I’ve been thinking long about whether or not I should write about my experiences in startup life or not. I have four startups under my belt, one never getting off the ground, the other I ran successfully for a year, and the last two were 100+ person startups, one of which I’m currently gainfully employed at.
Startups are the rage now, everyone wants to start one, work at one, and exit as a filthy millionaire. There are long nights, alcohol-fueled events, good and bad decisions, and in some cases a venture capital windfall.
I’ve seen products get killed in their infancy and I’ve seen products that were considered a joke sell for millions of dollars.
I’ve seen coworkers come and go, upper management replaced, and middle management told to pack their shit and leave, only to be hired 5 minutes later because their replacement has no idea where anything was.
You’re probably wondering that this sounds like a job for you! You can hack it, you’re strong, young, and smart. You can’t wait to answer “how high” when the 25-year-old CEO says, “jump” and points to a cliff.
Best check your head the door first. Working at a startup requires a special type of person. It requires someone who thrives in the unknown and gets the job done. You might have the technical chops.
You might have an idea about scaling, and repeatable processes, maybe how to really move the needle, and you believe in the mission of the company.
You might be a great fit for that startup and that’s awesome! I’m so excited for you, but remember that the only thing constant in this space is change.
Don’t get too comfortable. I’ve seen a new hire arrive on his first day only to be told to go home because his offer was rescinded. His crime? Showing up after a Board Meeting where it was decided to wipe out 30 people to cut costs and he was caught in the crossfire.
Working in a startup isn’t for the faint of heart and hopefully, you’ll learn a most important skill. To work in this space you need to be flexible.
I’m not the smartest guy in the room but I think I do alright, and part of my success is because I’m flexible. I try not to get set in my ways. The people that are too rigid to process, their “way or the highway” approach to things, will get eaten alive in this space.
I have seen new management come in and puff their chests out and call everyone losers because they had the right way to sell. A year later they scrapped their entire plan because it didn’t work.
I’ve seen companies triple nearly overnight with newcomers only concerned about building their fiefdoms and not fixing underlying problems. Many of those newcomers are long gone.
I’m not trying to scare you, but the startup space is chaotic. It’s nuts and I advise you to become a boring dentist instead. Drill teeth, make money and go home every night. If you like a stable life, go do something else that works in a startup.
But, if you’re like me and thrive on challenges, chaos, and trusting your abilities to get shit done, then by all means try one out. Just remember to be flexible and realize that it’s nuts.
It’s all nuts, all the time, and will get even nuttier the longer you’re in one.