Here is a question typically asked in online forums “What do I need to lookout for when joining a startup?”
Advice for those joining startups varies on the respondents’ perspectives and their personal experiences. We decided to crowdsource inputs from a variety of forums and tabulate them. Most respondents touched on risks and opportunity to learn and grow at a fast pace. Here is a summary of the collated inputs:
- A job at a startup can be highly unpredictable. You may not actually be doing the work you interviewed for. You should
- Be ready to learn and un-learn at a fast pace.
- Be ready to work in chaotic environment
- Be ready to face new challenges every day
- Be prepared for ups and downs and stay self-motivated
- Most Start-Ups go bust. However, you’ll have more opportunities for advancement at an early stage
- If the startup takes off, you will see your career taking off very fast.
- If not, reflect on your learnings and the wisdom gained. It won’t be the end of the world.
- Even if a startup goes bust, you would have developed a network of friends that will pay dividends later in your career.
- Keep your senses grounded in case you need to leave a sinking ship
- Distinguish between your personal life and startup-job
- Working at startup can feel like a “family,” especially when everyone is having fun. However, even in a family, you would draw a boundary somewhere. Find your comfort zone and draw a boundary accordingly.
- Make sure you have your own savings and safety-net. You will need this in case the startup fails or the burn rate is high or your pay is frozen.
- Compensation and Benefits
- You may be offered cash and stock compensation. Balance them out since stock returns are not guaranteed
- Most startups will not offer vacation and benefits (e.g medical insurance or 401k).
- Startup culture can be fast paced and require logging long hours: Will you enjoy 60+ hour weeks making this a successful venture?
Business 101: Try and understand the business and the Business Model of the startup you plan to join
- Understand the Market and target audience for the product
- Is this company first to market or will join an existing marketplace?
- Is this a niche product?
- Understand competitors: Who are the competitors
- Investors and funding
- Does the venture have money- how long do they estimate it will last?
- Try and understand the senior management’s exit plan. This may not be very obvious, and you can’t just ask about it; you will have to get a feel for it
- Do they have funding for standard daily operations such as telephones and office supplies so you don’t end up paying for it out of your own pocket with a promise of being reimbursed at a later date.
- Be aware of the funding cycles and plans for raising investments – If the burn rate exceeds the cashflow, watch out
- Do you know the Managers and Executives?
- A startup is not just offering you a job but “options” to be vested in the success of the venture.
- Remember that interviewing at a Startup is a two-way process. Have regular chats and discussion with the hiring team. Make sure that you are as excited about the journey as they are!
- Understand the founder/CEO and senior management’s vision and track record. Past performance is an indicator of future success. Have they led other successful startups and ventures?
Bottomline: If all this sounds like a “Business 101” lesson, it probably is. Financial upside of joining a startup at an early stage can be huge; but this comes with enormous personal and professional risks. Focus on yourself, and what you can learn while at a startup…. And remember to have fun!