Of the better ways to learn the startup scene is simply to work at one, and while you typically won’t find startup jobs listed on your typical job portal that is not to say those positions are not out there.
With that said, the benefits of working at a startup are many, possible chance at acquiring equity, experience that is then pivotal to start your own company, or a chance to break into venture capital.
While some websites exists that offer a job board for early stage companies, such as http://www.startuphire.com/, http://www.startuply.com/, and http://startupers.com/, they are often flooded with hundreds of applications, and moreso at times of economic trouble like what we’ve seen since 2008.
A better approach to securing a position at a startup, and any position for that matter is networking. If you’re into the scene, chances are you should know people within it, or at least make your way out to some entrepreneurially focused meetings / groups where you’ll not only meet people working within the startup industry of your interest, but it will also allow you to feel out the market as a whole.
Another, and a more novel approach is to focus your search through venture capital funds / groups. More often than not, VC’s will have their portfolio companies listed on their websites, and better yet, some will even have a listing of the jobs that their portfolio companies are looking to fill. Another advantage here is that the above method will allow you to better fine tune your search in terms of industry and expose you to companies that you may not have been previously aware of.
But how do you do it? Call up the VC fund, ask who to speak with at the startup of your choice, then call the startup directly. Make yourself stand out and show that you have what it takes to make it in a diverse and often chaotic environment that requires quick thinking and an innovative approach to problem solving.
Be it the three F’s (Friends Family & Fools), Grants, Loans, Business Angel Investment and / or Venture Capital the vast majority of startups will need some form of capital to grow. What type of capital you need often depends on what your business does, what stage of growth it’s in and what industry space your company is in.
Which brings us to the point of this article. While it may seem obvious to many, entrepreneurs when faced with the need for Angel or Venture Capital will more often than not seek this anywhere they can find. Meaning, it’s not uncommon to see a business plan for a promising clean tech startup winding up in the bins of Business Angel networks and Venture Capital firms.
This happens predominantly due to two factors.
One. Entrepreneurs send their B-Plans (or we should say executive summaries because you never want to send a 25+ page business plan to a potential investor) to anyone and everyone whose address they can find.
This practice is detrimental for a few reasons.
First. Approaching all BA’s and VC’s in this manner will create negative buzz within the industry. In more mature markets investors speak with one another and a company who has presented everywhere will look amateurish, and this by itself will hinder the possibility of any future investment.
Secondly, this shows that you have not taken the time to conduct due diligence on those people who you want to become eventual business partners in your project. Meaning, if you care so little about who you have invest in your business, why would they take the time to conduct due diligence on you and your company and waste valuable resources that could be applied to a project which will fit their portfolio.
Two. Which leads us to the second point. Do your due diligence. Study the BA networks, he VC’s that actively invest in your industry. Identify what stage in the lifecycle their funds (that apply to you) are in.
This is exceptionally important, because if a fund is nearly exhausted the investor by taking you into their portfolio will not have any contingency capital in the event things go sour.
And most importantly try to get a hold of the management / entrepreneurs that these BA’s and VC’s have invested in to ask how the process when, whether the investor was fair, how they work with the company that has been invested in and /or / if they offer any assistance in terms of strategy.
In closing, you’re offering the investor a product, as they are offering you their services, it’s a two way street and due diligence needs to be conducted by both parties. Not only will this lead to increased synergies between you and the investor, but create a positive working relationship that in all likelihood will also increase your start-ups chances of success.