Friday, October 17, 2008

Start Ups.

That what happened...
I met my ex-boss in the office rest room. (He now heads a different vertical altogether)
We did usual small-talk, and he invited me over to his desk sometime for a chat. I dropped in and we got talking, he was generally asking, if I had forgotten the skills on which, I had worked on during the past.(I have shifted domain and working on something else for about 3 years now) I told him, no and that occassionaly, I go through relevant stuff, just so I don't forget or lose my aquired skills of the past (which isn't essentially completely true).

He then told me that he's started a company of his own, and that his wife is currently the director.(he is not directly legally associated yet) It's a small start up with about 15 - 20 people now, he is eventually going to quit here and join there and take charge in a few months. He offered me a Techno-managerial role, a kind of lead role to lead the team technically and also to bridge the gaps commercially. ( I assumed this would be the business analysis part, talking to the customers and gathering requirements et. all.)

I asked him about the clients, he gave me business jargon, much of which I didn't understand. He said we don't have a lot of funding for now, but will eventually get there. I thought he hinted, that I shouldn't be expecting a great hike and all, but he assured me that the role is something that I would like and would take me to a whole new level in my career. He said no pressure, think about it, and get back.

Now the reasoning..
Ok, now why is it so difficult to quit your job at a reasonably well-known company with a commendable percent of market share and brand value and join a startup ?

I'll try to list down the pluses and minuses,

Let's start with the pluses:
- The learning is going to be great. It's a startup, there aren't too many people to do things,
so you might end up doing most of the things, and in turn what happens, you learn, you get equipped, you get stronger, you get better. Now, that's a big plus !

- The role is going to be better. Don't know if you could really count this as a plus, as you'd expect this, even if you were going to join just any other organization.

- The salary is going to be better. Now this again would be the case, if you'd join any other organisation.

- You have more freedom, you have the freedom to be more creative, make your own decisions, a sense of satisfaction, ownership, (add some more terms like, accomplishment, a sense of achievement, blah blah) and all that comes along with being able to do what you like.

- A prospective chance of getting to talk to customers and clients directly, on your own, will be able to understand and interact with customers, because you are probably not going to have individuals assigned to do just business development, business analysis, requirments analysis etc...

Now, the minus'es..
-- The biggest minus, I think is the risk, considering what if the startup is not able to generate revene within the first year, how long is the Venture Capitalist going to be patient and fund the company.

-- How confident will you be, to go through that change of having to undergo pressure of getting yourself into a job, if things don't go well. (Again it's similar to the previous point, are you willing to take the risk ?)

-- Next biggest risk is over-committing, because it's a start-up and is under pressure to generate revenue, you boss, will tend to over-commit to things we don't already have, or don't have the resources and skills to get done. Now, having to deal with that, is going to stress you out a lot. So you should be in a position to deal with that. Making your work-place your primary home, and forgetting about weekends, is something that you'll have to consciously accept.

-- Also, if it's a job you like and are passionate about, beware you will also do a lot of stuff that you also don't like that much, Eg., non-technical managerial documentation, how-to docs, and if you are usually testing, you might also have to develop, if you develop, you might have to test your own product, so it will be a bit of a roller coaster, until the company sits and start breathing (in terms of revenue)

-- Then there's the trivial stuff, like letting go of the luxuries of working for a big company, the perks, the recognition, the discounts, the company transport, 36 days annual vacation, freebies, a swanky mall with a string of food chains,etc.

More reasoning...
Joining a startup and doing great work does come with a cost, also you need to have a back-up plan if things dont' go so well.

Especially now, with the market not looking very good, and newspapers and uncles and aunts talking about how bad the economy is, and how bad the recession is going to be. All this buzz only contribute more to deter you from taking that risk.

Ok, one of the main things that should convince somebody to join a startup is the trust, the trust on the vision of the person / people who are driving the company. If you trust them and share the same passion and vision, that would be an advantage in helping you make that decision to join the startup.

Now, having analyzed all that, coming to the trust factor, he does have a kind of reputation in office as to be dream / talk big, but not get there as much types. But from personal experience of working with him, if you are good at what you do, and get your work done, he takes care of you. He's a little difficult to convince types, if he has seen a point, then usually that is the only point, and if you agree with him, fine, else he's not going to like it.

I have a meeting with him tomorrow, where he wishes to discuss plans in detail. I don't want to sound too interested only to turn him down later. These situations are difficult for me to handle. Have to make the decision and if it's not in his favour, i'll have to put it across in a nice way.

I have time, I'll think it over !


  1. venture capitalists are gonna be very, very careful now.

    good luck with the thinking churning :)

  2. Thanks Dharma. I know, the situation does look bad, all the downsizing and all that.