The number of people who dream about founding a startup, or at least working in one, is more than the number of people working in high tech. Most of them are men dreaming about the big exit who are willing to jeopardize quite good careers for it, despite the great likelihood of failure. In most cases, I am not in favor of doing this unless the people are developers, unemployed, or (in unusual cases) people outside the high-tech industry for whom such a venture is likely to open the door to the industry.
Why are developers exceptions? Because by definition, startups develop the future. Because a developer in such a company is privileged to deal with challenges in the forefront of technology, and is a partner in developing new products from scratch, in contrast to developers in large companies, many of whom are busy developing versions of and maintaining existing products. Programmers with experience in a startup therefore have a high market value and are very much in demand, including in large companies.
Who gets tagged with the failure?
Many programmers prefer startups, even though the nature of the work is intensive, the burden is heavy, the pressure is strong, and the workhours are murderous. They like the special atmosphere; for them, the opportunity to make major progress in the profession and the feeling of partnership in creating something out of nothing is worth the investment, not to mention the dream of getting rich overnight. The main disadvantage is the lack of job security, so anyone choosing to work in a startup has to take into account that even an excellent programmer is liable to be disposed of with the same enthusiasm with which he or she was hired. Anyone unsuitable is well-advised to stay away from this challenging neighborhood.
What about the high probability of failure? Does it not threaten mainly programmers? It seems that the answer is no. Although a startup in essence is the development of something new, the failure is not associated with the development personnel, and therefore does not damage their market value, especially given the shortage of topnotch personnel.
Only the branding is promising
In contrast to developers, for whom working at a startup is an opportunity, the situation is usually the opposite for the rest of the employees, including development managers. Why? Because in the end, despite the great promise implied by the glittering label "startup," it is almost always just another small (or very small) company that gets nowhere, and at best comfortably stagnates a few years, together with the professional image of its employees.
The practical result is difficulty in escaping the world of startups, due to low market value - a direct result of working in a small, anonymous company with limited activity. People refuse to accept that volume of activity is one of the toughest barriers to overcome in the labor market, and that enterprises seldom hire people whose experience is with smaller volumes of activity (turnover, budget, personnel, etc.), however skilled they may be. A high-tech company with sales in the tens of millions will not hire a sales manager from a startup that sold a few millions and managed mainly himself or herself. The same is true for hiring development, financial, product, operations, and other managers with largely limited experience in comparison with their counterparts in well-established companies, not to mention a CEO.
An exotic share in Tajikistan
Companies demand employees with at least similar professional and management experience, both in financial volume and number of subordinates, including from those whose work in a startup gave them experience that most of their colleagues in larger companies lack (for example, financial personnel with experience in raising investments).
The result is that most of the non-programmers suffer from the disadvantages of a startup - hard work, a relatively low salary, lack of stability, layoffs - unless they stumble into a Waze and or a similar company.
It is important to keep in mind that a career is not the capital market. Risks cannot be spread. Every move means an all-or-nothing gamble. It is therefore recommended not to ignore the statistics, and to thoroughly research the company, product, market, owners, managers, the startup's current stage, etc. Otherwise, you will discover that you have gambled everything you have on an exotic share in Tajikistan.
The author is a labor market expert.
Published by Globes, Israel business news - en.globes.co.il - on November 8, 2018
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