Culture in Startups: What They Don’t Tell You on Twitter

Culture in Startups: What They Don’t Tell You on Twitter

For my first post, I thought I would write about something that I have always found interesting: Startup Culture. Many pieces I read rave over just how amazing the startup company culture is.  Although many people prefer this environment to larger, corporate cultures, it’s not all sunshine and roses.

From working in and around startups for the last 3+ years, here are some of my notes on what is usually omitted by these articles:

Stress and work life balance– it may not be a jerk boss breathing down your neck about a TPS report or the market tanking, but you are one member of a team of 10-50, which means your post holds something critical in place.

If you want a 9-5, stay where you are. Although you might see the dev team come in at 10, they stay late and remain on call when the site goes down or software breaks.  Vacation time is more flexible, but that does not mean you have the freedom to ignore emails or make a call or two.   Startups I have worked with have different expectations, but it is tough early on when you are one of a few.   NoWait is a good example of a company that practices what it preaches.  Everyone works hard, but they expect their people to take time off and, as a rule, will not email or call you when you are out.

Stress is also high at startups because boards have high expectations based on other startups that have had “hockey stick” growth, and you better believe they expect the same from you.  That stress trickles down.

Pay / Equity – Your first startup will not make you rich or even close to it for unless you jump to the executive level.   Once you get past employee 5-10, the equity gets sparse FAST for nonexecutives.  Meaning you will take a pay cut of 10-40% for the chance of a $30,000 worth of stock that may vest in four years.  Startup 2 or 3 is where you can cash in with a little more equity, but if you are not a VP or one of the first few employees, you will still not strike it big here.

I love this environment and the fast, ever changing pace.   It is perfect for me, but not for everyone.  For the people in New York at Morgan Stanley or Saatchi & Saatchi, make sure you consider these factors before making the leap.


Jake Dunlap-CEO, Skaled.

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