Working at a startup is often quite an attractive proposition – the coolness factor, the chance to work on new projects with new people, the rush and all the excitement that comes with it. But before you take the plunge, make sure you have the answers to these questions at the very least.
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1. Why do you want to work at a startup?
Startups don’t always end up being successful and you won’t always become a millionaire. Ninety percent of startups fail. If you are in it for the money, then reassess your motives, because there’s a chance you may not make any. Do you believe in the vision of the company? Is the startup space competitive; will the company have an early adapter or first mover advantage? Those should be the real reasons to consider working at a startup.
2. Where is the money coming from?
Understand how the company is being funded and if the current round of funding will last a year or two. This information is usually available publicly, if the startup is backed by a venture capital firm. If you are unable to find this information, you can check with the founder or interviewer. It helps to understand if the founders’ savings are running the company, in which case there is a possibility of a quick cash crunch.
3. Do the founder(s) have a history of starting … startups?
While it’s not to say that a new founder would be unsuccessful, there’s a higher chance that a founder who has already had experience running a startup before, may be better able to manage the business to success.
4. How do the founding partners get along?
While it does matter that they are in this together and invested in the future of the company, it is equally if not more important that they are also connected in their vision for the company and have a trusting relationship.
5. Will you be able to adapt your work style?
Do you like structure and clearly defined job responsibilities or do you thrive in ambiguity and enjoy wearing multiple hats? If your preference is the former, then a startup is not exactly the right place for you.
In a startup, you are expected to take on multiple roles and the hierarchy is pretty flat. It is also important to assess if you would be able to get along with the team. If you foresee huge personality clashes without a way of making it work, you may not be able to bring in much value or upskill yourself effectively.
6. Will you get what you are looking for?
If the startup fails, it fails, you still win at the end if you’ve gained something useful from the experience. As James Altucher writes in TechCrunch, “…even in the worst case scenario where you misjudged everything else, (make sure) that you at least learn one thing fairly quickly after you take the job so that it adds to your skill set and you can move on to get a better job.”
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