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The perks of the start-up life seem attractive in theory but the fear of abandoning the comfort and cushion of corporate life can leave one stuck with only the dream. We recently sat down with Infobelt Co-Founder Joe Mahaboob and discussed his transition from the likes of Bank of America (BofA), GE, and other multi-national corporations to a startup. Here’s what he had to say:

Question 1: An entrepreneur is someone who, through his or her skills and passion, creates a business and is willing to take full accountability for its success or failure. An intrapreneur, on the other hand, is someone who utilizes his or her skill, passion and innovation to manage or create something useful for someone else’s business… with entrepreneurial zest. Based on your experience in both roles, name one benefit about being an entrepreneur vs. an intraprenuer?

As an entrepreneur you are not constrained by corporate policies or the brand implications you may have to respect as an intraprenuer buying on behalf of corporate. While they do claim you are given flexibility, there is an expectation to stay within the lines. There is freedom here to explore boundaries and come up with ideas that could be disrupters or game changers in our field.

Question 2: What’s one thing that you find to be harder about being an entrepreneur vs. an intraprenuer?

Again, being an intraprenuer within a fortune 5 company, despite the disadvantages of abiding by corporate policy, we did have the deep pockets. This gave us the ability to make large swings once sanctioned since there were enough financial resources available once you could prove your business case. Today being an entrepreneur you may have some great ideas but the resources could be (and often are) restricted by funding and availability. Additionally, in startup you are chasing down ten different things to keep your head above water, exploring the new ideas becomes more of a challenge. The day to day truth is that you have to face reality and keep the wheels rolling.

Question 3: What is the same about the two?

Because of the position I was in at BofA, both my role within the bank and at Infobelt have required thinking beyond normal “run the shop” type activities – you have to think on how do I grow the business? How do I attract employees? Create a fellowship/following? In both corporate and start-up you want to have an outlook on how you are doing business and how you project but of course the boundaries within both are different.

Question 4: What advice would you give to other entrepreneurs in similar situations?

Take your focus area and try to be disruptive in that specific field, look at the status quo and see what you, as a consumer of that technology, would love to see happen. Then go execute a plan and make that happen. Basically, dream…

Question 5: Is the coffee better at BofA or here?

Absolutely better here! Coffee at BofA stinks – the corporate and vendor actions even limited coffee. It was the most watered down, cheapest grade of coffee they could buy. Most employees were out buying coffee instead of drinking what the bank provided.

Question 6: People say the bank is like an “ivory tower.”  How do you think people view your decision to leave there and take on the risk of a start-up?

For folks who are in a similar predicament with the bank (meaning they have achieved seniority) they are sort of envious that one could follow his dreams and not “tow the line.” Most people working for a good organization like BofA would not dream of leaving unless they were extremely financially stable (that was not the case with Joe) I felt it was the right time to make the move and start this new phase of my career. But you have to have an appetite for risk to really take the leap of faith and take the risk in your own hands.

Question 7: The banks are still challenged with information governance and proper software applications to handle the information glut, with your experience on both the side of the bank and the side of a software and service provider, what would you say to Brian Moynihan and other CEO’s of large banks/corporations?

There are a lot of efficiencies to be had in data management. BofA, like most large corporations, has HUGE risks and a major need for governance that is not being prioritized as much as it should be. There still exist too many tools and not a strong focus on getting all these tools to work together to provide risk and information management. The governance problem absolutely exists and it’s huge. They need the continued help of smaller more focused companies like Infobelt or they too will be swallowed by the glut. Staying in bed too long with the big providers (big corporate helping big corporate) just “boils the ocean.” The type of disparate governance solutions the bank is relying on will never accomplish what is needed and the solution will leave them vulnerable and their data at risk.

Interested in pursuing more questions like these, or simply have questions of your own? Leave us a comment below to continue the conversation.

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