What You Need To Know About Joining A Startup

Published on:

Are you thinking about joining a startup? If you're still hesitant, here are a few things to consider to make your decision easier:

Choosing to be an early employee or collaborator in a startup has its benefits, among which having the chance of defining and leading your role and working closely with the founder(s). At the same time, it has a lot of challenges: given the speed, you must rapidly extract takeaways from every challenge, find your way to access the knowledge and expertise you don’t have in-house, and accept your responsibility for self-development, to name just a few.

The magic of startups for young professionals is the promise that they can have a massive impact, and they feel they’re actually moving the ball forward in a big way.

Indeed, many evolutions can depend on the work you did at the beginning and if you’re good, you can have a massive impact on the product and on the business as a whole.

But before talking about all that, we need to have a discussion about honesty and transparency, about the true sharing of power, and about gaining a fair share for your time and knowledge.

Here is some honest advice I’d give to anyone who’s deciding to join a startup:

#1 Avoid Picking A Company. Or An Idea.

The most important decision you can make is who you surround yourself with. Don’t fall for an idea or a product. Fall in love with a team, and pick someone you can trust.

Ask yourself: who are the people you choose to spend your time with? Do they have a healthy and ethical thinking? How are your interests aligning? Do you care and value the same things?

I sometimes think that the only reason for joining a startup is if that startup is made of your family or people you consider family.

#2 Your Value Is Not In Your Title.

It’s very common for startups to use pretentious job titles in order to compensate for smaller incentives. That job title might offer you an illusory understanding of what you’re actually doing.

Instead, think about what skills you will employ, whether you have something new to learn from that environment or not, and position yourself accordingly.

#3 Earn With Your Mind, Not Your Time.

For starting companies, paying a full-time salary to its few employees is close to impossible. Especially if that company hasn’t yet fully figured out a viable self-sustaining business model.

Incentives based on an hourly rate might sound like a solution, but most often they don’t reflect the value of the work that’s being done. You can come up with a great idea that’s gonna bring a major turnover to your team in just 5 minutes. That’s way more important than staying at your desk for a whole 8-hour day, doing random paper-work.

So start with asking yourself: where are you bringing value and on what? How will the company benefit from your talent and how will that reflect on its growth? How skilled was the team before you joined and how skilled is it now, you included? What’s your unique selling proposition as a professional?

#4 Always Ask For Feedback.

You have the right to know the impact of your work, both as an individual contributor and as part of a team. Who are the other members of the team that, along with you, are contributing to the company’s growth and in which way? What are the other activities that, together with yours, impact the organization and how? The “know your metrics” mantra is not reserved only to the C-suite.

#5 Is There Any Leadership Material?

I strive for more empathetic leadership. The founders I look up to are bold experimenters with a humble attitude, not in appearance, but in their daily acts of leading. They are not afraid of sharing power, because they know that this helps them be more productive, and on a longer term, helps the company rise in a healthier way.


From a sustainable point of view, the growth of a starting company must be reflected proportionally among its employees, collaborators, and partners. Otherwise, the value is captured only to the top, like in the old-school models of production and consumption. The organization buys a service, consumes it, throws out the package, buys something else and so on. A lot of waste going on.

Be aware of people who hoard, or are overly proprietary. You’ll never get to grow among those. Search for open, transparent and cooperative mindsets – those will own the future. Or be one yourself.

Because if we’re gonna be the builders of tomorrow, we must give up on old-school, hierarchical models of incentivizing, behaving, managing, and embrace more candid, empathetic, and collaborative mindsets.



Sharing is caring!