This year, I’ve noticed during my initial interviews that many candidates are applying without a real understanding of what life in the startup world really is. The concept of the tech startup has gotten a lot of attention recently and the idea of moving from an established ‘company’ to somewhere that thinks about things differently is no longer strange.
There is also the ‘unicorn hunting’ factor. Seeing founders and early team members of startups be part of big value IPO’s has inspired a lot of interest.
So for any candidates looking to move into the startup world, in a tech environment or otherwise, I’ve added a few notes below which may help as you navigate this stage in your career.
That's why I have compiled the following notes to help candidates through the process.
Any move in any career comes with great responsibility because can damage both your CV and the company you decide to join. 10 companies in 8 years on a CV doesn’t look good (and we see it reasonably frequently) and a ‘bad hire’ in opportunity cost alone hurts the bottom line of any startup.
- Be a part of something, see your contribution make a difference
- Work with like minded souls. Being entrepreneurial isn’t limited to founders, those who join startups have loads of it
- Learn by doing, mostly on your own and on the go
- Gain relevance and expand your experience as the company and team grows
- Play ping pong every day
- Make a million euros from an IPO
- Stay in your comfort zone
- Gain a funky or flashy job title
For many, the concept of a startup conjures up the same image every time: nerdy, overconfident founders with something to prove shouting ‘this industry is broken, my company will fix it’ and coders on beanbags eating free snacks in an open plan office until the funding runs out. These are the kind of companies that often get the headlines, but there is also another reality.
Away from the beadbags, there are other startups quietly getting on, making a difference and creating value.
There are a few factors which will help you work out what kind of startup you may be joining. Asking questions around these points will better establish the environment.
The previous round scope and size plus what kind of investors are backing the founding team can tell you a lot. Industry money (‘smart’ money) will mean an element of understanding by the establishment of what the team are trying to achieve. If it is just venture capital money that is funding the free snacks, its likely there is a runway to support fast paced growth rather than sustainable product/business growth.
Keep in mind that funding most likely means that the startup isn’t self sustaining. Funding can run out, often quickly, and can also make the team put the efforts in a different direction you expect.
Take a look at the founders and the senior team for insight to the level of maturity and what kind of culture they are creating. Over confident twenties hipsters are more likely to instil a party culture (think beers/pizza on Thursday afternoons) vs. the early greying family-first founders in their early forties (think respect for personal schedules and healthy work-life balance).
Ask the churn question. If a founder or hiring manager can’t tell you what % of their talent they retain, they don’t deserve your talent. Startups that have a ‘hire fast, fail fast’ approach may mean a revolving door of average talent but committed senior colleagues. On the other side, if a team has zero churn, are they confident that they are only hiring A grade talent in the first place.
Can the founders, senior team members and future colleagues articulate the values of the startup they are building? As importantly, are those values consistent across the team and do they display them in their interactions with you.
What is the ratio of customers to years in business? What is the trajectory of growth expected by the senior team vs. investors? You’ll get to understand quickly if this is a startup desperate for resources to fund its committed growth or if there is a reality gap in growth vs. expectations. Either scenario is a recipe for future frustration and stress.
If you are taking a step in your career path, the move to a startup is a big one. Startups can have big opportunities for personal growth and development, often because as the business grows, so will you. But don’t get discouraged by the lack of a formal career path, especially at an early stage startup. Instead find out how the hiring managers outline their vision for personal growth, do they encourage it, support it, aid it through internal or external resources?
If you are taking a deep breath and readying yourself to make the switch into a startup, what are the next steps and how to be efficient?
So many startups are all about reducing the middleman effect, enabling more cost efficient ways of doing things for consumers. But they still often use recruiting firms.
Recruiters charge between 15 to 20% of your first years salary. That is quite the incentive and can sometimes lead to a misconnect on values. It can also make your application more expensive than others.
- Angel.co community and company listing
- Glassdoor site and job listing
- Dealflow newsletter
- Dev.to community
- Startup oriented media like Techcrunch
- Crunchbase site and companies listing
Don’t expect to land the dream startup job on day one. If you’ve taken the time to read this far, it means you are committed to moving into the startup world in the right way. Doing your research on the company, taking the time to understand for yourself what kind of environment will suit you and your talents best will pay off.
Don’t be afraid of doing an exercise. Or two. If a startup asks to see the quality of your code or work, its for a reason. They will be trusting you to add to the business that they are building. A startup that doesn’t want to see your skills in action before they make you an offer probably don’t care as much for the work that underpins their business as they should.
Aside from the opportunity to showcase your skills you’ll be finding out more about the startup: if an exercise feels rushed, improvised or unprepared: they aren’t part of a defined process.
Joining a startup involves mutual trust. The questions you ask and what you request is a part of that process. Don’t be afraid to say if something in a selection process makes you feel uneasy or if an answer you get doesn’t fit with your perception or if there is ambiguity or inconsistency.
If you are serious about a career in travel tech and feel you have something to offer us, check out our open positions or simply be in touch.