Every man, woman and space child seems to want to work at a startup nowadays. With the potential to become filthy rich through an acquisition or IPO, fast-tracked learning and the “I’m so cool” factor, why wouldn’t you want to be a part of the startup community?
This rising fad of working at startups for the perceived hipness and coolness of it all shouldn’t overshadow what it actually means to be an entrepreneur.
If you want to work for a real startup (which, by the way, Google, Dropbox, Tumblr and crew are not startups anymore) I’d thoroughly consider the following points before doing so.
1. Laughable Wages
The majority of startups in the early stages (i.e. pre series A) don’t have a lot of cash to splash. So, compared to an entry-level job at Google (not a startup!) your wage will be cringe worthy in comparison. Understandably these early stage startups need to keep their operations lean until they “figure out” their business model and become a profitable venture. But what does that mean for you?
A typical model applied by startups to acquire top-tier talent is to offset the poor wage package by offering options but these will only really benefit you if the startup is acquired/goes public and considering that 90% of startups fail, it’s not weighed in your favour. Plus the perks like weekend excursions, midday massages and health insurance for you and your entire family don’t tend to come with your normal run of the mill startups. So if you’re looking to squander your hard earned cash on designer silk bed sheets and champagne every weekend and still have something to show, then I’d think about looking for a different job.
2. You’ll Be Doing a Lot of Bitchwork
To grow a company from the ground up with limited resources requires a very nimble and dynamic team. It’s exceptionally unlikely that the job you were hired for is the only one you will be doing. Most likely you will be doing something enthralling like playing Ping-Pong while pitching investors one day and the next you might end up manually plugging emails or cleaning the toilet floor with your bare hands.
Although everyone chips in within a startup family, it tends not to be the co-founders doing the undesirable tasks (as they have done them all before or so they tell you). Like any work environment, startups also have a hierarchy. You will be expected to give 1000% so expect some late nights and busy weekends without your friends and family, unless of course they want to visit you in the office and bring you libations and a change of clothes. During those crucial early stages if you don’t show you are a “team player” and ready to go the “extra mile” then you won’t be around for long.
3. Chaos & Continual Change
If a bit of chaos mixed into your coffee every morning doesn’t get you excited then startup life isn’t for you. Things change continually, 60% of the time every time (Yey Anchorman), which can result in more and more stress especially for people that are used to the normal grind of corporate life.
With pretty much every startup bowing down and adopting the lean methodology, it means we have to build and iterate at a much quicker rate, not something for the faint of heart. Until the business finds the right model then expect to live and work in an uncertain world full of organized chaos. One day you might be working on a B2C platform selling bike helmets and the next the company might have transformed into a SaaS platform offering solutions to financial institutions. You need to have at least a 89% ambiguity tolerance. Can you handle that?
So What Now?
I’m not trying to scare you off in your quest to take the startup scene by the horns, I’m merely exposing a little wee-bit of the reality of how it is for most people. Working for a startup can be an amazing experience that certainly can’t be duplicated in the corporate world (come to think of it I’ll have to write a post on 1000 reasons TO work for a startup) and if you don’t walk away rich rich (like with lots of cash money) then at least you will be rich in knowledge (ahh what a cliché). You will surely sacrifice your time and maybe even a little money but, you will make those sacrifices with the hope that there will be a worthwhile payoff (in money or experience). Whether you start your own company or continue working for other startups you will be off on a better foot.
So if you’re a little crazy like me and still fully embrace these not so pretty truths which maybe appeal to you (yes even getting paid nothing) then get your ass to the nearest startup that interests you!