What It's Really Like To Work For A Start-up


People like to gasp and say "working at a start-up is demanding!" Well, so are most jobs in our society. Relative to traditional MNCs, start-ups are less hierarchical, have less hidden rules. People working in a start-up are usually friends too, not just co-workers.

Of course, this isn't to say that start-ups face no problems at all. Each start-up is unique and has its own problems to tackle. In this article, we would take a look at the culture of smaller start-ups, and what you should note if you are planning on joining one.

Small and medium Start-ups are hiring! Aftership, Sourcibo,

Working in Small Startups: High Risk, High Reward

Still in their formative years, smaller start-ups tend to have fewer employees. The major issue the company has to deal with is how to break even. Those who are slightly more mature may have secured larger clients, and have revenue that supports the business. For start-ups who are working towards that, their founders may be looking or investors.

With higher risk, comes higher return. The same holds for the case of working at small start-ups.

More Exposure

With fewer employees, people working at small start-ups are more connected. All employees have the chance to work with senior management and founders, and learn to see things from their perspective. For those who just graduated or starting out, these are all valuable opportunities.

In addition, you will be exposed to different departments and understand how business functions work together. You will also gain industry knowledge. Unlike larger companies, where procedures and the division of labour are clearly defined, start-ups allow employees to take part in collaborative projects that involve different department and business functions.

Such experience allows you to see how a business operates from a macro-perspective, which is beneficial for your career development. Imagine if you work in a traditional and established company, you can probably see a part of the jigsaw instead of how the pieces work together to form one picture.

Limitless Learning

Start-ups in their early stages face new problems every day, so your attitude matters when you work for this kind of company. Learn if you don't know something. Even if you are specialized in one field, chances are your company wants you to be an all-rounded problem solver.

These companies encourage learning while working, some of the employers even provide financial support for employees who want to improve their skills to do better at work!

Hilda is the Web Developer at Sourcibo, a small start-up. She shared, "for web developers, new features are popping out every other day. You must be willing to keep learning. Sometimes, we will take online courses and claim that expense with the company."

You may be interested: Sourcibo - Company Profile and Job Openings

Room for Learning and Trying

Start-ups, unlike established businesses, need not worry about market share or existing client retention. Creativity and innovation are a start-ups’ greatest weapon. Since most of them are still exploring and finding their place in the market, they are more receptive to innovative ideas. Product improvement, system features, sales pitching, client acquisitions, the list goes on. If it’s not too costly or risky and you are willing to take the initiative, most start-ups are happy to let you try out your ideas.

Characteristics you’ll need to success at a start-up

  • Be adaptive and willing to learn - Start-ups are constantly changing. Their biggest issues are:

  • Is there a demand for our products and services?

  • What is the behaviour of our target consumers?
  • Will this disrupt the current market?

Who has the answer to these key questions? Even if you conduct a consumer survey, you may not get the answers. It’s often better to introduce new products quickly, and adjust according to the market's response.

  • Be a problem solver - Start-ups normally focus on filling the gaps in the market. So Often, there’s no one else’s example to follow. This is why problem-solving skills are important. You should be able to identify problems and come up with solutions.

For example, Miro uses their RunnerTag AI to help runners and event organizers find their running event photos instantly. It combines deep learning, computer vision and a scalable cloud infrastructure to identify athletes, and discover 1:1 brand preferences & suggest training & equipment for them.

  • Communication + Teamwork - At a start-up, employees usually know what co-workers in another teams are doing. When there is a problem, people from different departments will work together to solve the issue. It’s important to continuously communicate what you’re doing with your colleagues to maximise your collaboration potential.

For example, Sales teammates may not be as familiar with the products as the product team. The latter should then provide training to the former. At Aftership, Product Designer Tracy shared that she enjoys communicating with her team and get their feedback She believes that since they have a similar goal, product designers, product managers, and software engineers are able to work together seamlessly for product improvement.

  • Priority is key - Learning to prioritize is important if you want to work at a start-up. When you have a mountain of work, which one should you do first? A rule of thumb can be: Things that bring revenue, tasks that improve operations, and other tasks.

  • Learn to relax - To continue your good work in the long run, remember to take a break and relax every once in a while. Take care of yourself, mentally and physically, to fight this long-term battle.

This is why at Sourcibo, you don't have to clock in and out at a specific time. If you are tired, get some fruits from the pantry. They even have a Fruit Ambassador, who is responsible for slicing up fruits and distributing that among co-workers. (The last time I heard about this perk, it was at a listed company.)

Things to consider before you jump in:

After all, it is not completely risk-free to work at a start-up that is just starting out. So if you are thinking about joining one, remember to take the followings into consideration:

  1. Do you agree with the company's philosophy?

  2. Founders' background: Have they been middle or senior management in a large corporate? Or are they millennials with ideas, skills, and visions? None of these are better than the others. It is just a matter of whether you think you will get along with the boss!

  3. Company's liquidity Does the business have enough funds to operate for at least two years?

  4. Prospect: Is the business entering an existing and competitive market, or a new market with uncertain market response?

Career Path? You are the builder

It is not surprising that start-ups are not as structured as corporates. If you’re adventurous, want to learn and progress quickly and get exposure to impressive co-workers, than a start-up is for you!

Start-ups are great because they’re all about growth, provide ample opportunities to develop your skills in a short period of time.

Small and Middle Start-ups that are hiring:




idNerd Stuido


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Brand and Marketing Strategist in Hong Kong, writes about career, job hunting and interview tips.

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