New Year, New You: Why You Should Consider Working For A Startup This Yearby@jdspiess

New Year, New You: Why You Should Consider Working For A Startup This Year

by Jonathan SpiessJanuary 18th, 2016
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After speaking with many developers, I’ve learned something surprising: most of them never considered working for a <a href="" target="_blank">startup</a> before our discussion. I think that’s a mistake.
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After speaking with many developers, I’ve learned something surprising: most of them never considered working for a startup before our discussion. I think that’s a mistake.

People turn to traditional corporations by default. They rarely consider the alternative, startups. And if they do, they think it’s too risky. But what trade-offs are they making when they decide to forgo startup opportunities?

I’ve spent my career in and out of tech startups (mostly in). My experience has been rewarding, challenging, and exciting. I can’t imagine spending my time any other way.

Here’s why you should consider joining a startup during the next phase of your career.


At companies the size of Google, you’re one of thousands of engineers. Sure, your work means something for the company. But sometimes it doesn’t feel like it. By solving the company’s very specific, narrow problems, you also become siloed. While there are benefits to becoming a specialistic, you find working across the software stack is more fun. You’d rather diversify your skills.

Not only that, but you’re bored. You’re solving the same problems over and over.

If you’re going to spend most of your day coding, you should feel as if your work matters. At a startup, it does. It’s nice to walk into the office every morning, knowing that you can make a difference. Your work directly impacts the success of your company. If you’ve ever built a feature for fun, imagine having it implemented in production to millions of users in a matter of days. Your side projects can change the direction of a company’s product.

It’s empowering.

Cutting Edge

Startups work with cutting edge open source software. If you join one, you might have to spend time spiking on new technologies. You’ll walk away with something new (and marketable). You’ll learn faster because you have to put it in practice immediately.

But at a large company, you’ll deal with legacy software. It might have custom frameworks or languages that aren’t applicable when you leave that company. Every year you spend there is a year where you’re not developing the skills that matter for your future. It may make your next job search that much more difficult.

Stay on the cutting edge of technology if you want to learn quickly, maintain a high market value, and push forward in your career.


Do you have coworkers who show up, do the required amount of work, and leave? Creating a bond with a person like that is difficult. Corporations have large teams of people like this.

I’d rather work with small, committed teams that believe in the product and vision.

At startups, the mission drives the company forward. The workers are incentivized and care about the success of the business. You feel like an owner because you’re helping build the company. But you are an owner too. The executive team rewards hard work with stock options. By aligning everyone’s interests, startups face less political issues than large corporations.

Watching a group of people strive to achieve a goal is incredible. It’s even better to be a part of the team.

Monetary Rewards

Much of what I said might not matter to you if the monetary rewards weren’t there. But they are.

The best startups are funded and offer compensation that is reasonably competitive to Google, Criteo, or Facebook. While the fixed salaries might not be as high, they’re comparable. Plus, you get to share in the success of your company through stock options.

There’s a lot of confusion around options. Let’s clear a few things up.

Stock Options 101

Stock options are essentially shares in a company. As your company grows, the value of your shares increases. If your company is acquired or goes public, you’ll be able to sell your shares for a nice profit.

There are a few key components to your equity offer:

  • Percentage: Percentage matters more than total number of shares.
  • Vesting Period: How long it takes you to earn your options. If you have a four-year vesting period (which is typical), you won’t earn your full options until after your 4th year. You’ll earn it over time.
  • Cliff: Most offers include a cliff date as part of your vesting period. If you leave the startup before that date, you walk away from all the equity you’ve accrued. Normally, cliffs are one year.

There’s a lot more to learn. Here are some great resources:

For some more advanced reading, check out:

Learning Opportunities

In my opinion, you should join a startup to learn. What else drove you to become a developer, besides the need to challenge yourself every day?

Not only will you pick up the latest in technology, but you’ll participate in building a company. You can absorb those skills and use them if you ever want to start a business. At Dashlane, two engineers already left to build a startup (with our support).

Make sure you think about joining a startup before taking your next corporate job. If you’re going to make that decision, do it with full knowledge. Make sure you understand all the tangible and intangible benefits you’re leaving behind.

The opportunity cost of not considering a startup for your next career move is too high.