Late last week, 70 ambitious, young Wall Street types eagerly put their names down on a waiting list for a hot-ticket event. When the doors closed, only 30 made it into the room. The occasion? A talk with Vinicius Vancanti, a former Wall Street analyst turned start-up founder.
Vacanti, CEO and co-founder of daily deal aggregation company Yipit, told the audience that the unknowns of the start-up life offer thrills that aren't available on Wall Street.
“I felt like in finance, the playbook was already written, and it was my job to execute,” Vacanti, who used to work at Blackstone, told the New York Observer. “Someone had done it before I did, and someone was going to do it after. In a start-up, there’s no playbook. You’re making it up as you go along.”
The session with Vacanti was organized by former Wall Streeter Sameer Syed, who knew he wanted to build his own start-up in Silicon Alley, but wasn’t sure how to go about it. He organized the talk so that he and other aspiring entrepreneurs could learn where to start.
One takeaway from the talk was to work for an established start-up for a few years before venturing on your own.
“If you go out and start something on your own, it might take 24 months before you even know what you’re doing,” Matt Minoff, founder of digital advertising start-up Selectable Media, told the Observer. Minoff, who used to work at Allen & Co. helped Syed organize the event.
Other tips included how to frame a finance background so that it seems relevant to a start-up (emphasize your operations expertise) and what not to do (don't act like your idea is top secret).
Silicon Alley and Silicon Valley are increasingly attracting newly graduated engineers and analysts away from the financial services sector. While Vacanti is quick to admit that the start-up life involves many failures along the way, that’s part of the draw for him.
“In a start-up, you’re constantly failing, and it’s an awesome experience. You celebrate in a different way when you’ve also faced defeat,” Vacanti told the talk’s attendees.