The Startup: The Good, The Bad and The Ugly

Startups are chaotic, hard work, occasional long days and nights, full of mistakes, highs and lows fraught with problems. They’re definitely not for everyone, if you want a 9–5 and a stable job, then perhaps the startup world isn’t for you. One thing startups don’t lack is passion, passion from the top down, passion from leadership bleeds into the employees.




Get things done fast

With a startup the momentum of the product or service you build is rapid. Typically startups work in a very agile mindset allowing things to be built fast and deployed often. In contrast many larger companies move slower as they have many steps and people to go through before anything can be started on let alone completed and released.


Wearing Many Hats

As someone working in a startup has to be prepared to do many different things, if you’ve studied for a particular field, say computer science, don’t expect to avoid some manual mundane tasks too. You won't be focused purely on the field you were hired for (although that is the obvious aim) you will be pulled in many different directions. But that’s good, you get exposure to business and the chaos that comes with a startup. It’s good and sometimes healthy in a way as it allows you to understand what’s important.


Make a Difference

Working with a startup allows you to make a difference, you’re not a small cog in a big wheel, and you’re a big cog in a small wheel. This means you’re important, you make a difference and you are productive and have a vested interest in making a difference and helping the company grow.


Learn With Colleagues

As you work with other colleagues in other departments because you are basically working in a small team you are often interacting daily with other departments you would never normally do in a bigger company. This allows you to learn their pain points and how they overcome them, and in turn you can apply these to your work.


Relate To the Customer

Typically working with a small team you will often be interacting directly with the end customer, this is so critical in being able to understand their problem and relate to what it is they are struggling with. It’s all too often that the message gets lost from a sales person dealing with a customer to relate that true problem and the importance of it back down through product and engineering. Asking the custom questions you know are going to bring out additional details is huge in being able to save time and in the end money.


The Good


Impact

Entrepreneurs move the world forward. Knowing that you’re making a difference in people’s lives is extremely motivating and the primary reason why founders start companies. When you’re a small team working on solving a specific problem, your impact per team member is astonishingly high. Everyone in the organization can see their impact manifest before their eyes in the daily work that’s done.


Empowerment

When you build something from nothing, you are empowered to do even more. Creating a business is rewarding and intellectually stimulating. Building a startup

allows you to develop a great sense of pride in what you do. It also becomes easier to do things out of your comfort zone. You’re more willing to try (and fail). The freedom to learn from your failures and build your own destiny is exciting!


Experience of a lifetime

In a startup, there is no typical day, and time is your greatest asset. You have to think on your feet and learn as you go. You meet people from all over the world who share a similar passion, interest and excitement for your industry and the challenges you’re trying to solve. Every day is an opportunity to learn, grow and change the world. It’s an incredibly rewarding experience.


Profit from Passion

Your best work comes from doing something that inspires you. When you have passion for what you do, you tend to not only be better at it, but you’ll work harder on it too. It’s amazing what we can create when we do what we love, and if we stick with it, there can be a financial reward as well.

Passion

When working in a startup you’ll notice there is a lot of passion that goes around, the founders will bleed this through the organization as it’s their baby and their energy will drive employees into the goal and belief in the product or service.

Passion in a startup should be infectious; everyone should feel the energy and desire of the leaders.


Culture

Nearly always in startups you will find there is a good culture, people are typically less closed off and open to ideas. Culture in my experience has more

relaxed feeling and you can give your opinion without risk of your job as you have a vested interest in the company succeeding.


Agility and Innovation

The fact that you can build your products and services quickly is inherently an agile mindset, it allows you to pivot on an idea should a new direction be discovered.


Learning

In a startup world you’re going to be constantly learning, as you take on many different tasks and challenges you have no option but to learn. You know that contract you got with expected tasks? Well…. forget it, you’ll likely be doing a lot more than that, and that’s a good thing.


Stock Options

Often startups will encourage people with stock options, these essentially allow you to buy at a given amount and sell them, to explain this a little better, say you got 100 stock options valued at $1 each, if the company gets bought out after they ‘vest’ and you sell your stock options now worth $10 each, you buy at 100*$1 and sell at 100*$10 netting you $900. This is after they vest which typically is about 25% per year.


The Bad


Mental Fatigue

Founders think about their company 24x7x365. This can be exhausting, stressful and frustrating. When you add in the risk and uncertainty of forging your own path, the pressure of it all can be the downfall of not just the startup, but also

the founder. It’s necessary to surround yourself with supporting team members, mentors and other entrepreneurs to keep a level head through this journey.


Loneliness

Being an entrepreneur is lonely. You feel isolated in a world that makes you feel small and insignificant. You work long hours, and don’t communicate with the outside world as much as you’d like. Outside of the contact with your immediate team, this can feel very lonesome. The only way to deal with this is to spend time with likeminded entrepreneurs who are in the same position as you are. Luckily there are a number of regular meet-up groups for founders in most cities around the world.


Relationships will be tested

Your family and friends will not fully understand what you go through on a daily basis. If you’re building a strong personal brand alongside your startup, people will judge you and feel like they know a lot about you. It can be extremely challenging to balance your time with the people you care about most when you’re laser focused on building a startup.

It’s also hard for people to understand your desire to take on the risk and build a business in the first place. You will sometimes deal with jealousy and resentment. It can even stem from a lack of understanding about what you actually do. You will have to learn to say no to people who want your help and support. Balancing time between mentorship with seeking your own mentorship is another challenge that’s often overlooked.


Finding Balance

The emotional toil of pouring everything into a company that, statistically, won’t make can be very hard. It’s important not to tie your self-worth to what you’re building. That’s not sustainable for you or the startup, but when you’re fully immersed into building your company, it can be hard to see the forest from the trees.

“It sounds masochistic, but really starting a business is a game of mental jujitsu. That’s the paradox of being an entrepreneur” — Taylor McLemore


Stability

Startups come with a financial complication, either they’re funded from investors or the revenue and profit is minimal and so often times can be tight. I have also found this to set your mindset to be cost optimized where you always make sure you don’t throw away money and always have the mindset of spend money as if it was yours. Most startups don’t end up succeeding; you have to be comfortable with that. 42% of Startups fail due to there not being a need in the market 29% of startups fail due to running out of money. Based on startups created in 2014, 56% of them make it to their 5th year.


Workload

Workload can be up and down, and when you are busy you might have several different project priorities that all need to be done; you need to be able to handle stress and work through projects to completion quickly.


Work/Life

To really work a startup, you have to be prepared to take home your work, be always prepared to take late night calls, or work on a project to completion. I’ve personally found this not a negative; the way I work typically is I can’t switch off if I know something isn’t complete.


The Ugly


Chaos


At times there will be chaos, and it can feel negative, this really is part of what comes with a startup. Ride out the bad times and the good times and its benefits will come.

Direction

Direction can often be muddy, this often comes from the fact you are and able to be agile, because things can change fast it can be that the original direction of the company can change. Depending on how well this is focused and how often it happens can cause frustration.


Throwaway Work


With change in direction like the above point can come with it the fact that previous effort might now become “wasted”. By this it mean that the effort and work you previously put in may now not be used (at least not for now) and so again this can come with frustration, this will almost definitely happen many times.




While this summary may sound like there are a lot of bad elements to being in a startup, it’s less of a negative and more about being realistic on what happens and frankly the benefits of not being so restricted. There are so many elements that I love about startups, it’s that I’ve found so much freedom and passion and knowledge.

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