12 Questions You Need to Ask Before Joining a Start-up
Startups are the flavour of the season. With so many of them mushrooming across sectors, opportunities have opened up for the employment seekers with various experience brackets. Startups with huge Investor backups & good amount of funding from institutional investors can offer lucrative career prospects, in terms of the basics like compensation, benefits, vesting, roles/responsibilities, etc. However, people joining Startups often fail to hit some of the important topics that are peculiar to them.
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The reasons people don’t ask the critical questions can be broadly categorized as: “I didn’t even like to think to ask that” or “I would have liked to know, but didn’t think it was appropriate to ask”. Here are the things that all individuals looking to join a startup should know about even before joining – but are in many cases, not asking.
1. Who are the Founders of the Startup?
Before you join a Startup, you should definitely try to find out all about its founders, who they are, where they come from, what their background is, and what they have achieved. You need to know about them not only because they are the owners of the company you hope to work for, but also because you need to have full confidence in their abilities before you begin to put time and effort into their company. Don’t judge the founders by their past failures, but also remember that if they were successful before, it doesn’t necessarily mean that they will be successful again.
2. Where does the Money come From?
One of the vital thing to be considered while joining a startup, is that where is the fund coming in from? Is it bootstrapped or has got seed funding for initial launch & waiting for some more rounds of investment as and when the company moves forward. Is there any Venture Capitalist backing the startup or not.
3. What Stage is the Startup in?
At what stage is this Startup that you are thinking of joining? Joining an early-stage venture that hasn’t received traction for their product and doesn’t have seed funding is a gamble. Unless you’re 100% convinced of the idea and the founders, your risk will multiply with doubt. Things don’t get any better after that. On the other hand, if the startup has gained initial traction with the product showing promise and customers receiving it well, it might be a great time to jump in
4. What is the Work Culture of the Startup?
The work culture defines the flavour of the company. There may be times when the company’s future is in doubt, but the company’s culture is what’s going to keep everyone’s mood afloat and probably contribute towards saving the company.
5. What is your Role in the Startup?
It’s important to figure this out well in advance. Having a huge role and getting slapped with responsibilities is one thing, but when you know your exact role and its impact on the future of the company, you will be motivated to work harder.
6. Will you have a Mentor in the Startup?
If you’re joining a Startup right out of college, chances are you know nothing about the job you’ve been hired to do. Which is why it is crucial that you find a mentor in the Startup. Which is why it is important for you to consider whether the founder or your boss is someone experienced who is going to guide you. Will he give you that initial nudge in the right direction before you start taking matters into your own hand? Or are you going to be thrown into chaos and confusion at your workplace?
7. Are you Flexible to Work Multiple Roles?
Hired for a sales role? Don’t be surprised if you have to lend a hand with marketing, or maybe business development, or maybe even updating the company’s social media pages once in a while. That’s beauty of joining a Startup – you might have to wear the hat of multiple roles.
8. Are you Comfortable with Unpredictable Working Hours?
There are good days, then there are bad ones. You’ll sometimes be bored out of your mind, and at times you’ll also have way too much on your plate with too little time to complete everything. That’s how working for a Startup is going to be, a roller-coaster ride and for the most part, you’re also going to love it.
9. Are you Sold on the Idea of the Startup?
Doing a quick research on the history of the idea will tell you about who have tried and who have failed. You’ll learn whether the idea has already been refined by Startups in other parts of the world, or if the idea is so fresh that it is yet to be refined into its final form. Understanding the idea, and more importantly believing in it, contributes greatly toward your mindset after you start working for a Startup. Ask yourself this – Do you just want to pick up a high paying salary, or do you want to work towards realizing an idea that you strongly believe in?
10. Why do you Want to Join a Startup?
Why do you want to join a Startup? The answer can be – “Well, they are paying more than the corporate job.” It can also be “I love working in a high-intensity environment with lots of motivated people in the room attacking a problem day-and-night trying to solve it.” But the most important thing is for you to realize what the answer to this question is for you.
11. What’s the History of the Basic Idea? What Other Ideas were Assessed and Discarded?
There’s nothing wrong with being involved in a startup when it’s very young – its just that you need to know what the status is and be prepared to have the overall direction shift on you pretty dramatically in those first few months. Rarely have I come across a startup that can successfully think of a single idea very early in the game and then doggedly pursue that idea (and succeed). Would prefer seeing the openness to consider multiple ideas and pick the best one.
12. What are the Founders looking to get from the Effort?
What do they really want to get from the startup? Build a world-famous product? Make a ton of money? Take a company public? Raise capital from top-tier VCs? Get a chance to work with their friends? There is no right answer, but the key is making sure there is some parity across the founders. At some level, they need to have similar goals or there will likely be a fair amount of conflict.
Overall, it seems that the level of startup activity (particularly in the major markets) is really starting to pick up. People are starting companies at a pretty good pace and those scarred directly or indirectly by the last bubble are starting to come out from under their desks and explore startup opportunities.
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