Should you Work for a Startup?

by / ⠀Entrepreneurship / January 8, 2014


Twitter. Instagram. Spotify.

Now worth billions of dollars, these companies began life as startups.

Many people choose to work for newly-created companies, drawn by the exciting possibility of creating the next Facebook.

However, all that glitters is not gold. Many startups end in failure, and the working culture can be stressful and intense. Here are some things to consider before taking a job at a startup.


It’s important to bear your job security in mind when applying to work at a startup. It’s estimated that 3 out of 4 startups are destined to fail – a worryingly high number. Before accepting a job offer, it might be worth considering whether you can afford to lose your job in 6 months’ time.

However, job security isn’t everyone’s priority. If you want to gain reams of experience in a dynamic, exciting atmosphere, then a startup is the place to be.

Hard work

Startups are notorious for fostering a poor work/life balance. You’ll often be expected to work incredibly long hours, but this won’t necessarily be reflected in your pay. A good founder will throw their heart and soul into the project, but will expect their employees to unquestioningly do the same.

This may seem like a rough deal. But consider this – startup employees often receive shares in the company, in lieu of a higher salary. If the business becomes a success, you could end up rich. Consider Ron Wayne, the forgotten third founder of Apple. He sold his shares in the company for $800 in 1976. If he’d kept them, they’d now be worth $35 billion.


Startup founders typically need to conserve money, especially in the early days. As mentioned above, salaries are usually lower than they would be in bigger companies. However, another money-saving tactic is to curb worker benefits. As a result, startup employees often have the bare minimum holiday allowance, poor pension and healthcare schemes, and few financial incentives.

Startups try to compensate by awarding their employees with superficial benefits, such as relaxed dress codes and stylish offices. If you feel the need the security of a comprehensive worker benefit program, then working at a startup is probably not for you.


Fun office layouts and pseudo-benefits have given startups a reputation for being cool and laid-back. However, don’t be fooled – startups are often stressful, high-pressure environments. There are typically a handful of employees, struggling to get a brand new company off the ground in a highly competitive market – hardly conducive to a relaxing office.

Some people thrive in a stressful environment, others don’t. You need to consider how well you work under pressure before applying to work at a startup.


Startups typically hire few people, in an attempt to keep costs low. This generally means that each individual has many responsibilities, and will be expected to pitch in wherever they’re needed. You may even find that your role has been newly created, and doesn’t have any set boundaries or responsibilities.

If you prefer to be given set instructions and tasks, then working at a startup is probably not for you. However, if you would rather have a large degree of independence, remember that it’s rare to find such a high level of responsibility in other entry-level roles.

Close to the top

Most startups have relatively few staff members, meaning that you’ll probably be working directly alongside the company founders. This could be an exciting learning opportunity – particularly if your bosses are experienced businesspeople.

However, be warned. You may find yourself working with a super-ego. Consider Steve Jobs, who was renowned for ruling Apple with an iron fist, and occasionally reducing his employees to tears. Not all startup founders are this extreme, but bear in mind that you’ll be working in a challenging environment, side-by-side with people who’ve given up everything to make their business idea succeed.

Should you work at a startup? There’s no definitive answer – it depends entirely on your own preferences. If you work well under pressure and crave responsibility in your working life, then the answer could be yes. However, if you’d prefer a stable 9-5 career, with clearly defined roles and responsibilities, then you should probably choose an established company.

This article was written exclusively for Under30CEO by Karl Baxter of Wholesale Clearance, a bankrupt and surplus stock supplier.

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About The Author

Matt Wilson

Matt Wilson is Co-Founder of Under30Experiences, a travel company for young people ages 21-35. He is the original Co-founder of Under30CEO (Acquired 2016). Matt is the Host of the Live Different Podcast and has 50+ Five Star iTunes Ratings on Health, Fitness, Business and Travel. He brings a unique, uncensored approach to his interviews and writing. His work is published on, Forbes, Inc. Magazine, Huffington Post, Reuters, and many others. Matt hosts yoga and fitness retreats in his free time and buys all his food from an organic farm in the jungle of Costa Rica where he lives. He is a shareholder of the Green Bay Packers.