In my last post, I talked about understanding your future role at a startup before making the transition from your corporate job. I’ll continue the thread here with the remaining questions of whether the startup, it’s environment and money is right for you. Let’s begin:
Is the startup right for you?
Not all startups are equal. The problem space, target customer (B2C or B2B), business model, funding (or financial health) and employee count – all have an impact on whether it’s the right startup for you or not. If you do not identify well with the problem that the startup is trying to solve, you will not survive long there. Research the other players in the space, identify where the startup you want to work at stands.
- How can you help with their current challenges?
- What problems could they potentially encounter?
- What would your game plan be?
In your conversations with the startup get a sense of their objectives, milestones and deliverables for the next 12-18 months. If you can, create some early plan for it as that’ll build confidence both for them and you. When professionals from large companies join too small or early-stage startups, they usually end up with an expectation mismatch. The shift in the environment (whether its resources, culture, pace) is so drastic that it’s difficult to cope with it. Hence pick a startup that has perhaps, crossed a few funding rounds and makes for a good middle ground to start in. I did that when I moved from Yahoo to Freshworks. Moreover, whether you are looking at a leadership role or not, startups are heavy on ownership. There are so many unknowns that there won’t be folks to provide all the answers. Instead, the expectation will be that you provide the solutions.
Is the environment right for you?
Startups are chaotic at best. They need to achieve in months what has perhaps taken years for more established competitors to achieve. If it’s a completely new category being created, then maintaining that first-mover advantage is supreme. Good startups take rapid decisions and constantly revisit them to adjust course. There will be an ambiguity that you need to be comfortable with. Each day is exciting and filled with new milestones and learning. For some, it’s a rush, a high that spoils them for corporate jobs forever. However, working at a startup will require some lifestyle adjustments and additional demands on your time. I don’t mean that this requires you to be working all the time, but rather that you’ll need to be more flexible about the time you spend at work (not necessarily the office). There can be both business and cultural constraints that require you to commit a certain amount of time to the startup. Make sure your family is comfortable with this decision as they will feel the brunt of your startup life too. Equally important is your equation with the founders and other leadership. If you are not able to align yourself with the pace that the leadership is working with, it will create friction. 0-1, 1-10 and 10-100, each requires a different mindset, which of these are you best at?
“There is no such thing as separation of work and personal life. One impacts the other. The choices that we make rebound on and amplify each other.” – Kathy Zucker
Is the money right for you?
There are some well-funded startups out there that are more than able to match (and exceed) your corporate salaries. These, however, are few in number. Most other startups will make up for any reduction in pay by way of equity/stocks in the company. This ensures that you too are invested in the success of the company as you’ll reap the benefits later. However, it takes time for the upside from stocks to be realized, so keep the horizon of a few years in mind. If the startup is successful, this upside is significant, but if the startup folds then all you’ll be left with is just paper. When one is young, the learning opportunity more than makes up in the long-term for the short-term monetary dip you may see. But for seasoned professionals, with more responsibilities and liabilities this risk may be higher, so having some monetary cushion is advisable. Make sure you are managing your finances well to weather any storm should things not work out for the startup.
Startups are an exciting place to be at, there are so many problems that are being solved and industries being disrupted. They are not for everyone though, it takes a lot of courage to be part of one. There is no perfect timing either on when you join a startup. If you are excited and have reasonably positive answers for the role, company, environment and money at a startup, you can take the plunge. At Revvsales, both Rishi and I are working hard to ensure our employees understand and look forward to this startup journey with us. (and yes, we are hiring!) I hope I’ve given you the framework to evaluate whether a startup is for you or not. If you are already working at a startup, add your comments below on what worked for you and what didn’t.
Image Credit: Bilal Kamoon