Working in a startup

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I think a lot of people see movies like The Social Network and see partying, cool offices, meeting awesome people and we all imagine how cool working in a startup will be. The opportunity to be successful and rich like Mark Zuckerberg (Facebook founder) is high but risk to failure of a startup is also exponential. According to Harvard Business Review research 98% of the startup closes down within 2 years of foundation. This is an article (not to scare them) but just tell them a little about the ground situation in a startup so that you can judge whether your mindset is suitable to work in a startup or not. Working in a startup requires high affinity to risk and entrepreneurial mindset, people with steady job mindset may avoid joining the startup.

Startup employees often get fired or quit early, the reason being the very nature of a startup, which is very different from a large company. When working in a large company one only has to worry about getting the job done whereas in a startup the company itself may turn out to be failure often and this can be very frustrating for an employee even though he/she may be giving his 100% but whatever you have done for your company over time seems to have no results in the end (plus the fact that we know that most startups fail). For e less mature startup ecosystem like in India it gets worse as you will have nothing to write in your CV about your accomplishments in your previous company. They are not well managed and most of the times the leadership itself has too many flaws.

Working in a startup involves a lot of “grunt work”. There is no one to carry the files, none to serve a customer who may simply want a glass of water to drink, no one to clean the table if you spill coffee on it you will have to do most of the petty jobs yourself. You will also have to do a lot of work like making phone calls, signing for deliveries, or other tasks you may think are outside of your job description. To add a different perspective to doing “other tasks you may think are outside of your job description” – because start-ups have less resources, you gain wider learning faster in other disciplines, you learn to give up your ego for the sake of the company and learn those small things that you may not learn in an MNC in a 100 years.

Not so angel or Venture Capitalist funded startups are usually more strapped for cash than other established companies. This means that many of them may not be able to offer comparable salaries or benefits to other opportunities that you might have in a big company. Many of us think that working in a startup has more freedom to holidays and leisure work than working in a MNC. Think of it this way, if one person is absent on a day in a team of 100 and a person who is absent in a team of 10. There is far more responsibility (if not more work) in a startup. For me, it’s quite awesome to know that my work can help make or break the business, but again it’s all about the perspective. But in current age of internet, many startup do offer paid leave as long as you are available online.

The team atmosphere and the very air that we seem to be breathing in startups is what makes it irresistible to many of us. Working in a small group to achieve a big goal is energizing and you feel passionate all the time. Many people believe that the managers in startups will train us better than managers in MNC. This statement can be very subjective. Sometimes themselves are not good enough trainers, as they themselves may be new and inexperienced and may not know the tricks of the game that a large company may teach you very quickly. The managers will certainly be more will to help you but can they help you is the question. Again perspective matters here, in a startup an individual is FORCED to find the solution and not told the solution. That’s what makes working in startups a real challenge and brings out an entrepreneur in you.

Overall, we still think startups are amazing –- working at one will change your life, how you see the world, and what you think is possible. You’ll become a doer and fixer overnight and things that seemed overwhelming will seem like a piece of cake after a while. You’ll learn more about yourself and about how a business ought to be run than anywhere else. But the risks, discomforts, and drawbacks should not be ignored.

Due diligence check before joining a startup:

1. The company you are going to join has successful entrepreneurs as founders
2. The board of directors has already successful track record of successful exit (selling their previous startup to other big company in quite high price) or IPO.
3. Do you believe in their startup idea? If you have doubts about the success of their idea then better do not join it.
4. Are they offering 30%-50% higher salary than the average salary of established MNC along with some equity. You should get higher salary for the risk and the opportunity cost you will be going to take.
5. If possible try to arrange a lunch or dinner day with the startup and meet your other colleague before deciding to join them.
6. Is the work profile they are offering interest you?
7. The most important point : Are you having an entrepreneurial mindset? (note: No harm to be non-entrepreneurial as most present day humans are not entrepreneurial and scared of uncertainty in life and look for steady job)

 

TAKE IT AT YOUR OWN RISK, AND REMEMBER TAKING RISKS IS NOT FOR THE FAINTHEARTED.

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