Myths And Misconceptions About Working for a Startup

By: Joe Payne

As a recruiter specializing in early stage companies (aka startups), candidates give me a lot of reasons they don’t want to work at one. Some of their reasons are valid – most are not. I’d like to dispel some of the misconceptions (and confirm some truths) about early stage companies. Here are the big ones.

It’s too risky

Well, maybe. But then, is it more risky than any other company? A few years ago, I was interviewing a candidate for a startup that provided an innovative analytics service for the community banking market. They had signed up quite a few clients and were growing very rapidly. The candidate was concerned about the risk and the stability of the company. Interviewing him, I discovered he had been laid off 4 times (!), each time from a major financial institution that had been acquired. He couldn’t understand that this startup was actually less risky than his former employers – all huge organizations. Like anything else, take a good look at the company and evaluate the risk like you would any investment you would make.

The hours are unreasonable and the pace is frantic

In case you haven’t noticed, it’s a good time to be a software developer. For this reason, companies (yes, even startups) are treating their employees pretty good these days. You will rarely see people sleeping on the floor or on a cot in the office. When you do, it’s generally because they are really excited about what they are doing. The pace does tend to be faster in a startup – it’s like working on a project with a tight deadline. That’s because almost every day is a milestone: prototype, beta, first user, first paying client, cash flow positive, profitable, etc. Seeing all these milestones accomplished gives such an intrinsic reward that most people think it’s worth it.

I’ll have to do a lot of things not in my job description

True. As a matter of fact, if this is your attitude don’t even consider a startup. Most people I talk with who are working at startups actually enjoy this aspect of the job. They tell me about the diversity of activities and how they discovered talents they never knew they had.

Here are some things many candidates don’t know about working in a startup.

The peer group is outstanding

Many of the people who will be your co-workers at a startup are some of the best in their field. Working with very sharp people will bring out the best in a person. I used to play competitive tennis – playing against a better player always elevated my game.

The people are passionate

Working closely with a large number of startups, I have seen firsthand the passion among the troops. Just walking around most of the offices is electric. The excitement of a team working together on the next new thing is contagious. Or, you can choose to work someplace boring.

The rewards are great

Sometimes the monetary rewards are very good – the company has an “event” and everyone participates in the success. However, even the companies that don’t hit the jackpot are great learning experiences that will help you in your next job, whether or not it’s a startup.

So, is a startup right for you? Maybe yes, maybe no. Hopefully, this will have provided you with more information to help you evaluate the next opportunity you see at a startup.

If working at a startup sounds like the perfect fit, then check out the jobs at StartUpHire and find yours today!


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2 Responses to “Myths And Misconceptions About Working for a Startup”

  1. David says:

    Some very good points. I have built 3 companies form scratch. It is not easy. It is messy. It can be hard. It is normal to have days of doubt. But if you focus on having fun, it can be very rewarding. Most people give up because they think that it should not be so hard- that maybe they are doing something wrong. It is normal. Nothing is wrong. Everyone goes through it. Only difference is some do not quit. If you do not quit you can never fail.

  2. Bruce Fryer says:


    I would add:
    You get to create.

    How often in your career can you point to something and say “I did that”.


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