Joining a Start-Up position

Why not if it works? But at what price?

The “right” company
Intellectual property is the heartbeat of any company, but attracting the people who bring the “gold dust” between their ears is not an easy task. Sure, the golden handcuffs and stock-triggered parachutes entice to a certain extent, but unless the offer goes beyond equity, most high-caliber professionals keep on shopping for the “right” company. The start-up rumors of 14-hour days and worthless stock-option papers (used primarily to wallpaper the extra bedroom) ring true often enough to scare people into submitting to the conventional big firm jobs. Some senior-level professionals are also turned off by the start-up matchmaking interview routine, sometimes called the mating dance or circus act, depending on your sense of humor.

Employees as entrepreneurs
These days, job candidates are forced to think like entrepreneurs during the job interview. This is especially true at start-ups, where executive interviews take on the form of a partnership, rather than the typical employer-employee relationship. Time equity is crucial in this fast-paced world where fortunes are made overnight. Sadly enough, the gold rush, pre-IPO mentality has some of us chasing wild geese. You may have “alphabet soup” behind your name in terms of credentials, which will get you a principal position at the latest VC-funded start-up, but you’d be wise to do your job research as if you were an entrepreneur starting your own business in that industry. Going to work for a company with poor prospects will cost you time and money.

The exit strategy
One of the most overlooked considerations before joining a start-up team is the “exit strategy,” sometimes called the “long-term liquidation strategy.” For example, if the company shoots for a merger, what role will you have with the new team members who serve the same corporate functions? If the company goes public, what kind of global expansion teams will be needed and where do you fit in? And if the company stays private and keeps on growing, what type of long-range career path is in place?

It’s all about you
This may all sound like a violin playing the “me” string, but these areas need to be addressed before lots of sweat equity is poured into an emerging venture. Do your homework on the Web at sites like TopStartups.com, where you can search Web-enabled listings showcasing some of the best technology start-up firms. Who knows? In the end, you may decide to launch your own start-up!

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