Five points to ponder before joining a startup

Startups are fun, startups are sexy, startups are for rock stars.

Feels good? But then, there are practicalities that one should realize before joining a startup. Here are a few observations (and you are welcome to disagree!)

  • When the age difference between founder and you is very very high.
    You are in early 20s. He is in late 40s. Well, before your mind starts wandering in “some” other direction, let me clarify – I am talking about the age difference between you and the startup founder.How does age difference matter? Well, as we grow old, our ability to soak new ideas start diminishing (disagree? I know we all do!).
    Most of us enter a ‘been there done that” zone. And what eventually happens is that (oldie) startup founders, no matter how open they sound are NOT that open.
    They have a certain idea about the product and most of the times, refuse to make those ideas “editable”.So, if you have great ideas, but are shot down (for reasons vague) – you end up with a WTF feeling!.
    But if the age difference isn’t huge, you can actually be a part of the decision making process (since even the founder is learning the tricks of the trade and he needs inputs from others!)
  • Loaded with responsibilities, but not the matching “tag”?
    Here is what happens (most of the times)– The moment you join a startup, you get loaded with responsibilities (and opportunities), and you start exploring a new dimension of yours. While the honeymoon was fun, marriage gets a little bitter. What eventually happens is that startup starts growing and the management kills your honeymoon by hiring a dickhead (read ‘boss’) above you.
    And your stature is reduced to a regular guy – which will obviously leave you disappointed.The other side of the story is that
    if you have made a huge mark, you might actually get the “tag”.
    Yes, the risk is worth taking, but be ready for the other option as well. Don’t go by red canvas that was painted during the interview process!


  • If you enjoy authority, think twice!
    Startups are lean on people. You might be the master of self and boss of none. Personally speaking, I have worked in a startup where the dickhead wanted too many people reporting to him. Eventually, that led to frustration and the result? the dickhead got fired!! But not all startups are that responsive. So, do a reality check on what passionates you about the startup – if it’s more authority, join Infy (and there is nothing wrong with it!)
  • Equity vs. Salary
    Few weeks back, few of my friends sold their company for a huge amount of money. Great. So all the employees went away cash rich?
    It was 90% cash deal – so that essentially means that the founders made huge amount of money (they actually did!), but employees didn’t.
    While you can’t predict the fate of a startup, atleast get a decent balance on salary vs. ESOPs (even if founders tell you the other way round!)
    Remember – even if the founder tells you that you are part of the founding team (and blahs), take that with a pinch of salt.
    Always remember that you are an employee and not the founder – Sad, but true!
  • Need some loan?
    Well, if you have financial obligations and you need financial loans (housing/personal etc) – do it before you join the startup. An example that I know – ICICI was ready to offer personal loan @ 11% to a friend (while he was working in IBM), but when he joined a startup, the same bank said “Take it @ 18.5% or leave it!”.
    Point that I am trying to drive here is that startups are not the preferred customers of these banks and one should be really smart enough to get the benefits while with the biggies.

tags: career in indian startups,
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