10 reasons to work in someone else’s startup


If you’ve never worked in a startup business you don’t know what you’re missing.  It really is the most fun you could ever have at work – even when they don’t become the next Groupon (let’s face it – any of us that have been around for a while have all got drawers full of old share option certificates from the companies we believed to be “dead certs”).  However, if you’re not yet quite ready or equipped to start your own business, working in someone else’s startup can be a marvellous stopgap solution and one that brings all sorts of opportunity.  These are my top 10 reasons why:

1.       Whatever you do, your startup job will have more scope simply because there are fewer people in the company and everyone is required to work beyond their comfort zones – that adds more strings to your bow & improves your confidence;

2.       Your working day will be far more varied than if you worked in a bigger or more established company and there’s bags more opportunity to move sideways into something else if you find you fancy it;

3.       If you’re talented and hard working, you can move up fast & make yourself indispensable far easier than in a different sort of organisation; no-one cares about your age or gender or even experience – it’s what you can do today that matters;

4.       Startup teams are really special – the bond between team members is unusually strong (probably because we all have so much at stake & let’s face it – there’s usually nothing else – no customers, no product, no money – so the team is EVERYTHING) and it’s a unique experience; when I think back to the startups I’ve worked in the teams have all been pure gold (Learning Pool’s Team Lovely pictured, snapped at our May 2010 conference by the rather wonderful Paul Clarke);

5.       Visibility – you can have access to the CEO’s big picture vision if you want it (if you’re not interested in what that is, you probably shouldn’t be there);

6.       You can learn so much so fast at someone else’s expense & with no financial risk to yourself – I remember the dizzy learning curve of my first startup dalliance – but even more I remember the exhilaration;

7.       Potential long term risk-free financial upside in your share options – if you work in someone else’s startup & don’t have options ask them why;

8.       The environment is extremely challenging & it helps you find out stuff about yourself as you become more resilient;

9.       There’s a chance that this might just be THE ONE – the next Google or Amazon;

10.   It’s serious fun – those roller coaster highs sure are high & we celebrate every success (sometimes even a little too much); you never know what’s around the corner.

Sounds good so far – sounds like you might enjoy this.  If you’re going for it, it’s only fair for me to give you the other side of the coin – which I’m going to call:

5 team member behaviours that really p*** the startup CEO off – and in my book they are:

1.       Whining – either to me or your colleagues about (delete as necessary) long working hours/not enough time to get stuff done properly/the spec is too loose/the working environment is too transparent/my salary is too low/the goalposts keep moving/etc);

2.       Not being customer focused enough – unforgivable in a startup;

3.       Wasting money – booking travel late, forgetting to cancel subscriptions, not parking in the cheapest car park at the airport, not asking for a discount on absolutely everything we buy as a matter of course, nor getting the most out of every minute of the day;

4.       Not thinking about stuff – inexcusable & I don’t want to hear your excuses;

5.       Not being a team player – peddling your own agenda, bitching about a colleague, not carrying your fair share – unacceptable – we’re all in this together & see above – the team is everything.  If you don’t believe this you need to get out & let the rest of us get on.

As always – I hope you enjoyed this blog & I look forward to your comments or questions – some of you will no doubt have different views & stories from your own start-ups which the rest of us hope you will share.



  1. Absolutely fascinating Mary, thanks for sharing. I’ve the honour of being the 3709th view so I thought I perhaps should leave this observation: I’ve never had an opportunity to work in a start-up organisation but I can certainly appreciate the points you make, plus the potential reward for the individual – not just in monetary terms but in overall job satisfaction.


  2. Thanks for the comment John. My blogs usually get a few comments in from people but this one, although it’s had a lot of visits, had no comments. I thought it was because I’d been scaring people as usual…although it’s all true – perhaps harsh but true.


  3. Hi Mary, thanks for this great article. I’m currently about to graduate college, and I’m at the cusp of deciding–should I work for a startup first, or should I try my luck and start my own?I also run a blog about entrepreneurship, which caters to new entrepreneurs and graduating students alike. You could share your hard-earned knowledge with this audience; would you like to guest blog? (I’ll definitely link the post to your blog and Learning pool too.)If you want to check out my blog, you can find it here: http://blog.blainelight.com


  4. Thanks Blaine – your blog’s great – keep up the good work. I’d probably advise you to go & work in a start up before you start your own business & get a bit of experience at someone else’s expense! Good luck – Mary


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