San Francisco, CA

A Guide To Evaluating A Offer From A Startup

Richard Fang

If you want to join a startup in the valley, make sure you check this guide out

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Getting a job offer from a startup can be daunting.

There are so many things to look out for, especially around the remuneration. But what if I told you there are more things to look out for than equity and money?

After talking to one of my friends who's the head of growth at a startup in San Francisco, I decided to put this checklist together with my thoughts and his inputs.

Let's take a look at 3 things that you should look for when looking at that job offer.

1. Think About Yourself — What Do You Want?

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Cam Adams / Unsplash

This can be corny, but understanding yourself is an important part of knowing if working a startup is right for you. Here are some questions you need to ask yourself.

Are you in it for the money? (what is your risk appetite)

This is an obvious first question most people have to ask themselves. If you haven’t thought of it, it’s time to understand your risk appetite and if you’re ‘in it for the money.’In general, big corporations or tech giants (like Facebook, Google, etc.) offer much better salaries so if you’re looking to earn more of a stable income, this path might be more worthwhile.

However, this also doesn’t mean a startup won’t make you money (which is a common misconception). Although there is a higher risk, a high-growth startup with a clear trajectory and road to exit can be highly fortuitous as well if you receive a good stock package.

So it’s time to understand how much risk you can take versus how much stability you want. For myself personally, I have no kids and am still young (at least in my eyes), so I always viewed myself as more of a riskier person.

Do you see career growth in the startup?

For many startups, especially early-stage ones, role titles mean nothing. This is because they are relatively flat structured, and everyone wears multiple hats. So if you’re there asking for a flashy role title to show off to your friends, it might be time to re-evaluate if this is the right move.

This doesn’t mean you shouldn’t care about your career growth, though. As the company grows, more structure will be placed in, and it’s essential to know early how you’re going to grow with the company, especially to potential leadership roles.

Without properly charting your own career growth in your company, you risk getting trapped, so double down on this.

2. Understand Who Your Team and Manager Are

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You X Ventures / Unsplash

Ok, this is probably relevant for any job, not just startups, but knowing who will be in your team as well as stakeholders can also help sway your decision.

Who is in your team, and will you get along with your manager?

This all depends on what working conditions you have. If you’re someone who needs direction from a manager, but you’re going to be the first hire in a region, it might be worthwhile to determine if this is a step you’re willing to take.

On the flip side, it could also mean you’re stuck in a remote working office with your manager every day (working some long hours potentially!), so it’s essential to understand if you will get along with them.

Personally, I would go with your gut feeling.

You want someone you can get along with and one that can help you grow as a person and give you opportunities to shine.

These are questions you can ask directly during your interview or after to determine their mindset. There are many telltale signs of a selfish manager (you will find many of these in startups!), so keep your eye out early.

The hiring manager during my interview process was super invested in me, but I also noticed he was too confident in his own decisions. I had already pointed out a red flag in one of the salespeople he hired (after meeting him myself), but he simply ignored it.it was only a few months later and that person was no longer in the company.

3. Understand More About The Startup Itself

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Mario Gogh / Unsplash

It's a no-brainer but evaluating the startup you're joining should be one of the most important steps. This means believing in the vision of the company and its growth trajectory. However, it's also important to do a quick check of the business itself through reviews and numbers.

Here is my personal checklist I went through:

Crunchbase

Crunchbase the company to see how many rounds they’ve raised and how long they’ve raised money in-between. Just because a company has raised many rounds doesn’t necessarily mean it will successfully exit (I mean, look at WeWork, right?). It’s also good to check out the founder’s backgrounds to see if they have had successful exits in the past. You can also take a look at their LinkedIn to see their work history.

Glassdoor

This applies to any company, but with a startup, most likely, there will be much fewer reviews, which means anyone who drops one is most likely showcasing the real insides of the company.

Are they burning cash, and how fast are they growing?

This might be harder to establish, but you can always ask for these details. The more information you know around their numbers, the safer your judgment can be.

Generally, you want to know how fast they are growing (the earlier stage, the higher the growth rate should be) and have a healthy enough burn rate that the company won’t go under in less than a year.

Final Note

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In the end, joining a startup is a leap of faith and can be a rollercoaster of a ride. Therefore you need to be invested in the idea itself and the culture of the company. If you’re genuinely keen on what the startup is doing, you’re more resilient to potential changes.

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Editor at CornerTech and Marketing @richardfliu on Twitter

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