60 Days at a Startup
ItÂ’s been about two months since I joined Mixpanel as employee #1, and I
thought it would be helpful to use my experience so far to develop a brief
guideline for what should be thought about before joining a very early stage
A little bit of background
Although I’m currently at a web startup, I first moved out to California to do
consumer product design consulting. After graduating and a short startup
attempt in Boston, my fast approaching student loan payments convinced me to
come out to CA and get a job doing what I’ve been learning about for the past
four years: mechanical engineering. After a few interviews, I had secured the
job of my choice at a nice consulting firm in Palo Alto Â– where I lasted a
whole 6 months before making the switch to BizDev at Mixpanel (yeah, it caught
me by surprise too).
To join or not to join?
If you Google Â“joining a startupÂ” you’ll get a barrage of results with
reasons why to join a startup and also what to consider in the decision making
process. I’m not going to focus on the Â“whyÂ” part here Â– for someone in their
20Â’s with few real responsibilities, there aren’t many reasons why NOT to join
a startup as far as I’m concerned. What to consider, however, is a critical
part in deciding whether or not a particular startup would be a good fit. If
you focus on the wrong reasons then things can take a turn for the worse
rather quickly. Looking back, here are the first three things I believe
someone should think about before joining an early stage startup:
During the early days, especially, you’re going to be spending a large
majority of your life with the people you’re working with. Making sure you get
along with everyone on the team is crucial if you expect to make it big
without killing one another. Your relationship with the rest of the team isnÂ’t
the only thing you should be looking at though; equally as important is how
the founders get along with each other. Small arguments between partners are
inevitable, but whatÂ’s important is that everyone involved handle the
situation maturely, allowing business to resume ASAP.
Picture yourself and the rest of the team spending the next few years of your
life together Â– if this brings any discomfort then this is a red flag.
After you’ve deemed team chemistry to be a fit, make sure everyoneÂ’s
expectations are on the same page. There are a lot of reasons why people start
companies Â– money, respect, impressing a girl Â– and the motives have a high
impact on the work environment. Make sure you get an understanding of why the
founders really started the company. If they did it to have a lavish
lifestyle in a few years, then there will likely be a lot of friction when it
comes to important company decisions down the road. Expectations for work
intensity need to be discussed as well. Some founders have never heard of
having a Â“work life balanceÂ”. If you arenÂ’t prepared to dedicate your life to
the company during the next year or so then donÂ’t join that kind of team; it
will definitely catch up with you in the long run.
This leads to another point that you should really understand your motives
behind wanting to join a startup. Knowing this will better prepare you when
you’re deciding what you want to dedicate yourself to over the next few years
Â–whether it be work or play.
The last factor I want to touch on is having an interest in what youÂ’ll be
doing. The only way youÂ’ll be able to sustain the long hours that a startup
demands is by enjoying what youÂ’re doing. While there will always be small
tasks that no one likes but have to get done, the main focus of your role
should be something that really interests you; something that you want to
master. One great thing about being one of the few people building a company
is that youÂ’ll wear many hats. This will help a lot in figuring out what
youÂ’re good at and the type of position youÂ’ll eventually want grow into.
There are, of course, many other factors to consider when joining a startup Â–
salary/equity, investors Â– but I believe the above 3 criteria should be
examined in great detail (and met) before going ahead in the decision process.
If you donÂ’t feel like you have this solid foundation then itÂ’s only a matter
of time before you lose passion for what youÂ’re working on. At that point, it
just becomes another J.O.B.
If you’re looking to join a startup and want to talk to me in more detail
about my experience so far feel free to shoot me an email at
Also, Mixpanel is hiring! For more info about that go to