Things to Consider and Ask Before Joining a Start-Up

Joining a start-up these days has become increasingly more and more "trendy."  Millennials seem to be awed and drawn in by the awesome perks, huge potential upside of success, and the ability to wear multiple hats to grow quickly in your career. While it sounds glamorous and fun (which it is), there are many things to consider before making the leap from a big, stable company to a small start-up. As a start-up recruiter, I've had to answer a lot of questions from candidates that I'm sure you are all dying to know.

Before jumping in, be sure to ask yourself and your company these things:

Are you willing to put in the time? There's no going around the fact that start-ups will require more dedication and time. For example, when I was interviewing for my current role, the company straight up told me that the hours were 10-8 (hours are better now though). Some start-ups might not let you "shut off work at 5pm," especially when fires happen and you need to handle them right away. When talking to a company, make sure you have a clear understanding of their working hours and expectations (ex: do they allow remote work? what time do people generally start/leave the office?).

Do you believe in the product and mission?  I joke with my friends that you should be willing to drip sweat, blood, and tears for your start-up.  Before you seriously consider joining a company, you should ask yourself whether you believe in the mission and product. What is the company out to achieve? Are they on track to do so? Is it realistic? What has their track record and growth been so far? Afterall, you will be spending the next several years at that company, so you sure as hell must believe in the idea. Overall, because of the high level of demand of working at a start-up, it will be very difficult to keep yourself motivated if you are dispassionate and disinterested in what the company is doing.  I read a recent article saying that if you really believe in the company, you should be willing to go as far as investing your own money.

What does the current financial situation for the company look like? Crucial question to ask. The worst case scenario is that you leave your financially steady job to join a start-up that you think is financially secure, but ends up closing shop after a few months (true story). Do as much research as you can on the funding situation of the company by researching companies like Crunchbase and AngelList; also be sure to ask your hiring manager/recruiter if the company is profitable, what the burn rate is, and how much money so far they've raised.  The numbers may be hard to calculate for start-ups if they are on a hiring-spree and burning money faster than they make, so it's just something to be aware of.  Also, it's important to find out who is backing the company; are they bootstrapping? Leading VC firms? Private equity? Incubators? This will give you insight to the dilution of company shares as well.

Do you believe in the leaders of the company?  One of the biggest reasons why I chose my current company is because of our co-founder, who was one of the first 10 Google employees, an Angel investor, and sits on the board of a leading VC firm. It was a huge draw for me to work under someone of such high caliber, who I trust will make sound decisions for the company.  I recommend everyone take a deep look into the leaders of the company, understand their background, and evaluate whether they are a team you trust. Good leaders will have a plan and vision for the company with undying passion for their work.

Aside from those main points, in general, it really does take the right personality and attitude to join a start-up.  Hard and relevant skills are always great to have in the position, but because things can change so rapidly, employees should both be intelligent and willing to jump in when needed. Even though I'm in the recruiting team here, I've done so many different things in my organization, including HR/payroll & processing visas to being a janitor & grilling burgers at a company event. It keeps me on my toes and I feel useful.

In the near future, I will be writing an article on where to find start-up opportunities. The start-up job search is a little different from your traditional big corporation, and I'm excited to share my tips.