What is it like working at a startup?

Posted on Categories Business, Startup

Recently, I have had a few friends working in other industries (legal, government, large consultants) ask me about the startup day to day, and what it is like.

if I had to summarize it in one word, it would be this: Rewarding.

You just feel like you get stuff done, get to work with passionate people and you learn a lot.

There is a blog post on 17 tips on working at a startup (from Dharmesh Shah Founder of Hubspot). I wanted to call out 6 that resonate the most with me:

1. If the value of the education does not exceed the value of the salary you’re getting, you’re doing something wrong, or you’re in the wrong company.

I feel that all developers have this insatiable desire to learn. Learn a new language, a new algorithm, a new scaling challenge. You will get this and way more in a start up.

2. If you’re just looking for a job, you’re probably better off looking elsewhere. A startup should be much more than a job. It should be a life-changing experience.

When you choose to work in a startup, you are essentially saying: “I want to make a mark, who is willing to see out my vision?”. There is so much value in that for growth and personal satisfaction.

3. Be selective. Seek signs of success. Understand the business. Know the founders. Only join if you think the company has a good chance of being a great success. Working for a fast-growing, thriving startup is a lot of fun. There’s nothing like it.

Do not be afraid to ask the founders hard questions: How will you make money? How big is the market? Are you planning to exit? If they feel uncomfortable answering these questions, then either 1) they don’t know the answer – red flag 2) they are not confident their answers are strong – red flag.

4. Wear as many hats as possible. Help out wherever you can. There are always things that need doing in a startup.

Don’t expect people to tell you what to do all the time. I value very much team members who say: “This is broken, I think we should fix it this way”. That is music to my ears!

5. Go beyond just equity ownership, take emotional ownership.

This means a lot. You really have to take things a little more personally with a startup. You are closer to everything. Closer to the founders, senior management, the vision, the customers, the impact. This is a huge privilege and opportunity. Putting in that extra emotional commitment by doing things outside the norm goes a long, long way.

6. Assume you’re going to start your own company some day (because you probably are). Make note of what’s working and what’s not.

As I said in point #1 – you are learning all the time. You will learn how a team functions when there are 3 developers, and how it will be vastly different when there is 7. These growth challenges all have solutions, but there is no “how to do a startup for dummies” (If there is, it is useless). No single book can prepare you for the day to day nuances. It has to be experienced.