David 2.0 VS Goliath: Benefits Of Working At A Startup

My buddy Aaron called me up last night, weeping on my shoulder about career choices. Seems he’s in two minds whether to take the awesome engineering job at the startup or to go with the big boys.

Settling into my game chair with beer and emergency snacks ready, I got really deep and tried to help the dude. Thankfully I made notes on a Hooters napkin so I could post my amazing insights here.

First of all, we talked about that double-edged sword of responsibility.

Let’s face it, sometimes it’s great to know that some other guy will be cleaning up your messes but in a startup, the newer it is, by default the more it will be your mess. People will be looking at you to provide the goods and see things through. If you’re good at both of those, to the victor go them spoils. Your bosses will give you more responsibility and you’ll be climbing that ladder quicker than a fireman. At the same time, all eyes are on you when the fit hits the Shan.

For all those times you’ve sworn you’d never do what that douche manger did, now’s your time to step up.

By simple mathematics I can tell you that being one of the first in a startup means you can literally define the company culture. You can set the goals, the standards and in Aaron’s case, Fridays can finally be “stone-washed jeans” Fridays.

Politics is another thing you won’t necessarily have to suffer in startups.

That’s because everyone will be too busy running around with their heads on fire to put up with that grime. You can find yourself coding one minute and interviewing the next which is a great opportunity to pick up more skills and learn the ropes for future enterprises.

Startups put your finger on the CEO’s pulse.

Decisions will (mostly) make sense because you’ll be so close to the action that you’ll finally be in that ‘need to know’ group that are normally reserved for the remedial mindless backstabbers or ‘managers’ as they are called in big companies.

So, I’ve covered the chicken soup for the career soul part of things but Aaron’s big dilemma was risk. I highlight this because it’s a biggie. Risk means that most startups have enough money to sustain themselves for anywhere from a year to a year and a half. No probs if you’re a great engineer like Aaron as there’ll always be loads of work but always worth walking around with two eyes open, I reckon.

The money might not be as great as when you party with the heavy hitters but depending on when you jump onboard, the equity potential of the startups can be, well, enticing. Having said that, jumping on when they are already hitting homers means those equity tails will start to look like a Doberman’s behind.

When I said that last bit, I could hear nothing but silence on Aaron’s end of the phone so I gave him one last piece of my golden mind about the benefits of working at a startup… before I fell off the beer pedestal.

What startups offer that the big boys can’t, is that knowledge that you could be right in there at the beginning of something that could change the world. Knowing your fingerprints are all over an amazing company is the biggest reward I can think of… after loads of money.