Start-ups have a certain allure; for me it is like a fresh croissant with a medium roast cappuccino. As alluring as it may sound, I also do remember the times when I burnt my mouth. Nevertheless, once risk and rewards are weighed up – you may be better to decide whether that enticing start-up is for you.
Start-ups are often more innovative than established companies – foremost because they are likely in a production cycle with green field technology. As such, they are not drained of resources by the maintenance of legacy systems that breed boredom and contempt. But keep the hoorays – innovation too comes at a price. It means late nights solving problems that have never been solved before. Innovative technologies are a gamble too – you may be learning about technologies that will be nothing more than a fad or you could be learning about the next BIG THING. Thoroughly do your research to ensure your skills stay relevant.
Legacy systems have their place too. Believe it or not, Cobol programmers are still out there earning a living. I am sure nobody will accuse them of innovation, but they perform a valuable role, maintaining crucial legacy systems. If either scenario appears like a rather dramatic reality, you may wish to formally discuss technology adoption with your next employer and ensure that you strike a healthy balance between rooted and innovative technologies.
While not the most favourite topic of start-ups, the chances of failure are far greater than success – new business poses a massive risk to entrepreneurs and employees who are dependent on it for their livelihood. Successful start-ups will enable you to grow much faster than in an established company and sometimes stock-options are included as part of the package – motivating you to work towards the success of the company.
Juniors may often benefit from the environment of a start-up as they may receive greater exposure to methodologies and technologies, and with fewer financial obligations, the benefit of learning may outweigh the possibility of losing one’s job.
Experienced Senior applicants whom have many financial obligations may have to consider negotiating for a monetary security, such as a joining bonus or higher monthly salary that would offset potential unemployed time should the start-up fail.
You are more likely to have a Fußball table in the office than people-as-furniture – you know, the crowd who have survived their company for 30 years who are waiting to receive their Long Service Award so they too can hang it in their office. Speaking of an office – even if you are pretty important, it is unlikely that you will have an office working for a start-up, as budget is usually geared towards product or service development and not office space, so be prepared for life in the Big Brother house. If you thrive in an open working environment and enjoy a more informal approach to work, a start-up may be the place for you.
Did someone say fewer meetings? Start-ups really cannot waste time discussing things ad infinitum and they are more likely to DO THINGS than DISCUSS THINGS – ensuring productivity. Established corporates love meetings; problems that were highlighted 5 years ago are minuted again by confused and despondent faces who push requirements back to the 7 levels of management above them for consideration and approval only to have the same meeting in another 5 years because no decision was made.
Start-ups do not have space for slackers. This means you will have to pull your weight. Rest assured, you can be focussed on your tasks because you won’t be doing the job of 5 other people who are doing nothing.
There really is no objective reason why any form of company is better or worse than another. One can be happy or miserable working for start-ups or established companies – but it is important that one understands the modes of business, one’s working style, risk profile, as well as the company ‘s risk profile before deciding to accept employment. If carefully considered and risks are mitigated, a start-up can present an excellent opportunity.