17 Pithy Insights for Startup Employees

Written By: Dharmesh Shah September 29, 2006

For some reason, one of my articles titled “Startup Hiring:  Why You Should Date Before Getting Married”  continues to be ranked #1 on Google when searching for startup hiring.  As such, it seems there is some interest in this topic and there isn’t nearly enough written about it.  Many people write about starting companies and being a founder – much fewer write about going to work for a startup.

So, along the lines of my also popular “17 Pithy Insights For Startup Founders”, I thought I’d write one of my “pithy” articles for startup employees – or those thinking about joining a startup.

17 Pithy Insights For Startup Employees
  1. If you’re just looking for a job, you’re probably better off looking elsewhere.  

  1. Seeks signs of potential future success early.  Working for a growing, thriving startup is much more fun.

  1. If the value of the education does not exceed the value of the salary, you’re doing something wrong.  

  1. Working long, hard hours is not mandatory, because working for a startup is not mandatory.

  1. You probably won’t have a boss.  If you want or need a boss, work for a big company.

  1. Learn to balance risk.  Working for all equity or all cash is not likely the right answer.

  1. If you’re not building something you think you’ll be proud of, it’s not worth it.  Life is short.

  1. Be informed.  Learn the basics of things like shares, options, vesting schedules and dilution.

  1. Remember that the number of shares/options you get means nothing.  Think percentages

  1. Be passionate about building a product, not building your resume.  If you do it right, an exceptional product will become your resume.

  1.  Startup founders are usually quirky people.  Get used to it.

  1.  Wear as many hats as possible.  Help out where you can. 

  1.  Don’t worry too much about being fired.  Most startups need their employees more than the employees need their startup.

  1.  Go beyond just equity ownership, take emotional ownership.  

  1.  Take lots of photos and keep all memorabilia.  You’ll probably want these someday.

  1.  If you’re not having fun, you’re in the wrong place.

  1.  Try to make the experience a success, even if the startup isn’t.

Which of the above is your favorite?  Do you have any of your own to add?  If I get enough, I’ll post a follow-up article with reader contributions.

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