Making decisions on a tech startup job

May 14, 2015

The untapped potential of a tech startup job is often outweighed by the security of a full-time position. Despite the possibility of a million dollar exit a few years down the road, many tech professionals opt to stay with a safer bet, such as an IT manager role with a firmly established corporation. The high salary, benefits and general comfort are often too much to give up when you have a family to feed. That said, the risk of joining a startup can be worth it with the right steps taken.

There are several key variables worth keeping in mind before joining a startup that can give the job seeker a better idea of the company’s viability. For one – does the brand meet a clear market demand? Startups succeed only if they can achieve not just a quick burst on the market, but sustainable growth rates. Healthy demand increases the odds of sustainable growth. A job seeker should also have a clear grasp of the competition to weigh the value of the startup’s offerings against other companies that are tussling for market share. An up-and-coming brand with category-leading quality would probably be worth close inspection. However, a brand that has not differentiated itself from other companies in its segment is likely due for a gradual decline.

Tech professionals need to equip themselves with knowledge before weighing the high-risk/high-reward plausibility of a startup.

Knowing the foundation
It’s important to be realistic about startup ventures. A whole bunch of them fail – even many of the good ones. CIO Magazine reported that anywhere from 40 to 90 percent of startups flop. However, that doesn’t mean joining a startup is a bad idea. If you find a winner, the payout, business influence and credibility boost can be gargantuan. The best way to decide on the potential value of an enterprise is to get a strong idea of its framework and business model.

Bill O’Neil, principal consultant at WinterWyman, spoke with the publication about value of the startup experience regardless of the company’s fate.

“No matter if the company succeeds or fails, you are going to gain an invaluable amount of experience and connections that you can take with you to your next opportunity,”O’Neil told the news outlet. “Due to the nature of a startup, every role has impact and high visibility. Some people thrive in this fast-paced environment and relish the potential success, financial reward, experience and contacts that are gained. To mix cliches, if you like to be a big fish in a little pond, especially a big fish wearing a lot of different hats, then a startup is the right environment for you.”

Leaving no questions behind
As a tech professional seeking a position with a startup, questions are a vital part of the vetting process, Fortune reported. One might ask – what is the company’s track record from its brief history? How does this offering fit a market demand in a unique way? Potential employees might also want to dig into their specific role at the company. Unlike a larger veteran company that has most of its departments rounded out, startups often depend on the versatility of the first staffers.

“Unlike in a big company, you usually define your own role to a large degree,” Asim Razzaq, head of engineering at Axcient, a cloud computing firm, told the news outlet. “Instead of telling you what to do and when to do it, people will expect you to figure a lot of things out for yourself. So it’s important to consider, are you good at spotting opportunities and seizing the initiative to get things done?”