What’s life like at a start-up?

I have been asked to speak at an event called ‘pitching for management, not money’ in London on 22nd June.

The event has been organised by Angel News with the aim of putting experienced professionals directly in touch with exciting growing businesses. I suppose that in many ways I am well qualified to tell people about the transition from the corporate world to that of a new business start-up. What it’s like and how it’s different.

Preparing for the event has set me thinking about the major differences. Here is how I see it:

1. Culture. Status and career development are important at a large corporate, in a relatively low risk environment. This counts for nothing at a start-up, and why should it. An effective culture at a start-up is critical, and it’s not about introducing processes like performance management as teams are small, it’s about getting clarity of purpose and energy.

2. Focus. The biggest difference, I think. Corporates are about executing the business model,¬†engineering effective processes, management and administration. The focus is very different at a start-up, it’s about identifying unfulfilled market and customer needs, creative / innovative solutions, hypotheses testing, business model testing, customer development and agile development. Instead of traditional accounting, it’s business metrics and instead of a regular paycheck it’s about effective cashflow management and fund raising. Once you have nailed the business idea you can scale the business, it’s then that you move toward the effective management of processes that large corporates focus on.

The positives of life in a start-up include:

  • You get to create something new and different
  • Every day is different – a totally different lifestyle
  • Learn new skills and meet new people
  • Opportunity to realise a capital gain
  • Develop a new outlook on life

But it’s not for everyone, and life is very different for me these days. Probably the biggest factors are uncertainty / ambiguity and your attitude to risk. If this appeals, why not come along?

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