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Category: team

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Why You Should Work at a Startup

Startup communities are cropping up all over the world. Global News called 2014 ‘The Year of Startup Communities’. Almost every day, a new accelerator program is announced. We prefer the announcements and results coming out of existing accelerators than to hear another one has been born, but still - the spirit of the entrepreneur is spreading. Since anyone with a computer and an internet connection can start a company, and learning to code is becoming cooler than ever; the growth and unwavering hype around everything startups does not look like it’s going to slow anytime soon.


If you’re reading this you might already have an interest in startups. You might not have a ‘big idea’ right now, and might not be an innovation leader yet - but have you ever considered working for a startup? Your interest doesn’t need to be as a co-founder, and you don’t need to aspire to be the next Zuck - startups need good people and people need to do work they’re passionate about. You don’t even need to necessarily have experience - fresh grads and startups are a great match.


Here’s why we think YOU should consider working for a startup:


  1. Startups need good talent arguably more than large companies do. Lets face it, large companies have enough man power to get things done while they are busy looking for more staff. They’re going to get by. But for a startup, every day missing a key skill or knowledge can be crippling.
  2. Second-to-none experience to be gained. In large companies there are teams of people working on key tasks or objectives. You won’t always get a chance to try something new. Startups need confident and ready risk-takers. The best lessons and experiences come from diving in and having a go because there’s simply no time to waste! With your contract you’re handed a lot more responsibility at startups than you might find at established companies, which leads us to number 3…
  3. Maximum impact. Being with a company from its humble beginnings means you get to see your passion and hard work make real impact over time, influencing the outcome of the team’s work. Been chipping away at your established workplace for years, but not feeling fulfilled or like you’ve made an impact? Startups are everywhere and they’re ready for your influence. Alex Lynn of Real Ventures told MTL NewTech last month that people working for startups benefit from seeing the future before it happens - meaning these people are also shaping the future.
  4. Savvy graduates need not be just a number. Large companies are full of faces. Numbers, even. Fresh grads are often lured by well-known brand names and companies with impressive history. But will you be just another number? Choose a startup and you might just skip years of waiting for promotions, waiting to be noticed and waiting to make an impact - for your moment to shine. You can step into high-level positions right away, or maybe even just something closer to the job you really want; you don’t always have to spend years working towards that if you find the right fit at a startup.
  5. Increased flexibility. Although a lot of companies are switching it up to let you work remotely, (P&G major announcement last year, Work From Home Program) many startups don’t have offices yet and working from home or the nearest cafe with WIFI can often be the norm. Plus, if your startup hooks up with a local co-op space, you’ll experience a fresh and new kind of environment. These kinds of shared spaces can spark creativity and innovation just by being surrounded by people equally as passionate from other like-minded companies doing all kinds of different and amazing things.


Busbud CEO and Co-Founder LP Maurice, a leader in the Montreal startup community thinks you should work for a startup too. “I think that startups offer some of the most exciting career opportunities right now, partly because you can learn a lot very rapidly, partly because you can play an active role defining your work environment, but mostly because of the potential to have a big direct impact on society.”.


Even the PPLCONNECT Co-Founders Jenviev Azzolin and Denzil D’Sa left a large, Fortune 500 company to begin PPLCONNECT. Jenviev shares her view on the appeal of startups;


Startups offer very meaningful experience, especially for young graduates eager to learn quickly and accelerate their career. Typically, startups have very little to no hierarchy, which means you can gain a wide-breadth of experience and exposure to complex corporate challenges, which would otherwise be reserved for more senior employees. At the end of the day, you can have a major direct impact on your team, end-users and tackle a worldwide problem.


The trending keyword here seems to be ‘impact’. Having an impact in your daily work ultimately leads to fulfilling work. And the best part? The growth of startups means that supply of ready and willing startup employees is always low. If you find a startup you’re passionate about and you’re an intelligent person smart enough to know when to take risks, then the chance to shape the future is yours for the taking.



Founding Team Dynamics

I often get asked, “How do you evaluate a startup to see if it will be a fit with your Lab IX accelerator?”


Some of our criteria are relatively straightforward, such as the startup’s current funding situation, a working prototype and strategic fit within Flextronics’ business and technology and innovation roadmaps. However, the most important thing we look for is less straightforward to evaluate – what’s the strength of the founding team?


Some of the things we look for can be determined from the team’s biographies and resumes: Is the team experienced in managing a company or bringing a product to market? If not, do they have advisors on board who can help them? Do the founders have prior experience in startups? Do the team members have complimentary skill sets that will cover fundraising, sales, engineering, operations or marketing?


One of the crucial pieces of information about the team is hard to discern: what’s the working relationship between the co-founders? Lots of times, a co-founder relationship is almost like a marriage, which means that it’s incredibly important and can make or break a startup. Founders Dilemmas, by Noam Wasserman, is a great book that details mistakes that startups make, and there is an entire section devoted to the importance of the co-founder relationship. Co-founders spend a lot of time together (ideally) and their relationship sets the tone for the rest of the founding team. Some of the things we look for are: How well do the co-founders work together? Have they worked together before? What are their communication styles?


I have a personal story regarding a startup that I was involved in: several years ago, my boyfriend at the time started working on a consumer electronics startup idea. When a close friend, significant other, or family member approaches you about a cool startup idea, you want to help them out and be supportive. So, I got roped into the idea and helped to do significant amounts of engineering work. At the time, we were both engineers, so we had a lot of overlapping skill sets, but no marketing or sales skills, which was a big problem. You can build the best product in the world, but if nobody knows about it or can sell it, what’s the point? We had worked together before and knew that we had complimentary styles – he’s better at ideas and vision, and I’m better at doing detailed planning and execution. Communication – well, that was an issue.


The startup took up all of our spare time (we each had full-time engineering jobs), and, initially, it was fun, but as months progressed, I wondered about the marketability of the product. In a co-founder relationship, honest communication is extremely important. However, in a romantic relationship, you’re concerned about the other person’s feelings, even though honesty is preferable. If you’re doubtful, think about how you would answer the question “Do I look fat in this outfit?” or “Do you think I’m losing my hair?”


My concerns about the total addressable market were initially voiced as “Honey, we just spent several months doing engineering work, did you get a chance to do that market analysis yet?”, which progressed to “I’m not so sure that the product will be as popular as you think it might be” and then to “Are you sure this thing fulfills an actual need?” and finally to “There are only three hundred people in the world who will buy this product, yet we are targeting a mass consumer price point!” over the span of about a year.


Needless to say, the startup and the relationship did not survive.


Can you be brutally honest with your co-founder and maintain both your personal and working relationship? It can be difficult if there is a prior history between co-founders, such as that seen between family members, romantic partners, or close friends. This doesn’t mean that we automatically rule out startups with co-founders that have these types of relationships, but we do think about these dynamics and how it could affect a young company, so we spend extra time evaluating the team if we are interested in investing. It’s common to hear from VCs that the most important part of a startup is the team, and it’s no different for us – we just happen to have an extra hardware component thrown into the mix.