industry.

If you're looking to broaden your skill set and gain experience in various aspects of software development, you might find a startup to be a more suitable option.

More Formal Work Environment and Bureaucracy:

Established companies often come with a more formal work environment and bureaucracy. This can result in a slower decision-making process, more rigid policies, and an increased focus on adhering to established protocols.

For some developers, this formal environment can feel stifling and may limit their ability to innovate and experiment with new ideas.

If you prefer a more relaxed, collaborative atmosphere with fewer layers of hierarchy, a startup may be a better fit for your working style.

Less Opportunity for Direct Impact on Company Success:

Another con of working at an established company is that there may be less opportunity to make a direct impact on the company's success.

With larger teams and more specialized roles, your individual contributions may not be as visible or have as significant an effect on the overall business as they would in a smaller startup.

For developers who crave the sense of ownership and pride that comes from directly contributing to a company's growth, a startup environment might be more appealing.

Possible Stagnation in Innovation and Creativity:

Lastly, established companies may struggle with stagnation in innovation and creativity, especially if they are already leaders in their industry.

With less pressure to disrupt the market or stay ahead of competitors, these companies might prioritize maintaining the status quo over taking risks and exploring new ideas.

As a developer, this could limit your opportunities to work on groundbreaking projects or experiment with cutting-edge technologies.

If you're passionate about pushing boundaries and staying at the forefront of tech innovation, a startup might offer a more engaging and fulfilling work experience.

Making the Right Choice: Factors to Consider When Choosing Between a Startup and an Established Company

So, where does all this leave us? We’ve seen that there are pros and cons involved in both. How do you choose which way to go? As with most important questions, the answer is that it depends. It depends on what you want and what you’re willing to compromise on. Here are five things to consider when choosing your ideal company:

Personal Career Goals and Aspirations:

First and foremost, consider your personal career goals and aspirations when deciding between a startup and an established company.

Are you looking for rapid career growth and diverse learning experiences, or do you prefer a more predictable career path with a focus on specialization?

Startups can offer opportunities to quickly advance and gain experience across different aspects of the business, while established companies may provide more clearly defined roles and a steadier progression.

Assessing your long-term objectives and how each option aligns with those goals will help you make the best choice for your career.

Risk Tolerance and Financial Stability:

Another critical factor to consider is your risk tolerance and financial stability. Working at a startup can be a gamble, as these companies have a higher chance of failure compared to established businesses.

If you have significant financial commitments or prefer a stable income, an established company may be a better fit for you.

However, if you're comfortable taking risks and potentially reaping significant rewards in the form of equity or stock options, a startup could be an exciting and potentially lucrative option.

It's essential to weigh the potential risks and rewards to ensure that the choice you make aligns with your financial needs and risk tolerance.

Preferred Work Environment and Company Culture:

Your preferred work environment and company culture play a significant role in your job satisfaction and overall happiness.

Startups often have a more informal, collaborative atmosphere with fewer layers of hierarchy, while established companies tend to have more formal work environments and bureaucracy.

Before making a decision, consider the type of work setting that best suits your personality and working style. If you thrive in a structured environment with well-defined processes, an established company might be a better fit.

Conversely, if you prefer a more relaxed, flexible atmosphere where you can take on multiple roles, a startup may be the ideal choice.

Passion for the Company's Mission or Product:

Another factor to consider is your passion for the company's mission or product. Joining a startup often means being part of a small, close-knit team that's deeply invested in the company's success.

If you're passionate about the startup's mission or product, this can be a motivating and rewarding experience.

On the other hand, if you're more interested in working on specific technologies or projects within a larger organization, an established company may offer more suitable opportunities.

Ensure that your passion and interests align with the company you choose to maximize your job satisfaction.

Desire for Work-Life Balance:

Lastly, consider your desire for work-life balance. Startups often require longer working hours and a more demanding work schedule, which can impact your personal life and well-being.

If maintaining a healthy work-life balance is a top priority for you, an established company might provide a better environment.

However, if you're willing to put in the extra effort and time for the potential rewards and career growth that a startup can offer, this choice may be more suitable.

It's essential to evaluate your priorities and make a decision that aligns with your lifestyle and personal values.


The fact of the matter, unfortunately, is that there’s no ‘one right answer’. The startup vs big company debate isn't new and there are a ton of perspectives to consider.

What might be a great job for one person might be a horrible choice for you. What you think is the ideal job may be the last thing that someone else wants.

The silver lining here is that you now know what factors to consider when making your choice. Prioritize your needs and wants.

I hope this article helps you make a better, more informed choice.

If you’re a developer and looking for remote developer jobs, make sure you check out Simple Job Listings. All the jobs on the website are remote, most pay amazingly well, and a significant number of jobs we list aren’t listed on any other job board.

Check out Simple Job Listings and find your dream job. Good luck!

bottom of page