Ben McKean and Dan Leahy made plans to quit Wall Street on the same day – September 4, 2009.
They had been working at investment banks (Ben at Merrill Lynch and Dan at Brown Brothers Harriman) covering internet companies and then the recession hit.
“There was so much negativity about Wall Street,” Ben says. “When we took our jobs, we didn’t realise we would be working in an industry that everyone thought was evil.”
Restaurants were empty and the internet was booming. This was their ticket out of Wall Street: an idea to launch a company that helps restaurants fill empty tables by privately offering diners 30% off their bill when they eat at a restaurant that is not at full capacity, Village Vines.
Their co-workers at Merrill and Brown Brothers had reacted surprisingly well when they quit. A lot offered to help, probably because some part of them also wanted out of Wall Street.
“The morale was very low at this point,” says Ben. “A lot of people in our groups wished they had something to start.”
When they left that Friday, Ben and Dan each brought with them a rolodex filled with internet entrepreneurs that launched the companies they covered at Merrill and Brown Brothers.
“That’s the real reason working on Wall Street helped us,” Ben told us, “the contacts we made.”
They’ve been “invaluable,” says Dan.
Now, they’re full-on tech scensters. They go to the parties, they dress down, they are growing beards, (yeah, you’re not allowed to grow a beard on Wall St) and it’s fun.
“There’s definitely a difference between the finance suit crowds and the internet crowds,” Ben says. “It took us about nine months, but now we’re finally wearing the jeans…” (He’s laughing.)
What about their old life?
“I think a lot of people have misconceptions about Wall Street,” Dan told us, “but personally I don’t see myself ever going back.”
Dan explains his new life this way: “I’ve become well-versed in the subway and bus routes and Ramen has become a much bigger part of my daily intake.”
Welcome to the Silicon Alley scene, boys! Check out their Village Vines site.
There a bunch of other entreprenuers who quit Wall Street for their dream jobs. Meet them now –>
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