Lure of the startup
Sep 27 2013
Knowing you helped build a company from the ground up is a feeling you can only get in a startup
Joseph Campbell could be describing the modern day startup in his hero’s journey and why entrepreneurs and their teams are compelled to forge ahead despite being warned of the pitfalls and high mortality rates that abound around.
I have worked for big companies and startups. I know those who don’t understand why anybody would take the stress of the startup. I also know the others who will not step into the structured yet laddered corporate world. There are some alarming startup stats out there, foisted in your face, that can make even the bravest tremble. According to Entrepreneur Weekly, 25 per cent fail in the first year and 36 per cent fail in the second year.
Despite that, according to Kaufman.org, “Companies less than one year old with one to four employees have created more than one million jobs per year over the past three decades; those with five to nine employees have added have a million jobs per year. There are many reasons people gravitate towards startups.
The big culture of the small
For some, anonymity is a blessing. For others, it is a curse. If you are working for a startup, get ready to be fully immersed in the company. For the next few years, this is the place where everybody knows your name. There will be happy hours, holiday parties and celebration of milestone events. Recognition, rewards, direct access to authority are some of the intrinsic perks. If you are lucky, the extrinsic rewards will materialise when the company follows through with its exit strategy.
The essence of a startup lies in the fundamental premise of innovation. Startups take the genesis of an idea forward and have to deal with the growing pains of a toddler. When Binitha Surendran interned with Zoomcare.com, she said that what mattered to her was access to top management, fast decision making, a sense of camaraderie, the willingness to take risk, making an impact quickly and even the company’s BBQ meetings.
Unleash the Kracken
I am talking about the creativity that many of us keep locked away. Kelly Sims moved from a big company to a startup. Why does she love startups? “Unbounded thinking. No one stops to wonder about the potential constraints around an idea. They just see possibility, and deal with the constraints if they come up — and not before. Another one: you have the luxury of doing things that frankly aren't scalable (like sending handwritten thank yous to users), and that gives you another advantage over big companies.”
Understanding your impact
A startup is like a family where the presence of every member is a necessity. Each member in turn understands that what they do directly contributes to the success or failure to the company. This responsibility is fuel to productivity and a sense of accomplishment. Customer wins, product releases, partnership deals, analyst reviews: news travels fast through the company grapevine. Says Tiffany Cooper Goffe, a software engineer, who loves the startup environment, “Working at a startup gives you the chance to really make a difference in the company. Just knowing that you helped build that from the ground up is a feeling you don't get anywhere else.”
Shalini Komarla who worked for Rackspace commented “I feel there is a stronger sense of ownership in startups and startups allow individuals to significantly and quickly impact the bottom line, and there is certainly less bureaucracy.”
The fast track to experience
For those who don’t mind multitasking wearing multiple hats, startups accelerate learning. You will not have the luxury of big teams or deep pockets. As budgets are tight, you learn to become more resourceful and more collaborative to reach your goals. In the process, you may learn much that is beyond your area of expertise. Tauseef Khan, who has worked in startups as well as founded his own, commented, “Startups offer a culture that is pliable allowing diverse ideas and creativity to flow through. I also think there is a greater sense of ownership among the team members where most get to wear different hats because the teams are small and everyone's eyes are on the ball. And of course, less politics and red tape!”
In a startup, customer success is critical to a company’s lifeblood as the loss of even one account can be fatal. Everything and everyone is positioned around understanding client needs and responding swiftly. Felicia Haggarty, who has worked for the big and the small says, “Internally, decisions are made faster without over thinking strategy. Externally, they are more in tune with client needs and can react to the market, news, trends quickly as well.”