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STARR INSIGHTS: Joining a start-up is too risky

by Ian Bailey

With London rapidly becoming one of hottest centres in the World for technology start-ups, the number of opportunities for technologists to get in close to the start of a business are rapidly increasing.

With incubators such as L39 providing collaborative working environments and funds like SILK Ventures, who have recently announced $500m ready to invest across Europe and the US, the future for tech start-ups isn’t just bright, it’s incredibly exciting.

I’ve been to a number of tech-start-up focussed events this year already, including the Innovate Finance Global Summit and Finovate, and the products and ideas on display are mind-blowing, and driven by a whole host of things including; social changes, regulations and simply new ideas and new ways of thinking about legacy problems.

When looking for a new role, it’s very easy to have a black and white view of ‘established vs start-up’. If you consider yourself as being risk-averse then why would you even bother looking at a start-up? Quite simply, you shouldn’t be making any decisions based on generalisations (start-up = risk) and what you think you know, you should make decisions based on facts and the information you’re able to gather.

For technologists, start-ups can offer a state of absolute nirvana: being able to have a genuine input in shaping a company, being able to use whichever technologies best solve the problem rather than ‘this is what we’ve always used’, the opportunity to build teams round you and in some cases, the opportunity to be at the forefront of genuine technological revolution! With most start-ups offering equity as well as genuinely competitive salaries, there is no way that you shouldn’t look a role simply because ‘joining a start-up is too risky’.

To counter this, I understand that we all have bills to pay and the idea of sitting in the perceived warm and snuggly safety of a massive firm seems like the sensible thing to do. Start-ups can fail at any minute and leave you and your family in the lurch, right?

With any new role, nothing is guaranteed. There is no way I would recommend joining any firm, established or otherwise, without doing the necessary due diligence. With very early start-ups, you would be perfectly within your rights to ask to view the business plans and you should definitely do extensive background research on the founders.

Joining a start-up or ‘small’ firm is only too risky if you haven’t done your research. This isn’t about making a leap of faith and hoping for the best, it’s about making informed decisions. Don’t dismiss what could be a life changing opportunity based only on what you think you know.

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