Felix Salmon asks a question (boldface mine):
No Exit, the new book from Gideon Lewis-Kraus, should be required reading for anybody who thinks it might be a good idea to found a startup in Silicon Valley. It shows just how miserable the startup founder’s life is, and raises the question of why anybody would voluntarily subject themselves to such a thing….
Why do so many people in Silicon Valley want to be founders?
…Founding a Silicon Valley startup, then, is a deeply irrational thing to do: it’s a decision to throw away a large chunk of your precious youth at a venture which is almost certain to fail. Meanwhile, the Silicon Valley ecosystem as a whole will happily eat you up, consuming your desperate and massively underpaid labor, and converting it into a few obscenely large paychecks for a handful of extraordinarily lucky individuals. On its face, the winners, here, are the people with the big successful exits. But after reading No Exit, a different conclusion presents itself. The real winners are the happy and well-paid engineers, enjoying their lives and their youth while working for great companies like Google. In the world of startups, the only winning move is not to play.
So why would someone swing for the fences? Because workers lack agency, so the only option is to gamble large, even if the odds greatly favor the house. If the odds are good you’ll be laid off in a couple of years anyway–and worked pretty hard in the meantime–what Salmon thinks is a stupid strategy, suddenly makes a lot more sense. Because most companies aren’t ‘great’–they will discard you at the drop of a hat, and that only gets worse as you get older. Never underestimate how the absence of hope leads people to make bad decisions.