Financial startups as safe havens

John Shinal · October 6, 2008 · Short URL:

Venture-supported companies safer than those that need access to credit

 My good friend and poker buddy Joe had some good insight on the job market last week, in between pulling bills from his wallet during a rash of bad cards.

Joe is a natural-born salesman and can sell anything. In the 8 years I've known him, he's had no trouble finding a job whenever one goes south. (During the dotcom heyday, he worked for the defunct finance site, 

In fact, he usually has a pick among finance-related startups and larger, more established companies. So he knows the trade-offs between risk and reward when deciding where to work.

Since a substantial part of his pay is commission-based, he also has skin in the game in the here and now, apart from the equity-related potential that every startup worker has.

So when Joe says that, for the first time in his two decades of working in sales, it is now safer to be at a startup than anywhere else in the financial industry, it's worth taking note.

It's not universal, of course. Startups go under all the time. In fact, another salesman I know has seen his wireless-related startup ax sales jobs in the last few weeks.

And large tech companies like Cisco, Microsoft and Oracle, are flush with cash, at least for the time being. 

But given all the turmoil roiling that industry, small businesses that use cash are better off than billion-dollar companies that need ready access to short-time money markets.

And since the financial industry is being re-made (i.e., shrunk) before our eyes, it may be a while before the situation changes. If the period of economic pain is bad enough, and the damage to the way credit is raised and how much it costs is permanent, this phenomenon may be longer lasting.

Going forward, in uncertain times fraught with risk, the safest job market may be the one once thought to be the most risky. 

(Image courtesy of 


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