I'm curious if there have been any new developments or changes in thinking since the sentiments expressed in that thread about a year ago.
Have the Pros and Cons changed much? Any new considerations? (e.g. Softbank, M&A patterns, potentially looming economic slowdown)
In general, what do you think in 2019 HN?
I do startups because I have a problem communicating my ideas in a way to influence larger organizations to do the things that interest me. Simple as that.
If I have a theory to move the needle, in a startup, I can do it, analyze it, and launch it with very little buy-in, although my impact to an industry may be less. In a BigCo, my impact on the industry may be more but the battle isn't about product-market fit, it's about corporate alignment and buy-in before I can even test product-market fit, which I just don't enjoy.
At a big co, you’re mostly playing bigco politics and ass kissing to climb up the career ladder.
I love startups and growth stage companies. There’s a ton of opportunities to make impact and learn new things.
This thread will fill up with comments saying start-ups won't pay as well as Google et al, but that's only relavent if you can get hired by Google (and you want to be). Comments that state "start-up wages are less than the best paying tech jobs" aren't very useful.
If you can't get a job at Google then you need to compare a start-up role with a job you can get. If that's a junior position in a small city tech co then it's probable the start-up salary will actually be similar or possibly even higher if it's done a round or two. And, if that's the case, the start-up is going to be far more interesting, fast moving, and fun. Just don't join a start-up thinking it'll make you rich because it (probably) won't.
Start-ups are just other businesses. The relevant pool of peer companies to consider for salary benchmarking is all other companies your desired candidate might work for. Nobody cares about the funding situation, age, cool new tech, meaningless options, or meaningless job titles. You just have to pay competitive market salaries and benefits, period.
You’ll go in believing you traded off some salary in order to get freedom or seniority you wouldn’t get at a traditional company, but it’s just a big lie. “Flexibility” will quickly give way to a bastardized “wear many hats” failure mode where you are being grinded into a burnout by supporting a bunch of shitty tooling with no capacity to hire people to handle the workload. You’ll quickly find that growth start-ups == nobody gives a shit about craft or even basic maintenance to keep a product healthy, they just want a small number of overqualified, underpaid people to absorb that headache on a permanent triage basis like employees are band-aids to constantly stop the bleeding.
But you are on spot on. 99% of the time startups wont make you rich and their biggest attraction by far is working on things you are care about and are interested in which you know you wont get at a BigCo (unless you are very very lucky to be working a hot new product blessed by someone high up). So if "interesting" things are what you want to work on why not just do a side project. This wont make you rich but atleast puts you on the path of producing "small" things to build your brand. Prioritizing 5-10 hours a week is not hard. Key is prioritizing.
To the extent there's been a change, the economics of startups and tech are more precarious nowadays. GOOG and FB both have their business models under significant threat, aside from cyclical concerns. And if a recession happens, both they and companies at all stages will have substantially reduced budgets for compensation. This means fewer jobs and more layoffs.
It's also more unclear nowadays what the next unicorn is. You're not going to become a quick multimillionaire by joining Uber or AirBnB at this point--there was awhile a couple years ago where they were a pretty reasonable choice to maximize comp. No such candidates exist nowadays.
1) Startups are still more willing to hire people with "nontraditional" backgrounds into technical roles. English major who bootcamp'd or self-taught yourself coding? Never attended college? Most startups aren't going to turn their nose up at you.
2) Assuming the company has product-market fit (or is nearing it): A great way to gain a holistic understanding of how software is made, delivered, consumed, and ultimately changed based on market response. This is both a technical and business learning experience.
3) You won't be pigeon-holed, as everyone has to wear more than one hat in startup land.
4) Doesn't apply to everyone, but if there's a particular niche you're into, it's much easier to get hired by one of those niche's startup's than to join a bigger tech firm and then hope you get assigned to one of those groups (which are probably highly competitive and extremely sought after... so good luck with that.)
1) They fail, sometimes spectacularly
2) They often operate at such a small scale that you'll never encounter entire classes of interesting technical challenges
3) If it's early stage: You will ship crap code. Constantly. Can be frustrating if you're a perfectionist or even just looking to push your craft forward
4) Equity offers are stingy, but even if they weren't, it can take 7-10 years for a big exit. Will you stick around long enough?
5) Because these companies are small, any toxic people in the org will feel omnipresent
6) There are now some fairly active "problematic" investors (Saudi Arabia). You may not like the idea of taking so-called "Blood Money"
The comments on the 2018 post you mention are all still true and relevant today.
My experience has proven than as an employee, joining a post series B will usually be a better bet with if you want to have impact + leverage on stocks, and joining a bigger company is the better bet if you want to maximise your income.
Earlier startup are just as risky for a new employee than founders, but with much less leverage, offsetting making it interesting.
If you join a 20 person startup and are a good performer, it's not at all unlikely that by the time the startup is at 60-70 people (which isn't going to be a long time at all for a funded startup), there's a high likelihood that you'll be in a director / manager / other senior position.
In terms of equity though, I'd say you should value your equity at 0, since that's what it's overwhelmingly likely to be worth even in most positive outcomes and only join if you're comfortable with your base comp.
If you're looking at this from a compensation perspective, that's only helpful if the company also starts paying competitive wages at that point. If you end up wanting to switch to a big tech company as a director with only 3 years of total experience, you'll probably be hired at L4 which you likely could have gotten within a year if you started your career at that company.
Of course if you think you'll like the job and it's not a question of compensation, then this can be a big benefit of startups.
Point being, depending on the BigCo and the role, you might have to take what feels like a step back in job title to eventually end back where you started. At least the competition for influential roles will be more intense since there will probably be several BigCo employees that want the same job and have advantages of shared culture and better access to the people doing the hiring.
Having stagnated at a start up and grown a lot at a BigCo, I think easy career growth is really more about company growth than absolute company size. The scenario you outline still holds if the company grows from 1,000 to 2,000.
Anyways these kind of HN threads are awesome, I hope they can rationalize the market somewhat.
> Start ups will give a chance to junior with a weak resume if he/she can demonstrate skills.
They don't hire you on a resume, you need to demonstrate skills. Wether it's a good way to do so is another matter.
I had interviews with startup not even asking for my resume, or testing my skills. But I never had a startup getting me through many hoops in the hiring process. 4 steps over a few months was the max, while FAANGs are known for using more than 10 steps, dispatched over as long as a year.
Do you really read the comments you answer to ?
It starts with them talking about feeling miserable in their jobs and that they badly want to quit.
I then ask them to try something new, join my (or another) startup (or another company). Then they get paralyzed by the pros/cons of various options, (salary, stock, commute, role, title etc. etc.) they end up not making any changes at all and continue feeling dissatisfied.
I have come to believe that dwelling on these pros/cons doesn’t help anyone and just causes analysis/paralysis related misery that is completely unnecessary.
It is better to pick one thing and then focus 100% on making the most of it. After a while, if you notice it has stopped giving you joy/learning/growth, make a switch, try something different and again focus on making the most of that.
Being clear in your head about what you want to do, why you want to do it and aligning your actions/efforts 100% with that clarity is the most valuable thing there is to have in life. The rest is noise.
1. You're the founder
2. You have no other choice
3. You think it'll be fun
- A lot of people don't know what they are actually worth and undervalue themselves
- or they do not understand the caveats of things like dilution and classes of stock
- or they were offered stock in units of shares without knowing the valuation
- or they accept a job and relocate to the Bay Area from a reasonably-affordable place and mistakenly think that a $100k/year salary is hitting the jackpot
- or they were persuaded by the founders that the company was going to be a rocketship without fulling knowing how to judge potential in companies or in the personal traits of the founders themselves (we're not all superstar VCs) and then it didn't turn out to be the case but they didn't want to eat the sunk cost with their unvested shares (takeoff was always just ostensibly around the corner!)
- or they didn't realize just how much more FAANG actually pays than late-stage startups or even other top-tier companies (even Glassdoor is wrong)
- or they preferred to take on more risk without fully understanding the reward aspect (the survivorship bias here in the Bay is real, as enforced by a tough housing market)
- or they previously worked for a big company with poor culture and were turned off by it and decided to only work for startups
- or they weren't prepped in the art of negotiation
- or the founders acted against their employees' best interests and took an early buy-out offer that brought everyone in as acquihires of BigCorp for cheap
- or the founders took money off the table for themselves with zero intentions of ever doing anything favorable to the employees that would actually let them to liquidify such as trying to go public or sell the company, while still keeping up the whole carrot-on-stick shtick
This is true for a lot of people I talk to. It seems very odd that there's not more compensation transparency from these companies, because I know several people who would have jointed FAANG if they knew what they'd be making 3-5 years into their career.
Ultimately though you have to find out for yourself. For me, I found out I was leaving $90k/year on the table. I love startups, but I don’t know if I love them that much.
I'm 36 and my life is just getting easier every year while I see people around me working their asses off and being stressed over time.
I think Amazon is a little less and Netflix is a little more.
Moving the decimal point to account for the cost of housing, L6 is just ~$45k at FB/Google. That is not something to get excited about.
Yes, it works out differently if you are happy to rent a garage with a roommate. In that case, the pay only needs to be adjusted by a factor of 2, making the L6 have ~$225k at FB/Google. Enjoy your shared garage.
1. Short of being friends with co-founders have you ever had a company actually share dilution/classes or cap tables with you? They flat out refused and still refuse despite having worked there for a while
2. It is somewhat common knowledge what FAANG salary bands are, but how does one value themselves across different stages of startups and expected salaries/stock?
3. How do you know if the founders have ill intentions? I've heard horror stories, but short of the founder being a serial entrepreneur with a history of public exits, arent you at the risk of a slick-talking ill-meaning founders?
2.) Get an offer from FAANG and negotiate. You should be getting market value.
3.) If you aren't confident, then you shouldn't risk YOUR career on them. I can write a book on this one.
If you want to stay an individual contributor, and can get into one of the famous companies, then I would say there is not much advantage working for a startup today.
Hell, there are many big non-tech companies throwing money at blockchain
- Startups are disorganized
- Most startups fail because they make a stupid product no one wants and the team is awful
- Startups pay below what a large company can afford and often pay below market rate
- Startups will try to low ball you on equity. Don't start with me about negotiating. If they refuse to negotiate, you have your choice of no meaningful equity or working somewhere else. This is often the case.
- Insane sociopath founders who also are terrible at their jobs
- Startups are full of startup bros who are fucking insane sociopath assholes in general. Why the fuck would you want to play ping pong during normal business hours, you stupid fucking asshole? We're trying to build a business here.
- Startups idolize hustle porn
- Startups are increasingly choosing to not even exit which defeats the entire fucking purpose of working there
- Things are so disorganized that you if you accidentally fuck up, no one might even notice
- If you win the lottery, you'll almost make up for the money you could have made working at Google or some other big company
I accidentally fucked up at a startup. My reaction was to provide infrastructure such that that particular class of fuckup was much less likely to happen again. Guess what happened ... I got thrown under a bus some months later over the fuckup anyway. Learned a lot. Was worth it. Would not do it (i.e. work for that type of organisation) again.
Taking a break from a problem can be really valuable. Personally, I skew more "take a walk" than "table tennis", but having some indoor options for people who prefer those (or rainy days...) doesn't seem such a bad thing.
"Should I work at a startup that puts developers in private offices?" Hell yes!
If you want to join a startup, make sure you know everything about their background.
I would say most startups are mismanage and only a few are truly good.
The longer you do startups, the harder it is to re-join corporate.
a) because you don't want to be a cog again, now that you have seen the light
b) because hiring is broken, and recruiters could care less about your startup
I would say doing startups is a lifestyle choice. Constant stress, but ultimately, you wouldn't want to do anything else.
That is worth a lot of money to me, to each there own, but I definitely prefer less money but a more enjoyable work experience.
Con: The same.
Cons: amateur hour 24x7
1. Pro: I have ownership and gaining experience in multiple areas ranging from networking, QA, Testing, design architecture where at bigger companies I may only be in one of those foci.
2. Con: No Coding Reviews. I cannot bounce ideas of someone and trying my best to produce the best codes but I believe I need a Senior/Prinicpal above me to help me on this front.