When you are thinking of joining a startup. What are the questions that you will ask? Is it something related to their engineering practices in the company, what is the culture like, your salary or benefits. STOP before you go on rambling on what to look out for.
I would like to ask you one question, are you looking at the startup in the perspective of a developer or an investor? You must never ignore the fact that you are an investor. This is more so when you are vetting an early-stage startup to join. As a higher amount of shares is given to you. In compensation as one of their founding team of 10 people or less.
In the categories below are the type of questions in the perspective of a developer, investor & startup. I will ask to select the best options for yourself before you join the startup's ride. I know that the times are bad. You should never sell yourself short and get blindsided by it.
- What is Their Burn rate? - In layman terms, it is the amount of capital that is currently in the bank. Calculated in months to sustain the startup to keep the lights on. Before a new round of investment injection that usually takes about 6 months to 1 year to raise. Therefore they should have enough capital to buffer to sustain them.
- What is Their Business Model? - Business models play a part in how a startup can sustain themselves in the long run without reliance on investor capital. I would focus on startups who are in the black as they provide themselves to be self-sustaining that allows them to survive without the next investor capital injection.
- Who Are Their Customers? - Knowing that allows you to know. Who you are you building the product or service for which keeps the lights on. A startup in their early stage will seek to focus on product-market fit for their products or services.
- What is Their Vision? - It attracts people, who are interested in working on the vision/cause the startup is looking towards solving.
- What is The Problem They are Trying to Solve? - This gives you a general overview of the vision of the company. That they are working towards in the pain points without the fluff that comes with it.
- What Do They Value for The Company? - Values form the identity of the company and attract people. Who are in tune with their values like family-friendly, serving the community they are part of.
- What is the Engineering Culture like? - It can be in the specific developer or project management practices like daily standup. Show & tell sessions to encourage learning & presentation skills, maintaining an up to date documentation and doing pair programming with TDD.
- Do the Startup Provide Remote Work as a Benefit? - This helps you to get a gauge on their stand for it and their view on it. If they are welcoming to this for their developers. This opens up to other questions like their process, reporting, onboarding...etc.
- Are they Paying a Market Level Salary? - This an indicator that if they value you as an employee. Which if you are not one of the first 10 employees. Do not take a lower salary that is not the market rate for your services. As salary growth is tied to your current salary. Which is 10 - 15 % increment of your current salary for each change of your job.
I hope by arming you with these 9 questions. It allows you to choose the right startup for you. Hopefully not be short-changed by a snake oil salesman. Who is there to take advantage of you, because you did not think or ask these questions. When you are joining a new startup.
I would suggest you think of your vision, comfort and type of company you would want to work in for a startup. Always think about this before joining any startup. Because without it, it will be hard for you to know what do you want to be part of.
Lastly, are you looking to specialise yourself as a developer? If it's a YES. I'm giving away my free ebook called "Picking Your Specialisation as a Developer" for anyone who are interested to command a higher salary or do the work that you like.