What Can Facebook & HP Teach Us About Working For A Startup?

By: Robyn Leenaerts

There was an interesting course of events the end of last week. On Thursday, we heard news that HP was planning to announce the layoff of as many as 30,000 employees in order to protect their stock price and prop up disappointing earnings.  This unfortunate news seemed a bit of a wet blanket to what was otherwise the largest and most anticipated IPO coming out party the tech sector, or any other sector for that matter, had ever seen.

And boy, did they ever come out!

Thursday’s HP news was followed by Friday’s massive $104Billion IPO for Facebook with the market anointing the closing share price of a little over $38 a share by end of day. Not bad for a little startup!

A discussion on the perils of large corporations who stop innovating aside, what makes this interesting for me is that we deal with the startup job market trying to fill thousands of jobs, on a daily basis. Part of that process entails interacting with multitudes of potential job seekers and one of their voiced concerns about working at a startup? Stability and security.

Now, before we go further let me say that I get it, I definitely do. Personally, I’m a mom and have a mortgage – I appreciate stability just as much as the next person - but I chose to work for a startup.  I’m thrilled for the challenge and opportunity to make something grow, and being of a certain age I’ve been through downsizing at a big firm before. To me, I don’t think one is any more or less risky of an endeavor in this current economic climate. There just aren’t any guarantees anymore.

The Kauffman Foundation’s 2010 report on job growth proved that small businesses (i.e. startups) showed the only net job growth for the last two decades. 3 million startup jobs created to the 1 million jobs cut by larger corporations each year.  Couple that data with the passage of the JOBS act this year freeing up even more avenues for venture capital, and I’d say that the startup sector’s undeniable growth is equally if not more attractive than the Fortune 500’s profit-saving downsizing threat.

Working for a startup, especially early stage, isn’t for everyone and yes, there are absolutely going to be companies that open and close within two years. However, had you gone to work let’s say for safe big old HP six months ago, your tenure might be a lot less than that. Conversely, had you gone to work for Instagram six months ago….well, you get the picture.

Working for a startup allows you to actually contribute more than just about anywhere else you’ve ever worked, but often that’s because you’re wearing more hats on a daily basis and not just doing the same task day in and day out. Working for a startup allows you to work on the most innovative technologies, products and processes, but not all of those are going to be able to make revenue. Bottom line, working for a startup is just like it’s supposed to be- you get out of it what you put into it. You might leave one company for another but that experience and education is yours for life.

That brings me back to the difference between employees at Facebook and HP this week. Another thing about working for a startup? Usually there’s an opportunity to offset some of that risk with a little equity in the endeavor.  You don’t get that from a Fortune 500 or government job. Just ask those last few hires over at Instagram if they’re happy they didn’t take a job at HP instead. Just ask any of the Facebook early employees…if you can find them.

I know what you’re thinking. I’m a woman AND a certain age and they still let me in a startup? Yep, StartUpHire rolls like that and I’m grateful for the opportunity! I encourage everyone out there to consider working for a startup in a new light and seize the day.  You just might have less to lose than you think and a whole lot of opportunity to gain.






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