There is much caution around startups these days accentuated by the Flipkart-IIT fiasco and the winding-up of a few food-tech ones. However, there is still hope. There is a lot that startups can offer (and much that they can’t).
Having worked with both, start-ups as well as established MNCs, let me explain what would work in your favour early in your career if you do decide to head the startup way.
With the entire DNA of start-ups built around entrepreneurship there is no better place to witness courage, first-hand. Our traditional schools, colleges and jobs make us averse to taking risks. We become scared to experiment and hesitant towards new possibilities, comfortably giving-in to the status quo.
But nothing great was ever achieved from one’s comfort-zone. Working with a startup gives you access to co-founders, entrepreneurs and mavericks who inspire you to create, nurture and sustain an idea. An idea that they chase religiously, against all odds and even at the expense of being labelled as deranged at times.
With most startups hiring brilliant individuals from pedigreed institutes, you get to work with the best brains in the industry. (However, intelligence cannot be attributed to pedigree. It’s only a qualifier and not a guarantor of exceptional future performance).
The quality of discussions, access to leadership and the mentorship that you get is truly enriching. Fresh graduates, this is for you: You will cherish this exposure forever. Who knows you might not even require that PG degree you were gunning for.
One key advantage of working with an early stage startup is that you are not labelled to a particular function. Irrespective of what your degree states, if you believe you can add value better elsewhere and show promise then why not? This is a restrictive attribute in larger organisations (with very few exceptions).
Once your blinkers are on, you are expected to tread that one single path that you see. I personally know many individuals who feel ‘stuck’ with their jobs and see no hope whatsoever of a lateral movement.
I’ve seen many graduate trainees at startups function and scale up in a way which could put most management trainees from celebrated colleges to shame. I always wondered why some of them were able to perform at such superlative levels with no so-called, traditional management skills?
The simple answer to this is – self-belief. You are offered shoes a couple of sizes bigger to fit-in. What do you do? You ‘grow’ fast, faster than others, and prove your mettle. You unknowingly shoot beyond the traditional performance curve because you never knew that the baseline itself was set way higher than average.
You will come across individuals so maniacally obsessed with the product/service their startup offers that the craziness is sure to rub-on. It’s this selfless passion, commitment and energy that makes startups stand out. You own the idea as much as a founder, right down to the last guy. There’s no greater feeling than watching that idea grow, bigger and better every day.
Having said that, it would take blood, sweat and toil but the journey is worth it. A personal suggestion, though: Never join a startup whose idea you do not identify with. You will never feel connected and without passion you are bound to fail.
Despite the above, there will definitely be certain drawbacks (if one may call them) that one might find against a traditional job — work that expands to fill your time, lesser job security, not the swankiest of offices, no frequent corporate lunches, and lots of ambiguity at work. But trust me; the journey is worth it if and only you are willing to dare.