Joining Startups

Joining a startup is an experience I wouldn’t want to miss in my life. That’s why I’ve done it twice. And I’m not alone as I see more and more people choosing the startup path – whether they do it right after graduating, already before, or leaving their well-paid Goldman Sachs, consulting or agency jobs. (Just in the last month I’ve seen three people being lured by Rocket Internet to join their worldwide clone empire, but that’s for a different post).

It’s clearly a trend – and a logical consequence of more and more people jumping to found their own startup.

We’re reading a lot about these brave entrepreneurs these days – but what about the people who buy into their visions, join their startups at early stages, and help them make it happen?

We love the startup game. We’re not entrepreneurs or founders but we definitely have some entrepreneurial spirit and some of us might risk to jump themselves later. The famous examples of the YouTube founders who were early employees of Google or the whole PayPal Mafia show this.

Joining a startup as employee #1 is a totally different game than founding it and can’t be compared. I also agree with Christina Cacioppo that joining a startup is different from joining startups. She’s written an excellent post about the difference that you should read.

Joining startups is fun. We accept the hard work with lower pay and get rewarded with an incredible team spirit that is essential to achieve things that at times sound impossible.

So who are the people who join startups?

I feel they are strong individualists and yet they’re united in their motivations and beliefs.

People who join startups are united by their strong drive and passion to create value, excel at whatever their work is and have a can-do attitude. They get motivated by seeing direct results of their work and being empowered to move things. Move things and shape and build.

They enjoy the varying degrees of ambiguity and uncertainty every startup is facing and see it as an opportunity. They grab the opportunities and take the lead with own initiatives, bringing new ideas to the table and also execute them.

They leave secure jobs with “clear” career options, move to another country without knowing whether the startup will still exist in 8 months. And they prefer to work agile, can’t stand the feeling of being restricted in strict hierarchies, facing walls when trying to get fresh approaches accepted.

So one could say that in many aspects they have certain startup founder characteristics. And yet, we know that our burden and risk is far smaller. Our upside and downside is not as extreme.

You probably noticed my switching between ‘they’ and ‘we’ as it’s hard to have an objective point of view – so I will stick to ‘we’ and ‘I’ from now on.
Joining startups also requires a certain degree of ego-centrism anyway:)

I have many learnings and stories I want to share. Expect me to write more posts: tips on evaluating whether to join a specific startup or not, the ups and downs, marketing lessons learned, the joys and lowdowns, the gap between bubble and real world, making sure you don’t work for free, team spirit, understanding differences between business people and developers,…there’s a lot going on in startup life.

I’d love to hear from you, too! Are you thinking about joining a startup? If you’re already at one, why did you do it? Do you regret it?

In the meantime as put by Chris McCann: Join a startup or do something you love. Life is too short to work at a boring company.


4 thoughts on “Joining Startups

  1. Hi Adrian! My name is Alea and I came across your page from the Forbes article, “How To Make Your Startup Happen.” I am a student at Arizona State and would love to talk to you more in depth about your experiences. Is there anyway that I could email you? Thanks for your help!

  2. Hey Adrian! Another potential Starter-uper here with a question. I’ve read a lot about college students making startups and having huge successes and after reading your page i feel like you have a lot of experience with the building of startups. Do you mind if i shoot you an email and ask you a few questions?

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