“Impact” is a key term used by both startups and big companies to attract talent. Both claim that joining them would be the best way to “changing the world”. But “impact” and “changing the world” can mean two very different things: setting direction, or creating value.
In a startup, you have heavy influence on the direction of the company and thus how society as a whole allocates resources. If you’re the founder or the CEO, the idea is yours and you’re setting the direction. However, the amount of actual value created per person is not yet certain.
In a large, established company, the company’s activity is known to be something with a high yield, one that creates a lot of value for society. As an employee, while you did not set the direction, you’re doing something that guarantees the creation of value.
Both of these influence the world. The former is important because it can further society in new and previously unthought of ways, even though there is little guarantee of success. The latter is important because it is where value is actually created, even though there is little room for innovation.
So who is changing the world more? The Microsoft or Google employee whose code is routinely rolled out to hundreds of millions of people, or the founders of startups creating new and exciting yet-to-be-released products?
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