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How startups are the 51st shade of grey

Courtesy of Victoria Lai , Marketing Manager of myfairtool, first published at Dec07 on LinkedIn. See the original post here.

You’ve probably heard or seen people talking about “startups” in the past few years.

Names such as “Uber”, “Airbnb”, “Snapchat”, “Spotify”, and so on certainly sound familiar. All these are startups. But do you know what startups really are?

The startup world

Put simply, a startup is a company. Where it really differs from traditional companies is in the way startups start and grow.

The standard model for a startup involves investments. Sometimes LARGE investments.

Where the traditional Mom&Pop’s shop uses personal savings & bank loans to start then survive based on turnover, startups require investors to inject large amounts of money from day 1 to grow.
Very often, profit isn’t really the objective for startups – at least not in the short term. The goal is growth; Becoming international and having as many users / customers as possible as fast as possible.

To achieve that, startups go through “rounds of investment”. Regularly, they call for investors to provide them with always more money (Uber has recently raised 1.2 billion USD) in order to keep growing their business without having to worry about profitability and expenses.

Such approach comes with real opportunities and risks.

Grow, grow, grow!

The opportunity is obvious: growth. Imagine what your local sandwich shop could do if it was given a few million USD to develop its business.

Growth means more employees, more products, more offices, more countries, etc.

It also means more challenges, more problems, more cultural differences, more adaptation, more regulations, etc.

As a result, working for a startup is very appealing for most people: you canrocket your career faster than in any other traditional companies and enjoy acool working space. Most startups try to re-create the Google-dream-office with leisure activities, comfortable working environment, happy-Fridays and flexible working hours to make up for the extra workload.

Early hires often become head of departments and lead people faster than they could have done following the traditional path.

They are also given the opportunity to test new things, make decisions, wear multiple hats and have a real impact on their industry. Employees are rarely given more freedom than in startups!

Be aware of the risks

With great power come great responsibilities

Startups are great for personal growth, but it comes with risks and challenges.

The first challenge is the workload – companies using this model grow rapidly because there is no such thing as “holidays” or “days off” (I am exaggerating, yet the intensity and workload is higher than in normal companies) and there is no standard path to follow. When you try to disrupt an industry with a new model, you have to create your own path and invent your own solutions. People who can’t handle the intense rhythm don’t last long.

For the same reason, people turnover tends to be high – not everyone is fit for the pressure specific to startups. Keeping your motivation and energy at high levels each and every day of the year isn’t easy. Seeing your role change and evolve can be confusing too. Some people love it, others don’t.

Also, you accept the fact that you will be paid less than the usual market price – don’t expect too much yearly salary increases, 13th month or bonuses. Often, startups will reward their employees with “options” or “shares”. This method helps increasing the employee’s loyalty and motivation: if the company grows, you can become really REALLY rich. If it doesn’t, you get nothing. All the more reason for devoting yourself to give your best!

Should I work for a startup?

There is no “perfect profile” for a startup. That being said, there are a few characteristics that should tell you whether you are the right fit for the adventure.

You need to identify where you stand on the career ladder and what you expect from the future. If you have a family and you seek stability, startups should not be your first choice.

If you need certainty and don’t like to take risks, if you like your job to be easy and predictable, if you don’t want to work extra hours or expect yearly salary raise… that might not be made for you either.

On the other hand, if you just started your career and you want to reach the top faster than anyone else, if you want your work to matter, if you want to make a difference, have an impact, if you want freedom in the way you work, if you seek innovation and creativity, if you like the prospect of potentially making a lot of money… you should definitely consider joining a startup!

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