4 Traits You Need in Startup Employees


What’s the difference between a startup that grows into a billion-dollar company, and one that ends up in the dustbin of tech history? The winning startup has a good idea, of course, and managed to spend its cash in a disciplined way; luck is also a significant factor.

Particularly in the early days, good employees also play a crucial role in whether the startup makes it to maturity. But what defines a good startup employee?

Willingness to Spread Out

At a big company, there are enough employees for everybody to have a single, discrete task. Contrast that with a startup, where saying, “That’s not my job” simply doesn’t fly. Startup employees need to not only accomplish the tasks for which they were hired, but pitch in when necessary to ensure the whole business keeps running. And if that means a CEO needs to man the reception desk for an afternoon, or a programmer has to QA some hardware, so be it.

Intolerance for Office Politics

Yes, many startups have succeeded despite Shakespearean backstabbing—but just as many have collapsed amidst infighting and betrayal. When you’re trying to run a company lean and mean, it does you no favors to bring employees on board who will spend an inordinate amount of time scheming. That means enforcing a culture in which everybody locks down to get things done, with precious little opportunity for gossip or games.

Passion for the Mission

Some tech pros are just in it for the equity. As a startup founder or partner, what you really want are people with passion for the overarching mission. Without that drive, they’re less likely to tolerate the late hours and uncertainty that define any company’s early days.


Employees with gut knowledge of their strengths and weaknesses can better anticipate how they’ll perform in a crunch, which makes them valuable from a startup perspective.