These entrepreneurs are proving that sometimes Wall Street is the wrong place to make bank.
If you want to make a lot of money, you get a job on Wall Street. If you want to make even more money, you might dump that Wall Street job for a start-up. It isn’t a career path that works out for everyone. But for the founders of Wikipedia and Amazon, for example, ditching finance for tech was a smart choice. — Alyson Shontell This article originally appeared on Business Insider.
Joshua Kushner graduated from Harvard and worked for Goldman Sachs. After a short stint there he left to pursue a career in venture capital. His firm, Thrive Capital, has invested in startups such as NastyGal, Kickstarter, Instagram, and Makerbot. He also recently gathered $ 40 million to start a new health insurance company, Oscar.
Alexa von Tobel began her career at Morgan Stanley where she rose up the ranks to become a trader. She quit to attend Harvard Business School, then dropped out to found LearnVest. LearnVest has raised more than $ 40 million to tackle an important issue: there should be financial planners and advisors available for the middle class, especially with such a high percentage of the population in debt. Whether LearnVest will succeed or not remains to be seen, but von Tobel looks well positioned to clean up as a tech founder.
Scott Belsky is now an angel investor in companies like Pinterest with his own, very big start-up success. Last year he sold a portfolio site for designers, Behance, to Adobe for $ 150 million. Prior to founding Behance, Belsky worked for Goldman Sachs. He told Business Insider about his decision to leave Wall Street for a start-up. “I figured I might just become a middle manager living a great life, but not doing something extraordinary. I came to believe that doing something extraordinary is never achieved through ordinary means. I remember that moment at Goldman where I was thinking I should leave and start something. I shared that with colleagues and they thought I was crazy. I gained confidence from being doubted.”
Chris Altcheck left Goldman Sachs to found PolicyMic in 2011. He’s gone on to raise more than $ 1.5 million and his team of one dozen is pulling in more than 6 million monthly unique visitors. PolicyMic is written largely by unpaid contributors who write analytical stories about pressing issues, politics ,and entertainment.
Amy Jain and Daniella Yacobovsky worked for the same investment bank, then later attended Harvard Business School together. There, they came up with the idea to be an online destination for beautiful, affordable jewelry, the way Sephora is for makeup. But it wasn’t an easy decision to give up finance for BaubleBar. “We were at this crossroad,” Yacobovsky tells Inc. “We could take this very secure road we had planned, or we could become entrepreneurs and turn this project into a real business. We chose to dive into the start-up world.”
Before he founded CustomInk, an online apparel retailer that generates more than $ 70 million in annual sales, Marc Katz was a financial analyst on Wall Street. The profitable business employs more than 250 people from its McLean, Virginia headquarters. One of Katz’s first investors was his father, a 3-time entrepreneur, who didn’t think his son had a great idea. “I told him I thought it was a terrible idea,” Steve Katz tells Forbes. “Selling T-shirts on the Web, I just didn’t see how you distinguish yourself, so it would be a race to the bottom in terms of price. … It’s amazing what you can do with a mediocre idea extremely well executed.”
Before he started his personalized email and online content recommendation company, Sailthru, Capel had a number of gigs, including one as a consultant to Morgan Stanley. Sailthru’s revenue grew 270% last year and it has raised nearly $ 30 million to date.
Bezos worked as a computer scientist on Wall Street after he graduated from Princeton. Then he headed to a company called Fidel, and later to Bankers Trust where he became its vice president. After that, he became SVP at a hedge fund, D.E. Shaw & Co. He dabbled in entrepreneurship prior to founding Amazon. He nearly created a news-by-fax company with the founder of CNET, for example. D.E. Shaw was Bezos’s last stint in finance before he created an online book retailer which, coincidentally, held most of its early meetings in the local Barnes & Noble. *Jeff Bezos is invested in Business Insider through Bezos Expeditions.
Pincus’ career began as a financial analyst for Lazard Freres & Co. He then became a VP of Asian Capital Partners in Hong Kong and later, was one for Columbia Capital. Zynga was Pincus’ fourth company. It was founded in 2007.
Barry Silbert got his idea for SecondMarket, a marketplace for illiquid assets, while working as an investment banker. He tells Inc. about founding SecondMarket: “I was an investment banker for about 5 ½ years, working on distressed type of situations like bankruptcies, things like that, and I was a bored investment banker. I’d been doing it for a while and the idea for to create this marketplace really kind of came out of a lot of the deals I was working on where I kept on seeing situations where there was a liquid assets being held by customers or clients that we had who needed liquidity. It was shocking to me that there was no one place where you could go to, an eBay-like marketplace, to sell these assets. And so I decided that I was going to leave investment banking with the big salary and roll the dice. I kind of figured I could always go back and be banker again and fortunately, I never, ever looked back.”
Jimmy Wales, the creator of Wikipedia, didn’t begin his career on Wall Street, but he was a financial professional. He started out at a future and options trading firm, Chicago Options Associates. Here’s how Wikipedia describes his transition to entrepreneurship: “Inspired by the remarkable initial public offering of Netscape in 1995, and having accumulated capital through ‘speculating on interest-rate and foreign-currency fluctuations,’ he decided to leave the realm of financial trading and became an Internet entrepreneur.” His first venture was a “guy search portal” full of female images, Bomis. He used money from Bomis to launch the online encyclopedia Wikipedia.
Dan Leahy worked for Silver Lake Partners then Brown Brothers Harriman. His friend Ben McKean worked for Merrill Lynch. The pair teamed up in 2009 and created restaurant discount finder Village Vines, which raised $ 4 million from investors like Salesforce’s Mike Lazerow. It was renamed Savored and in 2012 sold to Groupon, where McKean is now a general manager.
Olga Vidisheva, CEO of Shoptiques; Andy Dunn, CEO of Bonobos; Rob Cromer, CEO of AdCade; James Gardner, Founder of Create The Group; Andy Pickens and Moses Soyoola, founders of Jamplify.