There’s a very stupid myth that only the very talented are hired by startups and that the very talented only want to work for startups.
The corollary being that those who work for public companies, let alone large ones, probably aren’t all that talented and certainly not innovative/creative.
What a crock.
Another part of that myth is that working for a startup is the road to riches.
An even bigger crock.
The myth also says that the best place to work is a unicorn, such as or AirBnB, GitHub or Palantir,
And that is the biggest crock of all.
If you are looking for new opportunities and are dazzled by the idea of working at a unicorn I strongly suggest you read Scott Belsky’s post on Medium.
A company’s fate is ultimately determined by its people, so talent is everything. But this old adage bumps up against another one: cash is king (or runway is king, for a fast-growing private company). Without runway, talent takes off. So, it is no surprise that bold moves to extend runway (think late-stage financings at technically large valuations with some tricky liquidation preferences underneath) are done even if they could hurt the company (and its people) in the long run. This is especially true when these financings are ego-driven rather than strategic. The problem is, the employees at these companies don’t understand the implications.
But whether startup or Unicorn, this anonymous post on GitHub is a must read.
This is a short write-up on things that I wish I’d known and considered before joining a private company (aka startup, aka unicorn in some cases). I’m not trying to make the case that you should never join a private company, but the power imbalance between founder and employee is extreme, and that potential candidates would do well to consider alternatives.
The right place for you to work is the one that satisfies what you want — whether that’s the opportunity to work on bleeding edge technology, build a network, upgrade your resume or even plain, old curiosity.
The wrong place is the one you join with an eye to getting rich quick or for bragging rights.
Image credit: Mike Mozart