Why I Don't Want You At My Startup

Startups are perceived as the holy grail of jobs. People think of startups as open-aired, free-for-all companies where people get to be creative, have meetings on big comfy couches, go for company bike rides, and spend long hours doing cool stuff with new technologies. I have been a part of over nine startup companies here in Silicon Valley, in both the electronics and medical device industries. Through all of my experiences, I know what type of person typically thrives and belongs at a startup, along with what the type of person who will not only fail at a startup, but who can potentially bring that startup down faster and more dramatically than the Hindenburg.

The typical startup company is a study in doing what you can while being limited. You are limited by how much money you can spend, by how much time you have to get to market, and by how many people are available to help your company get to where you want to be. Constraints are the defining elements by which every startup must live by, and so it stands to reason that any person who is A. a spending hog, B. slow as all hell, or C. requiring a small army to get anything done, will not be a person who does well at a startup. In the startup world, we refer to these folks "company killers".

What we find is that company killers typically get these traits as habits that they bring with them from working at large companies. Large companies, with tens upon hundreds or even thousands of employees, develop their own inter-departmental political structures to help manage the organization. And like any form of politics, you are driven by A. money, B. time, and C. resources/power.

If you are the type of person who absolutely cannot function without an abundance of any of these items, then I don't want you at my startup.

If you are the type of person who bitches, complains or moans when you don't have enough of any of these items to do what you need to do, then I don't want you at my startup.

And if you are the type of person who cannot innovate or cooperate your way through problems, errors, or limitations to get things done, then I absolutely don't want you at my startup.

Startups require 110 percent buy-in and commitment, to make the company a success. You cannot rely on "the other guy/gal" to get things done. You must and will spend countless hours at work, making things happen, without looking for any pats on the back, trophies or awards. The work is many times thankless, until you reach the finish line of IPO or a merger/acquisition. Sorry Virginia - this is really how a startup works.

Don't even consider working at a startup, unless you are ready to sweat, to suffer and struggle with little to no immediate reward, to work long hours, or to work as a team, many times doing work that is far from your title.

I don't want you running my startup into the ground, in a ball of flames...