With their promise of potentially building something to rock the world, not to mention potential riches that could come from an IPO, startups hold a lot of sex appeal. But if you’re thinking that jumping into that kind of adventure is the next step in your career, be sure you’re thinking carefully. Some people are drawn to the idea of new companies the way moths are drawn to light — and they end up getting fried.
Do You Hate Chaos?
“How comfortable are you with chaos?” asks Steve Blank, a Stanford engineering professor and founder of several companies. He advises engineers and developers to ask themselves that question, because chaos is bound to play a role in a startup, especially a smaller one. “With a startup that has zero to 10 employees, nothing stays the same day-to-day,” says Blank, founder of E.piphany and MIPS Computers, among other companies. “But, as the company gets larger, you would hope the level of chaos is less.”
If you can’t stand making decisions, or working off of decisions that have been made, without having complete and thorough data, then don’t join a startup. You’ll drive yourself insane.
“Startup CEOs make ‘good-enough’ decisions. One of the main things they care about is whether their decision is reversible or irreversible,” says Blank. “Some engineers, however, like to talk things to death and aren’t comfortable dealing with a decision without 100 percent of the data.”
Adam Nash, an executive-in-residence at venture firm Greylock Partners and former Vice President of Product Management at LinkedIn, echoed similar concerns in a previous interview with Dice.com. He noted that if engineers need to see all of a project’s requirements, or are religious about architecture, they likely won’t do well at any startup, early or late stage.
BUILD a STARTUP
A big reason to avoid joining a startup is an inherent disinterest in the notion of building a company. In other words, engineers and developers who prefer to work in a silo need not apply.
“All start-up people need to be ‘business builders’ versus single contributors and view building the processes around their job as a primary role of the job itself,” says David Bluhm, another serial entrepreneur who co-founded mobile-analytics company Medio.
This is only one of Bluhm’s reasons for avoiding a startup. Here’s his list of top 10 personality-centric reasons why an engineer, or developer, should avoid joining a startup.
- Looking for a tightly defined, clear and stable job description.
- Nervous with or around change. Startups are usually in a constant state of change.
- Does not have an insatiable desire to understand how a great company gets built.
- Think that building a great product in a successful startup, which secures a great exit, will make them happy. In other words, the happiness is tied to making money from the exit, rather than building a great company.
- Not made more alive by adventure, challenge and even stress.
- Unable to maintain a work life balance and define their worth solely through their work. A great company culture that is sustainable is not built with workaholics.
- Unexcited over the requirement to contribute positive energy to the company’s culture.
- Threatened by other strong minded, opinionated, talented or passionate people.
- Do not want to be accountable for — and leave their fingerprints on — a great product
- A 6+ year veteran of Microsoft. (Refer back to No. 1-3 on Top 10 list and that should explain it all).
“You get a multiple from people, or you get a mere fraction of people’s energy, depending on whether they are passionate about what they are doing,” Bluhm says. “They must believe that the road they’re working on goes somewhere special, or they will drop their tools early and lose heart in building it.”
How do you measure up? Share your thoughts in the comments below.