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6 potential downsides of working at a startup

April 2nd, 2020

3 min read

Man sitting at an office desk next to a large window, staring intently at his laptop screen.

Written by

Ben Long


The Tiny Way

Here’s part 3 in our 4 part series on working for startup companies. So far, we’ve covered:

And now it’s time for a reality check. With more and more developers choosing to work in startups, we thought we’d better cover both sides of the story. It’s time to shed those rose coloured glasses and talk about the not-so-great things that can happen when you work for a startup.

6 challenges of working for a startup

Here are some of the most common challenges and disadvantages you may face when working for a startup. 

1. Risk

Working in a startup is riskier. That’s because startups are more likely to fail while they’re still in the early days. The product could fail or the founders could choose to go in another direction. Stats vary on this, but one study showed that around 60% of new businesses fail within the first 6 years. 

Yes, we’ve all heard of the unicorn startups that have made it big - and it’s exciting to work for a company with that kind of potential. But it’s important to be realistic here. Most startup companies that survive the first few years never reach unicorn status (despite them still being great, thriving businesses!).

2. Money 

Budgets in startups are often lower, and while this can vary, you may need to expect to get paid less than your counterparts in more established companies. Of course, as we mentioned in our previous blog, this can change pretty quickly if your company grows, your role changes, and/or you’re offered equity. Generally, startups that are funded, like Tiny, pay market rates.

3. Career paths

Another issue with working for a startup company is that you may find your career path is less obvious. That’s because there are fewer layers between entry-level positions, senior positions, and management. There isn’t always an obvious next step beyond your current role. But on the flip side, you could end up shaping your own role, which is exciting.

4. Training

Most startups don’t have a graduate program or even basic training and onboarding systems in place yet. Relatively unstructured training means more self-directed learning, which could be good or bad, depending on your learning style and preferences.

5. Long hours

Scene from The Orville where one man on a spaceship says to another

While this isn’t always the case, many employees in startups end up with larger workloads and longer hours. That’s because there’s a lot to do and a lot of hats to wear, and only a small number of people to wear them. So, if you’re considering a startup role, it’s a good idea to get clear on the hours you’re expected to work upfront.

6. More responsibilities

Finally, you’ll need to be willing to do tasks that are outside of your job description and not what you’ve been trained for. You could find yourself managing people, doing designs, and even a bit of marketing work. Because if you don’t do these jobs, who will?

That doesn’t mean working for a startup is a bad idea

If all the potential downsides we’ve listed here are deal breakers for you, you should probably look for a job at a bigger company.

Working for a startup company can be hugely rewarding, too, as you’ll see in our previous post, 7 reasons to start your career with a startup. Plus, you may not face all of the above challenges, especially if you work for a startup that’s reasonably established, with a culture that looks after its people.

We’ll be back next week with the final blog in our 4 part series on working for startups, but in the meantime, make sure you follow us on Twitter and let us know about your experiences with startups.

By the way, Tiny is currently hiring for a variety of roles. Check out the Tiny careers page for more information.

CareersSmall business
byBen Long

Computer scientist, storyteller, teacher, and an advocate of TinyMCE. Reminisces about programming on the MicroBee. Writes picture books for kids. Also the wearer of rad shoes. “Science isn’t finished until you share the story.”

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