5 Questions to ask before joining a startup

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Should you join a startup? Here are 5 questions to ask before joining a startup – make sure it is the right fit for you.

Question 1: Where do you see this firm in 5 years?

One of the first areas it is useful to gain insight on is where the founders of the firm see the coming going within the next five years. Joining a startup requires you to buy into their vision – and getting a sense of where they see the firm and industry going is important. If your first reaction is “not a chance”, then this is important to know – it is much harder to get on board with something if you genuinely think it is impossible. In addition, remember many startups do fail, so especially if you have experience in the industry, don’t assume that something will happen just because they convincingly that it will happen. Remember, you are in many ways aligning your career with their vision. 

Question 2: What area do you expect this role to be involved in?

Another key area to get a sense of is your role within the firm. What are the tasks that you are expected to be involved in? Startups often have quite a different organizational structure to established firms – much less defined job roles than traditional companies. The formal job title may differ quite substantially from the range of tasks that you are likely to be involved in. This may be great, and one of the reasons you may want to join the firm, but it is useful to know in advance what sort of role you are likely to be in. 

Question 3: What stage are you at with securing financing?

Gaining a sense of the stage of financing can be a delicate topic to approach – but it again is useful to be aware of. Is this a company that has 6-months of financing left before they must secure additional resources? Are you going to spend the next months unsure whether you will survive till the end of the year?

Question 4: Do you have an existing customer base?

This is another question to start to gauge the current stage of the business. Is this a company that already has an established presence, with a revenue stream that can support itself, or is this a pre-launch business that has yet to gain commitments from any customers? The earlier stage the company is, with an unproven technology and no customers, the greater the uncertainty as to whether the company will be around several years down the road. 

Question 5: Who else is involved in the firm?

A final area to enquire about is who else is involved in the company. The success of a startup depends on the individuals involved. So get a sense of their backgrounds, experiences, and commitments to the project. 

Final thoughts: Is startup life the right fit for you?

It is also useful to consider your own desires for joining a startup. Do you even want to work for a startup? The startup lifestyle is not for everyone, and before making any major decisions to join a startup firm, consider if this is the right step in your career path.

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