Making the Best Career Decisions – Joining Start-ups?

June 5th. 2018



  1. The old data from the Harvard Business Review stills seems to hold true – 85% of Start-ups fail because they did not get enough initial investment. Be sure there is a big enough stash to get the company to round two and three.
  2. You need to research who the money is behind the start-up. Have they had success before? Who’s the CEO? Who’s the  Venture Capitalist? Private equity?
  3. The Founder or CEO is a BIG factor. How was your gut feeling speaking with them? Are they buried in the tech or are they visionaries who can “sell the dream of changing the world.”
  4. It all depends on your tolerance for risk. Most find it easier to try a start-up earlier in their career, so they have time to recover if it fails. More experienced CMOs who were successful in the past are now more willing to come back in for the freedom and excitement.
  5. Recruiters can and will understand if there is a start-up bust or two on your resume, as long as they feel you have learned from the experience.
  6. Many CMO’s have gone from large companies to start-ups and back again. Different skill sets are needed, but start-ups do give you the chance to “roll-up-your-sleeves” and gain real “hands-on” experience, especially in digital, whereas larger companies need a greater level of “corporate diplomacy” to navigate the matrix.
  7. Know what you will do and what you won’t do. One CMO said, “Ok, I’ll take the job, but I am not doing PR. There is a better use of my time than rounding up publications.”
  8.  Venture Capitalists are more willing to roll the dice on investments. They know not all the investments in their portfolio will make it, giving you the opportunity to be “scrappy” and try unconventional “outside the box” tactics.
  9. Private Equity has their own areas of expertise, systems, and procedures. This will be more structured, with a 3-5-year window, and everyone focused on the goal of the exit strategy.
  10. One significant opportunity that is emerging is Intrapreneurial Opportunities. Many big companies are moving from perpetual to subscription, or from servers to software as a service. These bigger companies may start a start-up within the company to launch the next generation of products or services- the best of both worlds – the excitement of a start-up, but with the security of a deeper corporate pocket.