Why I Left My Sweet Investment Banking Gig for a Blogging Startup

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One founder explains why she gave up the safety of a banking career to take a leap into the unknown. By Catherine Tan (Co-founder, Notey)

After 10 years in investment banking, I walked away to do something with blogs? Yes – I did that.

But the journey is less about what I did and more about why I did it.

In the Beginning

Rewind to 2003. I’d just graduated from college (or ‘uni’ as they say in the UK). I had no money, no experience and no professional network, just your average bright-eyed kid eager to find her way in the world and fulfill an obligation to her typical Asian parents. (Read: land a stable job!)

I wasn’t the top of my class, but my attitude and drive were top-notch; these helped me land a gig in investment banking with Barclays Capital in London.

Banking on Excitement

Investment banking was exhilarating. I traveled the world on the corporate dime and was paid to learn a cutting edge field of finance and equity derivatives.

But I missed home.

After a year, I transferred back to Hong Kong with Barclays. Markets were booming in Asia and I found myself unexpectedly on a fast track and being courted aggressively by headhunters. I climbed a rung or two, joined a rival outfit at Morgan Stanley and was ultimately lured back to Barclays to work for my former boss….. seven years had passed between the two firms and I still hadn’t caught my breath.

Work was exciting and I was paid well (obligation to parents fulfilled!), but I’d hit a roadblock of sorts. I was missing something from my life.

The Missing Piece of the Puzzle

I looked back on my career, at what motivated me to wake up at 6am each day for market open.

Turns out it wasn’t the salary or the career progression, but the responsibilities I had taken on outside of my regular job. I was Chair of the Women’s Network, I’d set up the Women Inter-bank Networking Group (a group that brought together 18 Women’s Networks in Finance and has since expanded to Japan and the UK), and was on the Board of an educational non-profit. I was more interested in these entrepreneurial ventures than in closing the next big trade or becoming a Managing Director.

I was happier building organizations of my own and making an impact beyond the bottom line.

Surely, I thought, if I could channel the same energy and passion I had for these extra-curricular pursuits into a company of my own, I’d be much happier.

Time to Rethink

Necessity is the mother of invention (again).

It was October 2012. After a frenzied month of work meetings, budgets and planning sessions, I was desperate for a vacation. I wanted a holiday that was truly unique and nothing like the usual resort junkets provided to big media publications and featured writers. I wanted the opinions of travel bloggers – people doing what they love and sharing those experiences in a detailed and meaningful way.

Big media didn’t cut it. Neither did social media. Last resort: Search! I googled ‘Travel Blogs’ looking for that passionate ‘like mind’ and the perfect destination and realized how difficult it was to find anything relevant. The results were not only mediocre (required me to dive into page 2…3…4… etc), but the whole experience was painful and uninspiring.

This was my a-ha moment. If I couldn’t readily access first-hand experiences on the internet, there were probably millions of others struggling as well.

A Moment of Discovery

This is what I have discovered: people find it painstaking to seek quality blogs that are thought-provoking, educational and inspiring. People need a reliable space to visit where they can start planning vacations, access product reviews, begin DIY projects, get tips on parenting, or guide them through a similar emotional purchase or experience.

The universe of individual opinions is simply inaccessible as searches are dominated by cold-hard algorithms of keyword matches and paid promotions. We know where to find videos. We know where to find photos. But we didn’t know where to find blogs.

This was our opportunity.

Starting Up

I started a company that provides a “window to the blogosphere”. It’s called Notey. With blogs on over 500,000 topics, Notey re-organizes the blogosphere to make it streamlined, accessible and easy to navigate. Not to mention, it’s beautiful.

It’s been just over a year in the making.

Startup life is invigorating and demanding. There are unique challenges and the only constant is uncertainty. But I wake up everyday fired-up to fix a problem for millions of people; ensuring they can connect with incredible blogs. Notey just closed a seed round of funding and we are tackling what could possibly be one of the largest problems in the content space.

There’s no turning back and we’re just getting started. This is my journey and I’d love to hear yours.

Did you give up a "safe job" to start your own business?

Photo credit: Vaclav Volrab via Shutterstock.


About the guest blogger: Catherine Tan spent ten years in investment banking before co-founding Notey, a beautiful discovery and curation platform for the best of the blogosphere. Follow her on Twitter @cathnotey and @teamnotey.