What are the pros and cons of joining an early stage startup rather than a corporation?


The decision to join a Startup vs a large corporation - and the associated pros and cons are not a static set - they vary greatly based on where you are, what your skill set is, what stage of your career you are in and so on. There are of course some that are universal (like being part of something new that might change the world) - but I’ll focus on some that are perhaps less obvious.

I’ll give you 16 points to consider looking at two points within the career stage spectrum - they are by no means comprehensive.

Just getting started

If you are just entering the job market - right out of college (or not) a startup provides some really interesting opportunities:

- Greater involvement / visibility in decision making.
- Wider skill set use / development opportunities.
- Greater opportunity for responsibility growth and promotion.
- More flexibility in lateral moves within the company.

It also comes with a unique set of potential downsides:

- On the job training? Better be a self starter.
- Amazing salary and benefits? Someday, maybe.
- Uncertainty and instability of the business.
- Resume implications.

Seasoned industry pro

Similarly, there are enticements at the startup level that make it a great choice for those of us with a few extra notches (and maybe holes) in our belts:

- Leverage existing networks / partners and deep industry knowledge to accelerate success in the position and the company.
- Elevate to a new strata of management (i.e. VP to CxO).
- A chance to expand your personal brand.
- Leverage market value for a larger equity position within the company.

And with the rewards, come the risks:

- Salary may be less than market rate.
- Resume implications (can be seen as a step backward - depends on outcomes).
- Stability / long term security concerns.
- Wildly different work environment / comfort zone issue.

In summary - Startups are awesome for a lot of reasons, and as a serial entrepreneur who can’t imagine doing anything else, my personal opinion would skew heavily towards the opinion that everyone should join a startup at some point. As with all decisions in life, being informed, entering into them with eyes wide open, knowing the benefits and risks and managing for them is required to make the right decision.

I’m more than happy to chat with anyone considering joining a startup and tie it directly to their own situation.

Answered 8 years ago

It purely depends on how do you envisage your journey. Depends whether you want to be a fish in an ocean, or a pond. The learning is a lot more faster and hands on, in start ups. You get to work with the senior management directly and you can make a difference, if you want to.

If you are looking for a stable job with guaranteed monthly salary, then join a corporate. Corporate gives you a steady growth (not exponential compared to start up), gets to work on a smaller piece of the whole project.

The choice is completely yours. Go thru some of my articles that might open up some thoughts for you.

Answered 8 years ago

It does depend on what you value the most: learning and risk or security and safety.

Having been through 4 startups and 2 corporates - nothing beats the range of things you will do and learn in a startup and the speed at which everything will happen. You'll make some amazing friends and see something grow (hopefully!)

If you can't handle change and uncertainty then stick to corporate, else startups all the way....

Answered 8 years ago

Pros and Cons of working in an early stage Start-up company is as follows:
The Pros:
1. It is a unique experience: It's not always gaming rooms and skateboarding in the hallways, but start-ups know how to pull off a favourable work environment. Creativity and innovation grow the business, so a stimulating workspace is crucial.
2. You learn a lot: Start-ups place loads of responsibility on their employees. They will hire you because of your skills, but founders expect much more. You help with everything at a start-up. Often, it is work outside your job description, so opportunities for learning and growth abound. Founders and employees work together; there is no middle management, so you learn from the best.
3. Employees work without supervision: They make smart decisions and take responsibility for the consequences. The chance to steer progress motivates them to perform well.
4. You can innovate: Start-ups need to grow fast. If they cannot keep up in the fast lane, they'll crash out. Employees have the license to show off their brilliance. They deliver results with fresh designs and new concepts that capture consumer interest.
There’s pressure to break new ground, but dynamic energy drives progress at start-ups. Pride in growing the company and sharing in its ups and downs creates a tight-knit team.
5. The perks: Money is not one, but plenty of other perks keep employees happy:
1. flexible working hours
2. working from home
3. shorter work weeks
4. a casual atmosphere
5. gym and other health facilities
6. employee discounts and free services
7. free food (and sometimes drinks!)
The long-term benefits include sharing in the spoils if the company thrives. That could mean a senior position and/or employee stock options. Bill Harris, the former CEO of PayPal, says that businesses know they have the power to attract the best talent through employee equity.
6. Job satisfaction: Employees share in the birth, growth, and success of the company. That is why it is an attractive career path for this generation. They want to belong to something special. When the company does well, they can be proud of their contributions.
The Cons:
1. The workload is heavy: Expect to work long hours, with few holidays and vacations. Start-ups must capitalize on trends quickly, and early growth is vital. Employees work around the clock to make this happen, so stress and burnout are possible.
2. Job stability/security: You'll love your job, but you may not keep it long. Research by UC Berkeley & Stanford and other contributors suggests that over 90% of start-ups fail within their first three years! Tech start-ups face the threat of technological advancements and new inventions wiping out their business. Start-up founders have a brilliant idea and secure enough seed money to start a venture. But that does not make them experienced leaders. A lack of strong mentors affects job stability.
3. You do not earn much: Investors do not dangle a huge salary in front of aspiring entrepreneurs. They pump funds into operating costs, product development, and growing a customer base. In most cases, salaries are lower with start-ups than with traditional companies.
4. What social life: You might have fun at the office, but you work hard too. Employees work under extreme pressure to avoid losses, so do not count on having much of social life. Work-life balance is tough, and exhaustive hours at the office can take a toll. Start-ups fight to survive even when they reach great heights and are more established. Technology changes fast, competition is fierce, and small missteps can have big repercussions. That is why many start-ups struggle after going public.

Besides if you do have any questions give me a call:

Answered 4 years ago

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