Consider This Before Choosing Your Next Startup by@jdspiess

Consider This Before Choosing Your Next Startup

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Jonathan Spiess
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You want to work at a startup? That’s great.

Startups are fast-paced and fun. You’re surrounded by smart, hardworking people. Together, you’re trying to change the world.

But no two startups are the same. That’s why you need to evaluate your options and determine which startup is the right fit for you.

Before accepting your job offer, make sure to think about the following.

Follow Your Passion

What do you care about?

When you join a startup, you have to believe in its mission. What gets you excited and motivated to wake up every day? People are motivated by different things. Some people care about digital security; for others, it’s about incredible user experience and design. And for still others, it’s music.

Your job should include whatever makes you passionate.

Do you believe in the product? Can you get excited about it? Passion isn’t just about the technology or solution that a startup creates — it’s about how they’re moving their industry forward and changing lives.

If you don’t believe in the product, you shouldn’t work for the company. It’s that simple.

Assess The Business Model

Does the company have a real business model? If so, what is it? Dig deep. They might have the best technology in the world but if it isn’t going to make money, then you shouldn’t work with them. You should see financial viability at your startup, especially during down markets like we’re seeing now. The cool ideas don’t last.

How do you assess a business model? Think about the market, the type of customers the company is targeting, marketing strategies, distribution channels, resources, and whether or not the product can scale.

More directly, ask whether you’d put your own money into the company. Play the role of venture capitalist. If you wouldn’t invest money, why would you invest your time.

Evaluate The Team

You need to believe that the leadership of the startup you’re considering is well suited to grow the company. But, expand your diligence beyond the leadership. Request to meet with your team. You’ll be working closely with them. Check out everyone’s LinkedIn profiles. Execute a few Google searches. Try to speak with people who know them directly or read their writing.

Join a team you have faith in. Ideally, that team should have a track record of success. Exceptions can be made when you really believe in particular projects. But use caution.

Also, do your due diligence on their board and investors. What’s their track record? Are they involved or just the wallet? Having an involved and committed board team shows how dedicated they are to the product and the doors they can help the team open.

Evaluate the Engineering Philosophy

If you’re an engineer, try to dig into the philosophy of the engineering team. Here are a few questions to ask:

  • How are they picking the tools and infrastructure?
  • Is the company considering future technical challenges ahead of them or incurring technical debt?
  • How ambitious is the team?
  • What specific challenges are they solving?
  • What’s their technical strategy?
  • Are they open source and what’s the involvement in the community?
  • Are they committed to continuous learning and pushing the envelope?

Don’t be a primadonna and pick a job because they work with your favorite language. Languages change. Try to find a company open to exploring cool new technologies, even if they still use an older language.

You don’t want to be a builder that only uses a hammer to build a house. You need to use the best tool for the circumstances. The same applies to building software.

Absorb The Culture

The last thing you want to do is join a company only to find out you’re working at a place that has a culture you hate. Lots of people don’t give culture enough consideration during their job search. Candidates just assume that since people are nice, everything will be great once work begins.

Of course everyone will be nice to you when you’re interviewing. That doesn’t mean it’s the right place for you.

Ask whether you’re on the same page on culture. Do you get along with the type of people who work there? Are you into the environment they’re trying to create?

Specifically, what are the company’s values? Are they explicit? Does the company plaster them everywhere? That’s a good sign.

Many job seekers fail to consider culture while conducting their job searches — potentially creating disasters later on. When you don’t fully understand a company’s culture, you can end up stuck in a situation where you philosophically disagree with policies, procedures, and goals. It’s best to avoid that.

Consider The Timing

Is the startup’s timing (i.e., early stage vs. late stage) a fit with your timing? Are you more interested in earning a large salary? Or are you okay with equity and the chance to build your skills?

You want to join a company where you’ll be able to learn and develop professionally. Ask whether the position will help you inch closer to achieving your career goals. Everyone has a different risk appetite. The earlier you join a startup, the more risk you’re going to assume. But you also get a much broader role. If you do well, you can grow with the company. The later you join a startup, the less impact you’ll have. But roles are more specialized.

What matters most to you? There are pros and cons to every startup, but it’s about what you’re most comfortable with, what inspires you, and what’s the best fit. Find a balance that works for you.

Choose wisely!


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