GUEST COMMENT: People keep asking me to join their start-ups. I’m not sure

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Perks of the start-up

Perks of the start-up (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

There was a time when I would never have left banking. Maybe I won’t still, but the temptations are coming thick and fast.

It’s not the wacky exit strategies from City-life I’m being drawn towards (like the ex-Goldman trader who left the firm to set up his own bespoke c*ndom business and was quoted as saying that he has quit “working for a bunch of kn*bs to working with bunch of d*cks”, before hastily attributing that quote to a former client), it’s sane businesses set up by former friends and colleagues.

In the past 12 months, I’ve been invited to participate in property development in Central Europe, a fast-food franchise scheme, an emerging markets lending fund and a digital firm in Shoreditch.

The pitch is always similar: they need me; I’ll be a valued part of a new venture.

The pitchers are equally indistinguishable: well-connected, recently redundant, with an excellent network and a rich relative who’s financing the new venture.

The downside is that there’s usually a reason these pitchers are no longer working in financial services themselves: they were let go. And there’s a reason why they were let go: they were only good at their jobs in a bull market. In almost all cases they have no solid modelling, accounting or presentational skills.

This is why they need me. I will be the person who does the heavy-lifting involved in a start-up: who keeps track of documents, runs processes, ensures cash flows.

One friend had a business prospect which he confidently predicted would turn over a 7 figure sum in the first 12 months. It didn’t take long for me to identify that a number of costs which he thought were fixed were actually variable. He looked mystified (and slightly peeved too) when I reminded him of the adage that “sales are vanity but profits are sanity”.

Nevertheless, it seems foolish to walk away from these projects altogether. The banker looking for a nest egg now needs some activities on the side. I have committed part-time to lending a hand at one of these ventures, in return for minimal ownership in the company. If it comes through, it may yet prove a better prospect than drifting into banking oblivion.

The author has worked in several roles across investment banking and is open to the right offer.