Finding Your Startup

Finding Your Startup

Since I’ve now been at two different startups I’ve had people ask how exactly I found these small companies? The age of Monster and CareerBuilder has long passed in lieu of Indeed and SimplyHired (of which I used Indeed and their daily job emails extensively when searching for a traditional job – it’s a great service), but some of these startups are too small to hit even their radar – so where are they?

Enter the Google. Just kidding, I won’t be that useless.

What I Looked For

First, a company I believed in. Then if they were looking for somebody like me. (My most recent position came from cold emailing the company letting them know I thought they were pretty cool.)

If you’re looking at a startup you need to find one that aligns with your interests – not only are you becoming a part of something that’s still forming, but you’re becoming an integral part of what it can become. The smaller the startup (and as such the increased risk) the more impact you’ll have. Contrarily, the larger and more established the startup is, the less impact you’ll have – but the more secure it will be.

This will be different for everybody – depending on your risk tolerance, income requirements and desired company size you’ll want to filter startups in your own way.

Personally – I looked for something in a space I was passionate about that offered a reasonable salary with a higher equity tradeoff, because I could. I’m not married, don’t have any kids and don’t have any large financial encumbrance tying me down – so I can make it on a lower salary. My gamble is on my equity being worth something someday, otherwise I’ve been working for really cheap, uh oh.

And that’s something you’d need to think about looking at startups – what do you value?

Startupyness - Earlier stage (high startupyness) vs later stage (low startupyness) companies

Startupyness – Earlier stage (high startupyness) vs later stage (low startupyness) companies

Big risk, big reward.

If you have a higher risk tolerance you can look at smaller startups with only a Seed or Series A round of funding behind them. Generally you’ll find a smaller company with five to 10 people offering a lower salary balanced out by a reasonable proportion of equity (the total value of the two should roughly be market).

Ex. Habit Labs has gone through a $250,000 Seed round – I’d call that a very startupy company

Pros

  • More personal working environment
  • More equity
  • Chance to really help form a company

Cons

  • Much less job security
  • Lower base salary

Safe and sound.

If you’re looking for a startup with a bit more job security, look for companies beyond a Series C or who’ve had a large investment (greater than $20 million or so). You won’t pull much equity, but your salary should be much higher and the chance of the company going under should be greatly reduced.

Ex. Zulily just finished a Series D for $85 million, they big  yo

Pros

  • Less personal working environment
  • Salary’s closer to market
  • Much more job security

Cons

  • May not be able to make as much of an impact
  • Equity (probably) won’t be worth all that much

Do Your Homework

So... many... startups in Seattle, courtesy of http://startups-list.com/

So… many… startups in Seattle, courtesy of http://startups-list.com

While some of these don’t encompass every city (and not all of these are actually startups, Amazon really?), a few I found useful while searching for startups in Seattle were –

  • http://startups-list.com/ – Great mini descriptions, I started here to determine if I was interested in the business
  • http://www.crunchbase.com/ – My go-to for funding round (seed, series A, etc), investors and general info about the business’ people
  • https://angel.co/ – My next go-to and very similar to CrunchBase, also allows companies to list jobs they’re looking for (though I didn’t apply through any of these)
  • http://www.whogotfunded.com/ – Similar to the above, but requires you to signup before you get too far – but also has links to SEC filings where relevent (you can also hit up the SEC site and check out funding yourself)

What I didn’t find all that useful, but are available –

This one just for fun – view people, companies, founders, and investments rounds using data from CrunchBase

Make the First Move

I’ve found everybody at startups are rather busy, and at that stage of business they’re usually looking for a certain type of personality anyway – those that make shit happen.

So figure out what you want – and make it happen. I can’t speak for everybody, but the last two startups I joined were because I sent them an email with a quick explanation of who I was, what I could do for them and ideas I had about their business.

Here’s roughly the exact email I cold sent for my most recent position (I also attached my résumé, which I’ve left out here) –

Hey all!

Found your site today and was blown away by what you’re trying to do – it’s exactly the kind of thing I’ve been looking for while (insert problem I’ve had and why I think their business is pretty awesome)

I wanted to toss my resume over in case you’re looking for (my position) – and throw out some ideas I had. (Note – I do work on websites so it may be easier for me to formulate ideas about how I could actually help, but again, make it happen)

Idea 1
Idea 2
Idea 3

Hope you’re all enjoying this beautifully overcast day, summer is coming.

Cheers!

Ian

The response?

Let’s grab coffee

Boom, made it happen.

After that it was down to  determining if we were a mutually good fit.

Turns out, we were.

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