Joining a pre-VC startup

Madhouse is talking to a number of exceptionally talented individuals for senior/middle management positions. Some of them have expressed apprehensions around joining at lower than market salaries and the risk of being associated with a company at a startup mode.Here are some of the thoughts I have been sharing with them. I would love hear some experiences, thoughts from the community.

Joining a pre-VC startup is not only a job or a career choice; it’s a lifestyle choice. This is truer for folks who join in early and join as part of the early management team (senior/middle). It is an opportunity for the brave, for the fighters and for a select few.

It offers an amazing opportunity to make significant contribution towards building of an organization in its formative period. The job responsibility is extremely demanding and challenging with relatively less support systems; a lot of untouched, challenging problems to solve; some of the most talented people to work with; a lot of energy in the air; a culture which believes it is fine to make mistakes. It offers an opportunity to rise fast, faster than most of your peers, provided you perform and live up to the challenges of the startup lifestyle, culture and speed at which things move.

People who can make a difference at this stage will be people, who believe in the success of the venture, the opportunity, the team, the philosophy of the organization. These are the people who will form the DNA of the company. People who will be hired or will join at this stage will not do so for the current financial benefits. That’s not the key decision making criteria. They know that they will be more than compensated financially, with the salary revisions and the stock options.

Along with all that comes career growth, various kind of learning, experience to go through the grueling startup pains and coming out a winner; a fighter.

Later on, when the company gets VC financing , though the challenges still remain the tone; the color; the intensity of the challenges change. The pace of evolution of the culture of the organization slows down. The number of ESOPs for similar positions reduces substantially. The opportunity to lay the founding blocks may no longer be there.