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When to join a startup (tomblomfield.com)
338 points by tomblomfield on Jan 14, 2016 | hide | past | web | favorite | 113 comments



I seem to learn the same lesson again and again from all the press about startups and my own experience (both as an employee in many and CEO/Founder in another). If you join the startup for the money (doesn't matter if you mean salary or equity), you're going to have a bad time. But if you expect to get experience, career and professional growth out of it, you can get pretty awesome results regardless of how successful startup turns out to be.


Reading Hacker News, I get the impression that tech startups are the only sector of our capitalist economy that has transcended the profit motive and is apparently serving a higher cause.


I love this, but at the same time I have to be wary.

I'm torn between thinking of Hacker News as benevolent or delusional and self-righteous.

I get the benevolent vibes when I see comments like golergka's. I get the delusional, self-righteous vibes when I see founders and VCs comparing themselves to JP Morgan and JD Rockefeller, saying "Hey! Look! I'm just as important as those guys!" "Silicon Valley is important!"

That said, Silicon Valley may very well be an important part of history. But the self-centeredness makes me wary.


Silicon Valley is most definitely an important part of history, regardless what Hacker News and its ilk do. It is named after the primary material input of its name sake first innovation, the integrated circuit. Robert Noyce, the "Mayor or Silicon Valley", Robert Moore, and the rest of the "Traitorous Eight" founded Fairchild Semiconductor and then these two went on to found Intel, a unicorn among unicorns. They accomplished all this by challenging many business norms including "not being company men" and selling their product at a loss until volume was up enough to turn a profit. They didn't just spin off companies, they are the ones that transformed the orchards into the Silicon Valley you take for granted today. They and their progeny laid the social (even the use of venture capital!) and technological foundation that is taken for granted today. Many people I ask have no clue who Robert Noyce is, and know Moore only for Moore's Law. It's like being a publicist and not knowing who Guttenberg is. It's embarrassing really. Silicon valley is already a part of history. I know this and I am young, not someone of an older generation that lived any of this. It's all so rivht there in front of your face, it's hard not to know this stuff. Hacker News, many threads show an ignorance of a lot of this stuff, and I'm just about over it all.


I don't see golergka's comment as falling into some sort of SV "VC-istan" delusional thinking. Joining a small, expanding company is an excellent way to build experience and career growth. It's just in SV we call those small businesses "startups" and accord them some sort of inherent moral superiority.


I said

>I get the benevolent vibes when I see comments like golergka's

I think his comment is benevolent, not delusional.


I have a different reaction. I think the idea that you shouldn't be in it solely for the money is a way to protect against the emotional costs of near-certain failure. If money is your only goal, then failure will crush you. If you can point to all the non-monetary things you gained, then you came out on top no matter how the business itself ends.


And even if you succeed, monetary wealth is a dead end. Once you're there, you'll be disappointed that money doesn't happiness (trite, but true).


Yeah, I think there's one thing the startup world does offer: more freedom+respect than other places. (Above a certain income.) It's horrific, full of lies and doesn't let everyone in. And that "freedom" is often interpreted as harassment.

But. There's a reason why certain people choose it. You can be less of a cog.


Freedom is harrassment how?


> I get the benevolent vibes when I see comments like golergka's.

Thanks, but why? My comment works in completely capitalist self-interest way, even when you forget about all the joy of programming.


It's idealism wrapped in bullshit to allow left-wing founders to sleep at night.


truth? you'll be over worked, under paid, and you'll get tired of it well before the equity's worth anything.


I think there's always been naive people in the labor force. See also: unpaid interns working at national magazines.


In the magazine industry, those are the only "jobs" at all. There are very few paying jobs (and those that do pay a non-livable wage) so you have people with degrees and a year plus experience still working for nothing (or next to nothing).


I don't know of any other tech startup besides Watsi that's serving a higher cause. Enlighten me?


raise.me


Employees are very rarely motivated by profit/salary. See Herzberg's two-factor theory. This is not unique to our sector.


Employees are very rarely motivated EXCLUSIVELY by profit/salary.

Fixed it for you :-)


Have you read the theory? Salary is not even a motivational factor. Salary is among the hygiene factors, that (quoting wikipedia) do not give positive satisfaction or lead to higher motivation, though dissatisfaction results from their absence.


This seems to be a theory based on the assumption that the person(s) are already having more than their base needs met: (decent housing, food, entertainment, retirement). Salary is one hell of a motivator if you're struggling to meet these things. It's all good and academic but antithetical to why a good portion of people obtain higher education.


It is just an academic theory, not holy gospel (with a long "Validity and criticisms" section in Wikipedia).

I think salary IS a motivational factor in real life, as for many humans it is a yardstick of superiority compared to other humans (whether it is right or wrong is another matter).


Its more than just a yardstick for comparison. I know I want to be able to buy the things I want (whether that be going out to dinner more often, buying a new car at 5 years instead of 10, etc). If my salary isn't enough to do those things without major sacrifices elsewhere, then its at least as important a motivator to me as other things.


I agree. Salary is a motivational factor - at least indirectly. It's a status symbol. It shows the company values you.


I can only imagine a world without monetary payment, in some form, for the extremes of far too little and more than enough.

Thinking about the brighter side of things I suppose that in the more than enough side of things you would be paid with happiness. That to be wealthy would be to have something you enjoy doing all of the time. Success however, would be measured in a currency that is more difficult to track, respect.


Have you ever asked someone if they would still be working at their job if they weren't getting paid? Or even the weaker version, if they didn't need the money?

I have asked many people this and only two people have said yes to this. One was someone who already sold his startup so probably didn't have to work ever again. The other was someone who could have retired but he was afraid if he shut down his company his employees would struggle to find new jobs.


How come?


Maybe you're completely naive.


Or sarcastic.


Sadly, experience you get in some start ups will not help you get a better job.

When I was a manager in big corp, here what was important for us. These things you will not gain in some start ups (and in some you will definitely learn):

- How to write and communicate functional, design, and QA specs

- How to properly setup unit, module, program, product, and system testing

- Understand security issues

And the funny thing is that startups which will help you to grown in areas above are anyway going to be ones which do offer market base salary.


So after your startup experience, somebody will shell out the big bucks to pay for your experience and professional growth? Or is it just that you can write more deep sounding blog articles in the future?


If you prove you are actually any good, yes. This is also true if you worked at a place that is small, but not a startup.

The best decision I made in my career was to ride the 2003 recession in a small catalog company that wrote its own code and wanted to grow. Since they were that small, I had responsibilities that had nothing to do with what people of my experience had to do in big companies. I was making stack and architectural decisions quickly. Since we didn't have an army of people, I had to do infrastructure, project proposals, requirements gathering, database administration, and decisions on stack changes. We just couldn't afford specialists. My pay was not exactly competitive, but when I left for a bigger company, I had major advantages over my coworkers, because I had such a breadth of experience compared to them, pigeonholed in roles that did a lot less, and never had to care about what was good for the business, just doing what the next guy in the totem pole said. Your idea of big bucks might be different from mine, but making over 300k in the Midwest sounds pretty good to me.

And it's not just my story: The rest of the people in that team are all doing extremely well. One is a senior architect in a cloud provider. Another is a pretty big conference speaker. The last one is the top technical gun in a consulting firm. All my friends that didn't take risks to go for better experience are doing far less interesting work, for far less money.

That said, a startup just makes it easier to get a job that teaches the right things. If all you end up doing is writing a web app in Rails, you might as well do that in a bigger place that pays better. It's not really about the office being cool, or thinking the company has a good chance at making it, but about finding ways to get a competitive advantage over other developers for the long haul.


+100 corporate experience in big fish companies is completely overrated, people learn a LOT more in a smaller companies.


You learn broad in a small company and deep in a big company.

Which is better depends entirely on the problem.


How are you making over 300k in the Midwest? Surely it's not a purely software engineering role, from my (admittedly limited) experience those roles top out at 180-200k base in Chicago.


As a Junior in college, I appreciate the nuance and perspective you've provided.

Do you have any advice for an undergrad trying to find his way in today's tech industry? You mentioned "competitive advantage" and learning the "right things" - could you elaborate on what you think that is today, especially for someone who'll be joining the workforce in about a year?


Yes. In my experience, they will. People who hired me (or offered to do so) told me, directly, that having this experience was a competitive advantage in their eyes.

It's one thing to hire just a developer. It's another thing to hire a developer who knows first-hand what's it like to run a startup, what's important for management and what concerns do they have.


It might be a competitive advantage relative to a random, older company that isn't well-respected in the tech industry, but compared to working at an Amagoobooksoft, I think you'd be at a disadvantage.


Google or Facebook — may be, they're known for their exceptional engineer culture. But Amazon and other beurocracy-heavy companies with manager-oriented culture look like a disadvantage in the CV to me.


If you're asking whether companies pay more for you as an employee, I don't think so. Sometimes I even get the feeling that they like you less because you might be a threat to management (since you typically ask them about IT and the business aspects of what they do)

But if you ask whether they give you more money because you are now in another relationship with them (consulting?), then absolutely, yes.


I'd be wary of employers who seem uncomfortable answering questions about the business side of the company.


Same. If you get the impression management feels threatened by your skills and experience, it is not a place you should work at. Management should recognize what you can bring to the company at an individual and corporate level and groom you for a tech/business leadership role. If a company isn't prepared to do that, then they probably just want to use you.


Apart from the fact that not everything is about money, yes, more often than not it will be a great thing when landing new jobs.


Or join an established sane tech company and enjoy both experience and pay.


Or: learning will be awesome, awesome earning will be optional :)


Awesome learning, awesome earning.

I've never heard that before but I realize now that it summarizes my motivations fairly succinctly


So effectively you are paying money to the startup so they can teach you (or you can teach yourself) "experience" skills?


The first day (actual founder) or the day before the papers are for the A round are officially signed. These are the actual and only correct answers.

If you are the founder you get the best deal overall on expected value.

If your offer is generated before the A Round closes, you can negotiate equity at a pre-A-round valuation, but you are never exposed to any pre-A-round risk, and you can negotiate a post-A round salary that is contingent on the round closing.


What would you say is a good amount of equity for being an early engineer (effectively technical lead) at a seed-stage startup? I'm at my first and don't know if I'm being compensated fairly, though I do enjoy the work greatly.


Depending on your skill level relative to everybody else, probably 2-5% would be a good range, though it also would depend on what your salary is. Less than 2% and either you are being paid a lot or you aren't that important to the team (or you are important and are underpaid).


I think 1% to even 0.5% is pretty likely - at which price maybe you might have to accept something maybe 15-20% below market. I would love to see early developers at this stage get 2-5%, though I think that would be hard for some to push all the way through (past the CEO if applicable, board who has to sign off on the cap table and doesn't want the option pool to be too low too soon, etc).

But would it be fair if you are good and putting in that much work? Hell yes. But likely you're good, and hopefully the work/life balance isn't that lopsided either. Are you going to get it? Unlikely.


I joined Milo.com about a month after the A round was closed, everyone post-A was given between 0.1 and 0.3%. If you are joining early seed round, you would probably expect around 30k in salary and between 1% and 5%. The question is how much do they want you to join, and can you sell yourself a little bit. Find out what their pain points are that you think you can honestly attack on day #1 of joining, and make sure they know you intend to fix those problems ASAP. Then tell them what you think is fair, and let them agree to that (or don't join). As an engineer you shouldn't try to negotiate too much with a founder because: If they are bad at negotiating, the startup is going to fail, and if they are good at negotiating they are going to convince you to take a really bad deal (and you will be happy about it).

If you are an engineer that is good negotiating, you shouldn't be joining someone else's startup (you should be working on your startup, even if you are 15).


In my example I'm talking about a seed stage startup where the engineer being hired is going to be a critical part of the team and has relevant experience. No board, no major dilution yet. Don't get me wrong, 2% is much more applicable than 5%, but I don't think 5% would be unheard of.

A month ago I talked with a founder of a company with a huge angel round in the bank looking for an experienced technical lead, and he was very comfortable giving ~2-3% equity for it (smart guy!).

Perhaps 0.5%-1% is more common, but that doesn't mean you should take the job at that level. I was answering the question of what this type of hire is worth, not what they commonly get.


2-5% seems high from what Ive seen, can you name any startups that were successful with early engineer(s) near the top of that range?


Sure, at Thumbtack my initial offer was towards the top of the range to be the first hire there (I actually negotiated for less equity and more money, but they wanted me to take more equity... oops!). Worked out pretty well.


Where seed = less than US $1 million raised? Then it would depend on how many of the founders are good developers. I would say 3, 2, 1% based on whether you're the 1, 2nd or 3rd (including the founders) FT developer/s. Salary should be 70/80/85% of market inverse to the equity amount. If they're offering less than 70% market then I'd add 1% for every 10% delta. (ie 50% of market cash = 5% equity)


Is this because the investors will exert considerable pressure on management not to give away many percentage points? But the theory is that managers, even knowing that, might be willing to sneak them in just before it closes?

Won't this leave you with a huge tax bill, since the differential between the strike price and market price is so great? Options aren't worth anything if you can't afford to exercise them, so might a slightly smaller percentage after an A-round actually be preferable in practical terms?


Or you can negotiate your % regardless and not base it on monetary value. This has less of an impact pre and post series A. A raise takes awhile so you really want to do your pre series-A "timing" like half a year before when things are still uncertain enough to be negotiable, but good enough to be probable.


Coding jobs have about a 2 year half-life. If they have enough funding to pay you for 2 years, regardless of whether or not they succeed, then it is as stable as any job, so just take the paycheck and do the work.

Any job that doesn't have 2 years of reasonable stability need to be evaluated by your passion for the project. Do you want to take on personal risk because you believe in the project? Are you willing to lose money over it? Are you willing to lose time over it, and be broke at the end? Does this project improve the world, and do you want the work to be done even if you do not personally gain from it? Positive answers to those questions may lead you to join up.

But if you join a startup because you hope to get rich from it, you are gambling. There is nothing wrong with that choice, but you should see it for what it is - gambling your time for a small chance at future money.


> Coding jobs have about a 2 year half-life. If they have enough funding to pay you for 2 years, regardless of whether or not they succeed, then it is as stable as any job, so just take the paycheck and do the work.

This may be true in SV and a handful of other areas, but it is far from universal.


There are a ton of programming jobs that have a much longer lifetime. There's plenty of "lifers" in the business software or infrastructure software worlds for example.


Yes, there are, which is why i used the term "half-life".

But if you are the type to be a lifer at a job, you don't need advice on when to join a startup in the first place.


This should be titled 'When to join an externally funded startup'.

It's a whole different ballgame if you join one that's actually making a profit and doesn't need someone else's cash. Get in as early as you can, if you like the idea and can see it's got longevity.


I think you're referring to a business, not a startup. The definition of "startup" has been tranformed into basically "a business that is primarily based on a website or mobile app," which it is not.

Startups rely on fast growth. If you have a very narrow market or your end goal is $200k/yr in profit, you are by definition not a startup.

If you're actually a startup, you should not have any profit in the beginning. You should be pumping that money back into the company and seeking external funding in order to pour gasoline on the fire.

There's nothing wrong with having a business instead of a startup (personally I prefer the bootstrapped business route) but to say that it's a startup is not accurate.


I don't think there is a definition anyone will agree on for 'startup' in this context. You either have a business that makes money, or you don't.


>The definition of "startup" has been tranformed into basically "a business that is primarily based on a website or mobile app," which it is not.

Only in the Hacker News / Silicon Valley echo chamber.


What's wrong with "a new fast-growing company that primarily sells, or deals with, technology"?


Which so happens to include mainstream media and commentary.


This is true, and is often overlooked. Many startups are internally funded, and grow through profits. These companies are typically more conservative in their business strategies, because people tend to have less risk tolerance with their own money, because there are no outside investors pushing for accelerated growth, and sometimes because of more limited finances.


This is a really great article. I've been asked several times about the right moment to join a startup, but truth to be told, it really depends a lot on your expectations. Do you want to join a super early stage company and do whatever is needed or do you prefer to join a funded and work on a very specific role. Important questions here:

1. What are your expectations? 2. Are you a generalist or a specialist? 3. Do you want to work in a small room with two or three guys with a pay check? 4. Do you want to join a more established startup, but have less impact?

Make sure you understand the pros and cons of each option!


Here's another overlooked tidbit: There's a good chance your skill set that was so valued in a 3-person early-stage startup will be significantly diminished when it turns into a 10-person, funded machine. Generalists are awesome when you're scraping your way through experiments and the "do whatever you can think of to increase sales this week before our investor meeting next Thursday" type stages. But I've seen those generalists left out in the cold when it comes time to focus and scale.


I've seen those generalists left out in the cold when it comes time to focus and scale.

A particular subclass of this problem: the person who heads up your (pick a department randomly) Marketing from e.g. your seed round through your Series B is a) likely to be young and on-paper unprepared to run a Marketing department with 10 direct reports, b) likely to have a perceived lack of gravitas, c) likely to lack industry connections. Your VC fund and/or senior management may decide to bring in someone More Appropriate For The Role when you need a Director of Marketing.

This presents a dilemma: what happens to the person who built your entire marketing strategy when someone has just been brought in to own the entire marketing department going forward? Is new person going to report to them? No, that's an obvious non-starter. Are they going to report to new person? A surprising number of people would prefer to not have perceived issues with the existing team (most of whom were, after all, hired by the existing employee) deferring to that person rather than their new titular boss.

This is a time at which you either pray you are listed as a founder of the company or the founders are willing to go to the mattress for you, because otherwise the outcome is "Thanks for your service; best of luck in your next job."


This is one of the things I find so pernicious about startup options. One of the literal, best outcomes for all parties in that case (which I agree with you is surprisingly common) is for that young early career person to happily make room for the new regime, often by leaving to work at another startup or something new.

But the way options work they are incentivized to stick around when it doesn't make sense and penalized if they do want to move on. That same early person probably does not have the capital to exercise their options when they leave.


Yep. Not representative of an individual who might have motivated my comment, but:

Seed round: "Marketing Bob, you'll be employee #2. 1% -- 4 year vesting, 1 year cliff. You'll do everything from writing blog posts to attending conferences to talking to every single customer."

B round (2.5 years later): "Marketing Bob! Great news: we're now worth a billion dollars! That owes an incredible amount to your heroic efforts! You have excellent ability to become a co-founder at your next gig! Which starts whenever you want it to! We strongly recommend you start planning for it right now, and we'll even clear your calendar for the next two weeks to allow you to devote all of your efforts to planning! We hope you are socially aware enough to understand what we are saying here!"

Marketing Bob may well be CEO Bob at his next gig, but he'll be entering it being a) fired and b) having had ~$3.75 million stolen from him. (One would hope that the co-founders would go to the mattress with their VCs when the VCs say "Come on, vesting, we all know how it works. Of course the employee stock pool gets the 37.5 basis points back. That's like twenty engineers -- we need every point now!")


This was a good example for finance noobs like myself -- what does the last sentence mean, though?


37.5 basis points is 0.375%, the percent of his stock that had not yet vested and this is returned to the stock option pool to be given out to future hires


Bob has 1%, so it's 37.5% of his stock that is not vested after 2.5 years. (0.375% of the company's stock)

It's 25%/year with 4 year vesting (so 25 + 12.5 for the 1.5 years left)


While I think you describe the unfortunate common case, my personal experience has not run this way.

Much more often, there has been agreement that there is a need for a new layer of leadership that we did not have before, and then we have to decide whether we promote or hire on top of someone. When we have had to hire on top of someone, they have taken that option gracefully while gracefully also keeping the package of other options that they were handed when they joined.

"Report to the new person" works surprisingly well if you sell it the right way.


I have no idea about these issues but couldn't this scenario be handled by some sort of legal agreement where the options are transferred to the new guy for compensation? What's usually in contracts for the situation "in case you leave before everything is fully vested"?

What I'm thinking about is basically transferring the options to the new guy (so he also gets more stuff in the future once it's vested).


Alternatively, you grow with the role and thus have a faster career progression than you would otherwise.

Even if you do end up being replaced, you can manage that transition so that you can parlay that experience into a more senior role at another company. If you have a good relationship with the founders (a necessity of any startup), they should give you plenty of heads up and help in navigating this, even if they do decide to bring in someone with more experience.


That's often a lot harder to do than it sounds. Engineers don't feel this pain as much, but marketing and sales both see explosive increases in complexity at scale. If you've never managed a direct sales team before or worked for a long time on a well-managed direct sales team, you're probably not going to be any good at managing one yourself. It's hard.


The nature of a lot of engineering (bog standard business logic and UI implementation) is such that a good engineer can adapt to shifting needs and focuses. For example, an engineering team can weather a shift from consumer to enterprise much more easily than sales/marketing. But non-engineering positions are also more monetarily and professionally rewarding in the case of success - a textbook example of high risk, high reward.

This is also related to how engineering is often viewed (correctly or not) as a young man's game. The most commonly cited reason for that is how there's always new stuff to learn, but even if there wasn't so much churn in the relevant knowledge, the fact that younger employees can grow and "catch up" professionally much faster than in other business functions plays a role.


You don't necessarily get fired (if you're an engineer) when this happens, but you probably do get socially brutalized. The founders/investors inevitably begin bringing in "experienced managers" -- people whose primary qualifications are a few years in low-level management at a big-name company. They might even be the same age as you, if not younger. Important decisions begin to bypass you in favor of the new management structure. You get less and less authority in roles that you helped define. It's a really crappy experience.

The problem is that you're a known quantity, and the founders/investors see you as a great worker -- in a certain role. They perceive some problem, and since you're part of the system with the problem, you are seen as incapable of fixing the problem. Better to hire Magic Mike from Facebook or Brilliant Bob from Google to come in and make everything better.

I've seen this happen so many times. If you're an engineer, your choices are generally a) swallow your pride, ride out your vest and don't advance in your career, or b) quit, lose the money, and hopefully move into that more senior role somewhere else, so that you can be Magic Mike next time.


Yeah, that definitely happens. If being a founder is out of the question (which, as others have said, is the only situation in which you should value options as nonzero) yet you want to work in startups, then your focus should really be on becoming Magic Mike. Actually getting a chance to "grow with the company" is the exception, not the rule, even if it occasionally happens in engineering.

The idea that just hiring a team lead from Amagoofacesoft will solve all your engineering management problems is deeply embedded in the Valley ("nobody ever got fired for going with IBM"). Never mind that you'll be scraping the bottom of the middle management barrel at those companies, since the really good ones aren't going to leave.


> This is also related to how engineering is often viewed (correctly or not) as a young man's game

Startup engineering is a young man's game in part because it's harder to fool more experienced engineers into drinking the koolade.


I'm not sure generalists ever run out of things to do. Sure, specialists may take off segments of the work to focus on, but generalists are still valuable.


From what i've seen, i'd agree with the parent. Specialists come in, often with MBAs, create their own empires. Generalists who helped build the company/process get layered with greater amounts of meaningless work, often making less than the inbound specialist.


I think the article's overall structure is actually pretty poor. One lens to think about a startup job is risk vs. upside - both risk and potential upside decrease as the startup progresses. Ultimately, a large publicly traded company has the least risk and least upside. It's a very broad brush to simply say 'unicorns are a bad time to join' - people who joined a few years before the Google or Facebook IPO still did very well with minimal risk.

Another approach is to consider what non-monetary goals you have - e.g. growth. For a junior engineer, going to a top-tier public company or unicorn is often a pretty good idea since you can learn a lot about best practices and can be mentored by more senior talent. Going to a startup mid-career is often useful since you get a broader perspective outside of engineering (on business, marketing, etc). etc.


Great article. Best time to join: either as a founder, or post the Oracle acquisition!

If you're going to take a risk, may as well maximise the risk/reward and be (co) founder. In the mean time enjoy a well-paying job you enjoy in a space that you'd like to disrupt; learn on the job, build your network, then leave to found the startup that will disrupt your previous employer...


Generally, fairly accurate.

One word of warning - It would be nice if most startups became happy "CEO-on-Forbes" unicorns at round C, but not all do. I've seen a startup take a handfull of millions into Round F.

Which is of course, rather much the flunk round. And a lot of very health companies continuing to raise many small series rounds.

I think most people know this - but don't equate funding stage or amount of money raised with startup success. A better gauge would be paying customers and while you can't often get a feel for burn rate, find out as much as you can.

All being said, I've had some good educational times on slowly sinking ships too.

Sometimes the product is a little bit ahead of it's time.


> one two-hundredth, or 0.005% of the company

I'll take the former, please.


full quote: "one two-hundredth of a percent", which is indeed 0.005%.


There was an early typo - fixed now.


Yes, I'm missing the point (and I did enjoy the post!) but this: After 5 years, the company has raised £100m at a £1bn valuation.

Has any recent British tech company/startup ever had such a raise? (Boo.com did but that was 99.)


Skyscanner just last week


Farfetch and Transferwise have raised more than $100m and both have valuations of more than $1bn.


Anaplan just reached $1bn


Not a UK company, right?


Funding Circle has raised a total of $300m since 2010


Is some of that funds to make loans with, though?


> part of me imagines a group of MBAs sitting around watching Justin Timberlake play Sean Parker, thinking that actually a billion dollars would be pretty cool.

My experience is that MBAs looking for money go into corporate roles, not startups. Around me it have been the more idealistic ones that join or start a startup, and for very different reasons than getting rich. e.g. feeling that they can be more valuable here than in corporate, wanting to create something new, etc. (all the normal reasons for start-ups, MBAs are no different)

disclaimer: I have an MBA, and I did apply to Mondo (did not work out, but no hard feelings), and I usually don't daydream about making a billion dollars


This is more like "what it's like to join a startup at various stages". Perhaps the implicit lesson is to match what you're looking for to different stages?

In any case, this is changing all the time. The seed-stage startup in 2016 might be three or four people from all over the world, working over Slack.


I joined as second employee after angel funding (seed stage) and a few months before the first VC funding and got about 0.5% equity. After a series C this went down to less than 0.3%... I didn't know anything about stock options before joining, don't you think I should have negotiated for more? This article says I should have got about 3% when I joined


Great read, I especially liked the mum references.


The decision of joining a startup should not be money return. It is a gamble. You use your stable salaries in return of dream and success. Pursue a dream is always expensive but when you get old, you will have a story to tell.


Could it be more precise!? :)


Join if they give you what you want. Same as with every company...

Want to work from home? Ask them. Most normal/bigger corps won't let you do this. A Startup probably will.

It's also good if you like green field projects, haha.


These are great definitions of the stages of a "startup" but I'm missing the point here?

Also, at some point, does a startup not become a company?


According to Steve Blank: "A startup is a temporary organization used to search for a repeatable and scalable business model."

This is the best answer I've seen. Most startups are companies, and most startups are businesses. Graduating from a startup to a business doesn't make that much sense. But when your identified customers, product, and business model are repeatable and financially stable for the company, you aren't really a startup anymore.


A startup is always a company, but not really a 'business' until it's making a profit.


>A startup is always a company, but not really a 'business' until it's making a profit.

So is a newly-opened mom & pop grocery store, then, I guess. But that kind of business isn't likely to generate blog write-ups.


PG describes a startup as a company 'designed to grow quickly.'


Spot on our trajectory for the last two years




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