Romain Péchayre

@rpechayr

Why you should join an early-stage startup

As en engineer, you have a massive impact 💥 on the product you work on 👩‍💻 and the organization you join 🤝

Steve and Steve in Steve’s parents’ garage

There are opportunities in all kinds of tech companies, especially if your are an engineer. If you don’t really pay attention, you only hear about the big ones, because they make sure to capture most of the attention even though they only represent a fraction of the available jobs. Also, even in 2018, some people argue than joining a startup is uncertain if not dangerous for your career.

Fuck. That. Shit *

A light and efficient organization️ ⚡️

An early-stage startup has a very small team. There is no chain of command, no managers, no heavy processes and no legacy systems. Such a small team is efficient by nature. All stakeholders are part of it, so the CTO or the CEO is probably sitting next to you now. The organization never gets in your way. This makes you damn efficient in what you do.

️Your impact on the product 💥

When you are launching a product, you are spending most of the time getting useful things done. It’s really fast and cheap to add a new feature. It’s even faster to remove that feature and try another one 😜. Also, in a team of 5 or 6 people, you definitely have a massive impact on the product. Not only you represent 20% of the workforce, but in 3 years, many features and evolutions will depend on the work you did at the beginning.

What usually happens to ideas in big companies 💡

What’s the lifecycle of a new idea in a big company ? If it’s your idea and you are not an executive, it will take forever to be validated. Then, you need to consider the impact on your users, your tech stack, or the data. So you need a migration plan 😨. If the migration has an impact on the users, you will probably create a parallel UI like this one or that one. If data need to be migrated, it will certainly take 10x times longer than you think until you make it work in a reasonable amount of time. If it’s an architecture (think migrating from Angular to React, or Rails 4.1 to Rails 5, etc.), we are talking weeks or months of development. Oh, and most of the time the migration is not worth the effort. So you are stuck with your old interface, your outdated data or your inefficient tech stack.

Building a legacy or suffering from a legacy ? 🌓

When you work on the product in an early stage startup, you are actually creating a legacy, which in my opinion is much more enjoyable than depending on someone else’s legacy. In a few years, you’ll be more efficient than others to work on the product, because not only you know the context of most past decisions, you were also part of the context.

Early employees play a key role in onboarding new people. They know the company because they are the company.

Those risks you are taking 🙀

Let’s face it. When you are taking a job in a market where there are 10 jobs for 3 candidates, there is absolutely no risk in taking any of those jobs. Your startup fails in 3 months ? Well, you’ll be the only guy immediately available on the market, whereas all others have a 2 or 3 months notice. Don’t want to do this again ? Take a quiet and easy job in a large company. Maybe you’ll join another small company and create your own start-up in a few years.

Maybe you’ll create your own start-up in a few years…

That money you are making 💸

This is the uncertain part. Early employees usually get stock options when the company is really small. The percentage varies between 0.15% and 2% each, and of course, these shares can be worth nothing after a few years. But there is a little chance that the company gets acquired between $10 million and $100 million. In this cases your outcome can represent quite a lot of money. Of course, early employees get much more shares than others, mainly because they decide to join the company when the uncertainty is high, but also because you simply cannot have 200 people with 1% shares each…

Let’s be honest, if money is the primary reason why you join a company, there are other ways to make money with far more certainty.

Want to know what it’s like to be an entrepreneur ? 🤓

Maybe, just maybe, some day, you intend to create your own company. What you do observe in an early-stage startup is actual entrepreneurs facing challenges, successes and failures on a day-to-day basis. From the outside of a company, you mainly hear about fundraising and IPOS, or disasters related to sexual harassment or massive privacy issues.

Learning from other people’s jobs️ 🙋‍♂️

In a tiny company, all skills are gathered in a very small environment. You collaborate all the time with people doing very different jobs and you learn from them. If you are an engineer, it’s easy to learn some stuff about marketing or design, or at least understand their challenges. In a large organization, you are mostly collaborating with people like you, unless you are a manager.

When you are a manager in a big company, it’s a different story. You do talk to other teams of the organization. However, you don’t do much actual work. This is because attending meetings, handling backlogs, doing politics and managing your career take a lot of time. This is the reason why there are more and more managers who become individual contributors.

Treat the organization like a product 👫👭

An early-stage startup is a young organization. Being part of it gives you the opportunity to experiment new kinds of management without coping with an established hierarchy. You’ll try some shiny and efficient initiatives, like having no status meetings , asynchronous communication, email transparency — 10 years ago I would have mentionned Scrum 😛 . You’ll have your say on how to collaborate with each other, how to deliver your product, and how to talk to customers. Because you contribute to the organization, you’ll love it, just like you love the product you are working on.

You’ll constantly innovate, learn, experiment new stuff in both the product and the way you work. Every day, you’ll own what you do as much as how you do it.

Want to join an early-stage startup based in Paris and help us figure it all ? Want to work on a great product and on the company as a product ? Check out our openings.

Yeeld is a french mobile bank focused on simple goals achievement.

* kindly borrowed from DHH

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