There were a couple of questions asked to the panel (a very cool bunch of guys), that I thought was really interesting. Here are some of my thoughts, hope you take-away something from it.
1. Why join a startup? And what is the pay like? What skills are required?
Before universities, the best way to pick up skills as a craftsman, was to apprentice with a master who had an existing business. It seems employment has now become more of a way to pay the bills than actually accelerate the learning curve.
However, if you’re the kind that prefers the deep end of the pool, the startup is a great place to accelerate many dimensions of your career. As the startup forces you to be uncomfortable, learn the things you need to, in the shortest time, because YOU are the backup plan.
There have been times some of us have been near to tears, not felt like waking up, but there’s nothing like getting the product in the hands of the customer, and a word of thanks, makes our day. Simply because with a small group of people you created something of value from nothing, but your wits, hunger and grit (and some venture capital..).
Having placed quite a few people in the past year in startup companies, advertising agencies and others like listed companies, I was a little surprised to find, that startup founders actually pay a bit above market rate for talent. I’m not sure even founders realise they are paying over the odds, but that’s great for you. This only applies to companies with pre-series A funding onwards, though.
And that’s because, a startup comes with risk. That no matter how hard you work, the company may not actually be around in 2 to 3 years. On the upside you could be part of the ground zero team that built a multi-million business that disrupted the way your aunt or uncle does stuff, for the better.
So, what skills do you need to learn, to get accepted into the next team embarking on their epic adventure. From what we see, many of the startups (say at least 60%) are converging towards PHP-Laravel and Ruby-on-rails for back end. Native mobile development for iOS and Android is quite sought after. Front-end development is also important, you don’t need to go to One Academy or Lim Kok Wing with a course in design, to get a job in this area, like previously a requirement for web designers in early 2000.
A startup is a pretty flat table organization, so inversely, at anytime you feel you have plateaued, there is no reason to quit. Just sit down with the founder or your team, and tell them you want to get into a new area, and start proving to them you have the mettle to deliver results.
2. Which startups should I not join?
The guy who has an idea but can’t pay you. But seriously, watch out for whitewashing. Cool beanbags, and pool tables, and a great photo, but a different nature once you join. This seems to be more a feature of the first dot-com boom though, I’m unsure of many companies now.
The rule of thumb I go with, is the startup company disrupting a space, and will the product eventually offer immense value. Also is the management team people I can model after.
I suggest connecting to friends, and googling companies before an interview, to see if they have raise a round, or are profitable. By connecting with friends, you will soon discover which companies are in trouble due to attrition of staff, as it’s a small scene still.
3. When do I start my own thing?
Tomorrow. If you are okay with being un-comfortable. If you are okay with the fear of not being able to cover your rent or burn-rate. But that’s what extreme growth is about, because you will have to find solutions for yourself and your team, fast.
Otherwise, yeah, the employee thing is a lower risk way to get the benefits, without the sleepless nights.
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