Should You Join Someone Else’s Startup?
The world of young entrepreneurship – your world – is full of bright young students with fantastic ideas for businesses. Maybe one of your friends has an idea for a startup that sounds great to you. Or you know an adult who has just launched a business and is looking to hire you.
Whatever the case, joining someone else’s startup is not quite the same as joining a well-established company. There are pros and cons to joining a startup. The decision, ultimately, is yours and will depend on factors such as your current circumstances, personality, and future goals.
Here are a few things to think about when to consider before joining someone else’s startup.
CAN YOU HANDLE CHAOS?
Those of you who require a rigid structure to get your work done probably won’t thrive in someone else’s startup environment. This is because everyone involved in a startup is trying to figure out what, exactly, they need to do and how to get it done. Seasoned professionals may come in and have their own ideas of how to do things. Those ideas might clash with other seasoned professionals’ ideas or with the culture of the startup. Meanwhile, newbies (like you) are simply trying to learn the ins and outs of the business on the fly.
Some people thrive in that kind of environment. Startups are great for people who can create order out of chaos and develop organizational systems that will be of value to the new business. Young entrepreneurs who get a rush of adrenaline from a go-with-the-flow culture will be naturals in a startup.
WEAR A LOT OF HATS
Startups are not known for having enormous teams with very specific tasks. Everyone in a startup is in marketing. Everyone is in finance. Everyone is in customer service. When joining someone else’s startup, you can’t be precious about your assignments. Just because you got into the business program at Harvard doesn’t mean you won’t be expected to pitch in answering phones and building websites.
If you haven’t yet decided which aspect of entrepreneurship is right for you, then a startup can help you figure it out. You may think you’re a natural at customer service…until the first time you field an angry caller. Being a sort of “jack of all trades” while you’re young and starting allows you the opportunity to discover your strengths, weaknesses, and preferences.
Are you that student who sits at the back of the classroom and never raises your hand? Do you always go with the flow in your friend groups rather than make the decisions? Do you wish you dared to speak your mind more often?
Startups need everyone’s input to grow and succeed. That includes you! As a member of the rising generation of entrepreneurs, older peers need to know what you think. You have insight into the hearts and minds of other young entrepreneurs that established entrepreneurs. You’re a fresh set of eyes and ears in the world of business, thereby offering more innovative ideas. Joining someone else’s startup means building confidence in your voice and ideas.
KNOW WHAT YOU’RE GETTING INTO
Not all startups are created equal. Before joining someone else’s startup, look at:
- The founder’s track record. If the founder is your friend or a young entrepreneurial peer, how well do you know and trust them? Do they make a habit of following through on their projects and inspiring others? If the founder is an adult, have they had past success in business? Have they been a trusted leader with proven results?
- Your level of comfort. Does everyone else involved with the startup seem nervous – not just excited, but truly nervous? Do they believe in what they’re doing, or is this just another job for everyone? Do you feel comfortable around your co-workers, or does the culture seem toxic?
- Clear goals and milestones. Is everyone at the startup pointed in the same direction no matter their tasks? Is there a spirit of teamwork and focus? Is the normal chaos of a startup atmosphere heading somewhere? Are there clear milestones that everyone works hard to meet? Most importantly: do you believe in this company’s goals?
WHAT’S THE FINANCIAL SITUATION?
Transparency is your best friend here. It’s not out of line to ask what the startup’s financial situation is. Good startups are open and honest about their financial backing. They’ll let you know who, exactly, is providing the investment capital.
The startup could be a labor of love for the founder, who saved up the cash to fund this startup themselves. And that’s fine – so long as you’re certain there is enough cash to manage the natural ups and downs of launching a startup. Even if you’re brought on board as an unpaid intern (which…be super careful and wary of unpaid internships), you need to know that this business won’t sink the millisecond something goes wrong. Remember that joining someone else’s startup is a leap of faith for you. You’re investing your time and energy in exchange for valuable experience, networking, and (hopefully) some money. It’s perfectly normal to want to know what’s going on behind the scenes before you make the leap.
Joining someone else’s startup is a wonderful way for energetic young entrepreneurs like you to get in on the ground floor of what may become a successful business. This may even become the first step in a lifelong career! You’ll gain priceless hands-on experience in what it takes to start and launch a new company, something no amount of college classes can teach you. You’ll meet potential mentors and future peers in the world of entrepreneurship and in your chosen field of study. And as you make your way into pre-college programs for young entrepreneurs, you’ll have the skills needed to become a natural leader.
As long as you keep an open mind, stay flexible, learn to speak up, and do a little digging into the company’s background, you’ll absolutely soar as a valued team member of a startup business!
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