Is Startup For Me? - Reading Time: 4 Mins

Introduction

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If you are just starting out I'm pretty sure, you have tons of questions in some form or another when you are thinking of being in a startup.

The questions could be in the lines of:

  • "What will my friends or family think about me?"
  • "Does it make sense for me to join one?"
  • "Will I be paid well?"
  • "Will I be able to fit into the company's culture?"
  • "What is it in for me to join a startup?"
  • "Will there be work-life balance "

Fortunately, for me, my focus was on choosing a path of being either a technology sales professional or software engineer after graduating from university.

I personally believe that it will eventually lead me to become a tech entrepreneur.

For you, the first question might be a deal-breaker for people.

Who are from an Asian background where prestige, education and job security are intertwined to form our identity.

Therefore thinking about it hard is one of the top priority for yourself,

As it is not a common career choice among your peers if you are in Singapore.

Dealing with Ambiguity & Wearing Multiple Hats

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Daily in a startup, you have a high chance to deal with different situations that will challenge you.

To become resourceful to get things done, to be adaptable to " seemly impossible situations that may be uncomfortable, or partake in one or two death marches.

Which requires you to be at work for a longer duration. This is especially the case for early-stage startups.

The good part is that you learn and grow at a much faster pace.

Without being pidgeon hole to do only a single thing in an MNC or another larger company.

Due to this mindset, you may pick up bad habits along the way.

In favour of just getting the result without thinking through in the impacts of what you had done.

What is Your Purpose for Joining a Startup?

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If your purpose for joining a startup is to be on the next Uber, WeWork or Airbnb.

So you could make lot's of money and retire on the tropical beach sipping your mojitos in just a few years.

I'm afraid that I have to burst your bubble. That you might have to prepare for the long haul of 5 to 10 years.

Since that is the usual timeline, which a startup might be brought by another company or might be able to be listed in the public stock exchange.

But if your purpose is something else, like say working in a startup as a tours of duty.

To gain Insight into how to run a future startup for yourself or a well-round education as a developer.

Which allows you to take on more senior-level positions that might require more years of experience than your peers.

What Type of Startup Fits Me?

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Here are some of the questions that I would ask myself when selecting a startup.

Is the startup funded by VC or are They a Bootstrapped startup?

This is important as it is a good gauge for the startup if they can stay alive after a few years.

Search for startups that are bootstrapped or is self-sustaining themselves or had recently closed their "funding" round to sustain themselves for a few years.

What is Stage of the Startup In Now?

Later-stage startups might be able to provide a structured environment and better salary & benefits above the market rate.

It usually requires a specialist with experience in what they do.

For an early-stage startup, they do not offer a better salary.

Instead, they might provide employee stock options, a lesser structure, health insurances and other benefits.

With room for leadership positions as you perform and duration of stay increases in the startup.

Do note that regardless of the stage of the startup. You should always look for market-level salary in your area & negotiate on it based upon your comfort level and geographic location.

Employee stock options sound good on paper but do note that it's just a paper.

Unless the startup is brought by another company or has been listed in a public stock exchange which could take 5 - 10 years to realise it.

Take "employee stocks option" as a pinch of salt of just an add on benefit to the startup you are working in.

Conclusion

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I hope that the questions and some of my answers are helpful for you to gauge yourself and allow you to make a choice to be part of a startup.

Please do not be attracted to fluff in the technology used.

Instead, focus on the problem the startup is trying to solve, the management team and hopefully their business model to help them survive as a startup.

Lastly, please do at the minimum read and adopt the principles of The Richest Man in Babylon to deal with the instability of startup life.

References