Declaration of Independence: 8 Entrepreneurs Who Left Big Corporate Jobs for Startups

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While a big corner office and a fancy title at a Fortune 500 company might sound nice, the truth is that some people just aren’t cut out for corporate life. Here are eight entrepreneurs who left corporate jobs for startups.

On this day 238 years ago, a band of revolutionaries signed a document informing Great Britain that its 13 colonies would no longer be needing the services of the British Empire. From that day forward, those 13 newly sovereign states would instead opt for the risk (and potentially enormous reward) of forging their own path and creating their own nation.

Sound familiar?

Many of us dream of it — leaving the relative safety and comfort of a corporate gig for the freedom and exhilaration of a startup — but when it comes down to it, few are actually willing to put their chips on the table and go all in.

This Independence Day, as we celebrate the bold initiative of America’s founding fathers, let’s also tip our hats to the founders everywhere who have set out to achieve their own ambitious visions. Here are eight examples in particular — entrepreneurs who left companies like Google, Facebook, and Apple to build something new.

8 Entrepreneurs Who Left Big Corporate Jobs for Startups

1) Anastasia Leng

Anastasia LengCompany she left: Google

What she co-founded: Hatch.Co (Formerly Makeably)

Anastasia Leng left her comfy Business Development Manager role at tech giant Google to co-found Hatch.Co, a online marketplace for custom-made goods that connects makers to customers. She told Business Insider that while she had an incredible network of managers at Google, she still felt compelled to carve her own path.

Leng’s Takeaway:

“And now I feel like you’re on your own in this big, bad world and you have a lot less appeal because [you] don’t have the power of Google. And yet, I’ve never felt more accomplished because the mistakes you make are yours and the victories you have are yours, too.”

2. Satyam Vaghani

Company he left: VMware

What he co-foundedPernixData

After a decade at VMware, serving as Principal Engineer and Storage CTO, Satyam Vaghani left to co-found PernixData with Poojan Kumar, who created Oracle’s Exadata. An enterprise storage company, PernixData raised $27 million in funding after its first year and even sealed a partnership with VMware, says Business InsiderVaghani told Business Insider the decision to leave was difficult and a big risk, and only time will tell if he made the right one.

Vaghani’s Takeaway:

“[It was] a big risk for my career. I was a leader in storage, and I was giving that up. Did I make the right decision? We’ll see.”

3. David Jones

Company he left: Havas Global

What he founded: One Young World

David Jones spent 15 years at integrated marketing leader Havas Global, rising to become the company’s CEO, but he still couldn’t resist his entrepreneurial temptations. In 2009, left Havas to found One Young World, a global youth forum that connects young adults with a network of leaders.

Jones’ Takeaway:

“The [entrepreneurial] bug bit me. It was about the opportunity, and my desire to go and be an entrepreneur. I’d regret forever not doing it.”

4. Jasper Vallance

Company he left: Google

What he founded: Jasper Online Consulting

In five years as a Retail Industry Manager at Google, Jasper Vallance had it pretty good. Three meals a day cooked by talented chefs. Free yoga and massages. Extravagant overseas conferences. And much, much more. But in 2012, Vallance could no longer ignore the itch to do his own thing. As Vallance explained in this post for LifeHacker, Google’s Sydney, Australia, operation had become a bit too corporate for him, so he took a big risk and left a business everyone wanted to work for to start an online consulting company no one had ever heard of.

Vallance’s Takeaway: 

“Don’t just base the decision on financial [impact]. As I have discovered, the flexibility, learning opportunities, and value of building your own [business] can have a far bigger impact on your life.”

5. Sachin Agarwal

Company he left: Apple

What he founded: Posterous

By his own admission, working at Apple was Sachin Agarwal’s dream job. He grew up a huge fan of Apple’s products and, eventually, was hired by the company to help design them. There was just one problem: Agarwal told Mashable in 2011 that he also felt a “burning desire” to build a better way to share photos and content on the Web — and that desire ultimately beat out his desire to keep his so-called dream job. Although Posterous shut down in 2012 after being acquired by Twitter, Agarwal and much of the Posterous team did join Twitter.

Agarwal’s Takeaway:

“I’m a big believer in education and experience. The longer you wait before starting a company, the greater your chances are for success.”

6. Tony Fadell

Company he left: Apple

What he founded: Nest Labs

Tony Fadell’s claim to fame is impressive: He’s often cited as “the father of the iPod and iPhone,” the products that many believe ignited Apple’s incredible growth trajectory and paved the way to its market dominance. But for all of his success at one of the world’s biggest and best companies, Fadell felt like something was missing — work/life balance and the ability to spend more time watching his kids grow up. So, in 2010, he left Apple to found Nest Labs — a company that Google just acquired for $3.2 billion. While Fadell still works 60-70 hours per week, his role with Nest has given him the one thing he longed for: More time with his family.

Fadell’s Takeaway: 

“My son said to me the other day, ‘Daddy, you’re making things with us like your granddad did with you.’ I almost cried.”

7. Dan Yoo

Company he left: LinkedIn

Opportunity he jumped for: COO for NerdWallet

After leading LinkedIn’s business operations, strategy, and analytics teams through a period of incredible growth, many of Dan Yoo’s colleagues and peers were shocked to learn that he was leaving the social networking Goliath to take a job at a startup with fewer employees than the single department he ran at LinkedIn. But as Yoo wrote in this post for Yahoo!, the decision came down to Yoo’s ability to fundamentally shape the success of an exciting opportunity.

Yoo’s Takeaway:

“The hard-earned comforts of a good job can taste like sweet fruit found at the summit of a long career climb. Then one day you look around and realize you’ve grown fat and you’re stuck on a plateau, not a peak. You miss feeling hungry.”

8. Frank Frankovsky

Company he left: Facebook

What he founded: A storage startup to be announced

Frank Frankovsky was Facebook’s VP of Hardware Design and Supply Chain, and he was responsible for creating Facebook’s Open Compute Project. However, earlier this year, he resigned from the social media giant to build his own optical storage startup. Although his new project’s name is yet to be announced, Frankovsky did tell Gigaom that he will be staying on as Chairman and President of the Open Compute Project Foundation, and that his decision to strike out on his own was inspired by his work on the project.

Frankovsky’s Takeaway:

“The future of the industry is wide open for us to invent. It’s no longer an industry that’s one-sided. It is customers and suppliers working together to invent what happens next, and that’s what excites me about open compute.”

Did you leave a corporate job for a startup? Share your experience with us in the comments.

Image courtesy of John Sonderman