The cultures of a start-up and a big corporation clash like natural gas to a flame. They are incompatible because of each ones goals are vastly different. A start-up has the sole purpose of doing one and only one thing. The focus is so laser focus that any bureaucracy gets minimized to the point of chaos. In the corporate world, focus is elusive. Departments, divisions and subsidiaries make up the wedding cake structure that from the outside, looks unmanageable.
The people are different. Start-up people are used to not getting paid, working for the love of the work and the sense of a higher mission. Security comes in acquired skills and pure passion. Corporate people are up in arms if the bonus is lower than last year, never have enough time for work and count the days to their next vacation. Security comes from seniority and political maneuvering.
The management at a start-up has usually done it before. No one really jumps into the unknown of a start-up unless they like the thrill of developing and the unknown. Most were recent doers who either left the big corporation that they sold their last company too. Corporate management usually haven an MBA from major schools and adhere to the latest management trends from Harvard Business Review. Chasing the perfect management method while feeding the bureaucratic machine gives them meaning and purpose. Employees seem to be a necessary evil.
Which one is better? As with anything, it depends on what you want done. Innovative projects thrive in a start-up where the singular purpose approach allows for focused work on a common goal. Once the innovation is done, scale may elude the focused start-up since the downside of singular purpose is singular purpose. That is where a well established corporation can scale an innovation beyond the start-up.
Start-ups vs Corporations is all about what you want to do. Innovation thrives in small, focused teams that are given liberty in how they do things while corporations provide the framework for scale and consistent results. One without the other would soon breed the missing.