Breaking into Startups as a Developer - Reading Time: 4 Mins

Introduction

Recently I was allowed to speak for the career segment to introduce the startup ecosystem of Singapore to the students. Who is studying for computer science degree programs under Singapore Institution of Technology (SIT)

I was shocked with the result when I asked for a straw pool on who had heard of Block71.

Which is a very well known place within the startup ecosystem in Singapore that includes tons of VC firms, startups, corporate incubators, innovation hubs in Singapore.

None of them raises up their hands despite. It is less than 1 km away from SIT's main campus where the local degree programmes conduct their classes in.

Sensing an uphill battle, I give them a rundown on the startup ecosystem in Singapore from my own perspective.

Why Join a Startup?

I started with three reasons, why they should consider joining a startup as a developer.

The first one was that something I had a personal experience with. When I was applying for jobs or well-funded startups who had reached out to me.

When they are moving their engineering departments to Singapore due to Singapore's advantage in engineering talents, ease of incorporation of a company and the gateway between Asia markets and the world.

The second was Singapore's focus in research & development funding to commercialise deep-tech startups. Think cutting edge technology at the forefront of the industry from indoor farming, self-driving cars to electrical vehicle supercars.

The third was there are tons of opportunities where positions are available for graduates. Who is seeking to be part of startups in Singapore due to our preference where 1 in 4 university students join startups.

Think Like an Investor When Joining a Startup

My mentor told me to focus on seeking startup founders with experience in the industry.

Who are starting their own startup because it is a safer bet for VCs. Than a nonbody who has no industry exposure or pain points on the startup, they are doing. Besides that search for funded startups as the last thing you want is to work for free or it closes down in a few months.

My experience with Startup-O gave me the same perspective when it comes to doing the due diligence process of a startup.

Checklist When Searching for a Startup:

  • What is their burn rate? - How long does it last till their next funding round to raise capital
  • Who is their customer? - Who are they serving based upon the product or services they had built to service their customer.
  • What is their business model? - How are they getting paid? Like for Macdonalds, it's the real estate that they lease to the franchisee that makes them the money, not fries or cheeseburger.
  • What is the problem they are trying to solve? - This is important for searching their product market in the products or services they are building.
  • What is their unfair advantage or unique about their startup - Think a purple cow among a sea of cows in the grass field that they can find you in what they stand for.
  • What is the technology they are using? - For you to match your skillsets with the startup that is hiring you.
  • Do they have any senior engineers to mentor or guide you? - This is important since they can help you a lot in growing as a developer.
  • What is their engineering or developer practices like? - Software development practices are quite common in our industry and allows you to grow as a developer from junior to a senior developer very quickly.
  • What is their compensation package? - To know your personal comfort.

What are the Challenges You Will Face?

For me, I believe there are actually 3 areas of challenges for fresh graduates who are thinking of joining a startup.

  • Welcome Ambiguity & Instability - A tough cookie to break especially among my peers and classmates that I had met to change your mindset.
  • Being Outside of One's Comfort Zone - This could be a daily basis that getting paid while learning to do things that are totally outside of your comfort zone. From picking up new technology to being thrown to the deep end to sink or swim to make things happen or work.
  • Skills Mismatch - This is one of the hard parts that were stumbling blocks for me in picking up a technology.

Which is relevant and useful to land a job in a Startup that I would want to work in. You need to have some basic knowledge and drive to learn plus accelerate your learning curve.

Conclusion

I hope this may be useful for anyone who plans to join a startup as a developer. You can take a look at my presentation slides which might be relevant for any local developer who plans to do an internship or work in a Startup.

Lastly, I had included a section called Words of Wisdom from The Startup Community of developers in Singapore who are currently or has been previously working for a Startup.

References