In some respects, it’s a little like taking the red pill and getting ejected from the Matrix. Everything you do in a startup makes a difference. No longer are you surrounded by a safety blanket world where you’re a small cog in a large machine.
I don’t see working at an early-stage technology company as “better” than working at a big company, but it is definitely very different.
One of my favorite parts (besides working so close to the product) is being able to shape the culture at a very fundamental level. Early in Klink’s life I ran a Team Values workshop to create our ten “Leadership Principles”. It was wonderful (and scary) to create our values from scratch.