I love a start-up, I really do.
Now you could say I am biased, as I work for a business which is less than two years old, so technically a start-up. Is this just an article to show off all that is good about life at Digital 51?
No, this is about the businesses me and the team partner with across the Digital 51 Product division. Our sweet spot if you like, what gets us going, where we are at our best, that is within the start-up, scale-up community. If you happen to also be purpose driven, using technology for good, then even better, but on the whole we love digitally driven start-ups.
This means in my day-to-day role I am speaking to lots of people who I think have a fantastic looking background in Product with the goals of; getting to know them better, understand what motivates them, and to see if they have considered making the leap into start-up world.
I feel lucky, I don’t have huge problems engaging with people about the roles and companies I am working with, and I don’t bang the ‘candidate short’ drum. Why? Lots of people love the sound of the businesses I am working with and are happy to chat.
All is good in the hood then Callum, you must be the happiest person in recruitment right now. That’s what you are thinking, right?
Well, that’s where things get interesting, as speaking with people is one thing, but them making the decision to make a move is another. The biggest blocker I face in the conversations I have, can be simplified to one word: stability.
‘I am just not sure the start-up world is for me, is the company stable?’
In a nutshell this, and all varieties of this, is the question I get asked the most. I should be clear, I am not partnered with bootstrapping start-ups, although we do love a bootstrapping start-up at Digital 51. How do you think we started?! No, the businesses I am partnering with have either completed their series A funding round, with millions now at their disposal. Or they are scaling from series A to series B. Most of these businesses will have larger cash reserves than many established businesses.
This is where I am caught in conflict. I understand people’s nervousness in making any career move when moving to a business that is less than two years old. You’d have to be mad to do that, right?! Even at the point of writing this article Hopin, a business that literally twelve months ago was considered one of the fastest growing businesses in the world, has just announced they are letting 29% of their global workforce go. Hopin is three years old as a business. Let’s be honest, there could not have been a worse time to write an article about the reasons you should ignore your stability radar and join a start-up, as the last few weeks, it does feel like there have been lots of good people being let go, by businesses trying to scale.
With all that being said, I still think start-ups offer so much more, and are worth the ‘risk.’ I think it’s worth the stability to gamble and these are my two favourite reasons why I think this:
- Adapt or die mindset. Start-ups live in a world where they must continually flex, tweak, change, and adapt. They are the trend setters, the early adopters, they are the risk takers. As a Product professional, this means you are working at the cutting edge, trying to push boundaries. That’s not something you get at an established business. Need some examples, OK, but I’ll be honest I am going big. Think start-up, think Netflix. No, don’t bother hitting me with the fact they are currently facing a post pandemic slow-down. That was inevitable. No, the fact they started as a mail-order DVD business, then adapted to online streaming, then adapted to offer the best streaming UX in the market, to finally adapting to be one of the largest media creation businesses on the planet. That for me, is why the stability gamble is with it. Netflix. Why can’t the start-up you are considering joining be the next Netflix in their space?
- Don’t believe the news, it’s not just start-ups who let people go. A recent study from ACAS found that large businesses are more likely to make redundancies over the next year than other categories of business. It feels like when start-ups let people go it makes headlines, share prices plummet, and people talk about ‘over-zealous’ growth plans. Let’s be honest there are just as many examples of big business getting it wrong.
Ultimately whether a start-up is right for you, or not, will come down to you as an individual. There is a lot more to be said for job security than just stability, and I always advise people to look at things such as the financials, both for you, and the business, the burn rate, the hiring growth, and medium-term business plans. Review it all, take it all in, then ultimately make a decision that you are comfortable with.
Thinking and reviewing things is good, but I will finish by saying that we are currently going through one of the most exciting periods of new business growth, and technology investment. I honestly believe we will look back on this period in 25 years’ time, and view the amount of digital change which was created, in wonder. That change will happen and come from the start-up community. Yes, it will come with risks, yes it might not offer the same stability as your normal 9-5. But that’s where excitement lives, right?
Where do you want to live?
This article was written by Callum Green, Resourcing Partner at Digital 51. Would you like to hear more about the start-up opportunities Callum has in his Product world right now? Drop him an e-mail on to find out more.