Startups and Recessions

Written by Nolan Bushnell. Posted in Blog, Entrepreneurship, Technology, The Future

This is a very good time to start a company. There are many things that are better for a startup during a recession. It turns out that in the early years of Atari we had a significant recession which allowed a great deal of shared risk. For example we were able to move into a large facility that could never be supported by our meager balance sheet. But the landlord looked at us a a better option than just leaving the building vacant. Also our vendors were all willing to provide long terms for their parts and services. The most important part of all was that I had my pick of the best engineers and managers in Silicon valley. Since many of their friends were laid off the thought of moving to a fun job at a new startup seemed not that much more risky to where they were. Our ability to cherry pick the best of the best allowed us to crush any technical problems we encountered and powered Atari as not just a game market leader but a technical super power. We were the first non government company to use N channel MOS and basically put that technology on the map. We innovated on so many technical levels that by the time I left the company we had a 85% market share.

Over the years people that I laid off or fired have contacted me. It turns out that they took their severance or unemployment insurance time to get another business going. Many times an employee that was easy to layoff was just miscast and once they got into their own gig they knocked it out of the box. I have often thought that the worst thing a person could have is job security. What is the probability that a 20 year old would know which job or career would make them happy? Once you have a wife, a kid a house and a boat you find yourself unable to move from a job that you hate. Unless you really screw up and get fired or at least get let go in an RIF. All of a sudden you have the whole world in front of you and you can now leap to a career that you love. I am really glad I cannot tell the difference between work and play. I wish everyone that dream.