Should You Join a Startup? The Answer Is Increasingly Yes!

    This article has two purposes. 1) Communicate the fact that a startup is handsdown the best choice for an ambitious developer, designer or an artist who wants to ship a beautiful product to the market, and 2) to get all the crazy talented people to join Grey Area or other local startups. Let me elaborate!

    In the immediate aftermath of Shadow Cities success we are growing fast at Grey Area and we have been lately hiring a lot of new talent to our team.  As a result I have thought a lot about how can I convince talented people with plenty of options to choose from to join a young fast growing startup instead of a mature established company. Let me break my thinking down so you can see that the answer to that question really is increasingly ‘hell yes I should join a startup!’ and not just of my dreaming.

    The Steady Income Myth

    I want to start with this since I believe this is the biggest of all misconceptions. In an adequately funded startup company (say with a small A-round or a large seed round) one is guaranteed to have an interesting two year run, constantly learning more and something very valuable to walk away with afterwards regardless of what happens.

    Worst case scenario, you learn tons (you learn more in a startup in 6 months than in a BigCo or in a university in 6 years. I did!), get friends for life when the small team gets jelled together and have a solid operational experience to show for it to your future employer. Better yet, in a case that shit hits the fan but the company has world class investors, the investors are likely to want to pull you to another rocketing startup. In short, you will be ahead of your peers regardless of what happens. Best case, you are one of the first employees, get to really have an impact on the product you’re building, make friends for life, create a reputation that spans the globe, end up as one of the elite of your profession globally and with that knowledge and network one day start your own company. Oh, and you might also get rich while at it by being one of the early employees with options to show for it. But consider that only as an extra gravy on top.

    There’s really a myriad of reasons, but the unintuitive answer to the ‘ which one is more secure job’ question is increasingly the startup. For a big company there’s a strong pressure to get the bottom line look good and if the market moves or sales dip for any number of reasons the company needs to cut cost. On the other hand, an adequately funded startup does not need to worry about the immediate bottom line. All they need to worry about is getting the product right and for this precise reason they have venture capital to carry them to the point where they can ship a product other companies did not have the patience nor the vision to build because they were too worried about the immediate sales of their current products. Now, this alone is not a reason to join a startup, but it’s good to understand that a secure job is not what it used to be and that the tables have turned.

    The Influence

    In a startup you get to directly influence the product you are building. You get to influence the direction the company is going from day one and see how your decision and your actions impact the market from day two.

    In a big company the ground rule is that if you’re are so lucky that your work actually happens to be included in the final product, and if that product ever ships, you can very rarely see the direct impact it has. In the case you are so lucky that you’re in a position that you have given extra resources to iterate the product, it will still be one of the many products that need to fight for the attention of the execs and for the marketing budget. That means you are soon neck deep in internal company politics instead of spending time with the product itself. In a startup you talk with the management every single day, are able to present new ideas to them and know your users by their first name. The whole organization is structured just to iterate, understand the end user and deliver a great product experience.

    While it might be tough in a bigger company, it’s at least equally frustrating at a consultancy. No matter how well you sell your vision the client has a mind of her own and more often than not it’s not aligned with your product vision. The client wants extra features to make sure all the buzz words will get covered or they could not care less about the end user experience as long as it  pushes the short term cash flow. In the best case the outcome is some cumbersome compromise. No matter how much you try to like your clients, you end up downright hating them if you’re a product person because they will invariably shoot down the product ideas that have the balls to deliver something amazing. Over the years I have been the client, the consultant and the startup product lead, and only in a startup I have really been able to focus on the product. It’s not easy, but for the most talented and ambitious of us, it’s the only real way to go.

    The Culture

    In a startup you get to directly shape what the company DNA will look like. This might not sound like a big deal, but it’s a massive deal. The company culture and people you spend your days working with is what impacts your life the most right after your immediate family. This is especially the case if you’re ambitious and want to make a career for yourself. By being an early employee in a startup you can directly influence what kind of people will be around you and with whom you share your path with. For example at Grey Area every single employee from the community manager to the junior developer has a 100% veto on every single hire. Secondly, having people around you who are venturing their life savings on pursuing a dream can be life changing even if you’re in it only for fun and profit. In a startup you can only have people who get shit done and that’s a really good thing if you want to develop and ship great products.

    The Fun

    Startups are more fun! They really are and there’s nothing better than waking up every morning knowing you have a place to go which is full of amazing people to have fun with.

    Now, if you are on top of your game, whether it’s slicing metrics, developing for the web or making bas ass 2D art, and think you wouldn’t mind be able to
    1) choose your own tools,
    2) have a direct say on the product you’re developing,
    3) have colleagues who listen and are best at what they do,
    4) not make compromises because of lame internal politics,
    5) and generally be part of creating a merit based culture that appreciates great talent and fun, go check out our open positions at Grey Area or apply for one of the many others. Startups are way bad ass. Join the fun!

    The writer is co-founder and the CEO at Grey Area, the maker of Shadow Cities and co-founder at ArcticStartup.