I started my first company when I was 19, the second one when I was 23 and my third and current startup when I was 26. In between, I worked for a little over 15 months for two different startups. Over the last few months, a few people have asked me whether working at a startup is helpful if one plans to start up soon.
The simple answer to that is, yes! In reality, the answer to this question is much more complex. There are good startups and there are bad startups. I am not referring to the business performance here. Rather, I am referring to the environment and culture. The right kind of environment and culture can teach you a lot of things that will be important when you start up on your own.
According to me, the following three key factors will help in determining whether your stint at a startup is going to help you become an entrepreneur yourself.
Staying Close to the Founder(s)
This is the most important thing. The further away you are from the top management, the lesser chance that you will be able to learn things necessary to start your own company. You have to make sure that you are either among those that make the management or work closely with them.What if you can’t make it to the top management? Make sure you are among the first few hires, ideally among the first 15-20 people. If you make it to this circle, you will definitely get to work with the founder(s).
Finding Good People to Work With
Honestly, life is too short to work with assholes! Trust me on this, I have experienced it first hand. When you research any startup to work with, spend a lot of time in understanding the background of the founders, their principles, and beliefs. Learn more about the team they’ve hired so far and try to understand if you would be a good fit in the bigger scheme of things.
Make sure there are enough people on the team that you can learn from. Have a look at the team profile and see what you can learn from whom. Once you are onboard, spend time with all people on the team. Everyone can teach you something that you don’t know yet.
Working in a Culture that Resonates With You
Nowadays, many startup founders write about the culture and principles openly. But even if they don’t, try looking up for information on Linkedin, Glassdoor, Quora, or reach out to a few current and past employees to know more. Try getting a holistic perspective about the company by speaking to different stakeholders.
One of the most important things that I have learned is that the internal culture of the company matters a lot. This includes how you hire, how you treat people, how everyone interacts with each other, etc. You would want to work for a company that has a great work culture for you to learn from and adopt in future.