For startup founders, the greatest challenge is finding the right allies to scale a vision. According to Theo Paphitis of BBC’s Dragons’ Den, 50% of small businesses in the UK collapse within their first two years. Entrepreneurs bootstrap to launch inspired new products, living off of beans on toast in exchange for another few weeks with their heads above water. Once they have revenue to support a payroll, they need to find personalities that’ll help them beat these less-than-promising odds.
How do you know if you have what it takes to join an early-stage team? Technical expertise is undoubtedly important, but adding value at a startup comes down to much more. At Startup Institute, we’re experts in startup-savvy; constantly keeping pulse on the needs of the companies we partner with, so to provide them with the best talent. These are their top criteria:
Startup work is exceptionally challenging and learning curves formidable. If you’re intrinsically motivated and energized by purposeful work, you’d be a great fit for a startup. According to Brendan Gill, CEO at OpenSignal, “passion is an absolute must… Believing that what you are doing is important gets you through the low’s and makes the high’s even better.”
The ability to adapt quickly to changing business and consumer needs is crucial to success; employees need to be just as flexible. “Unpredictable situations, challenges, technical problems, and tight deadlines often require a non-standard approach; [you need to] think and act dynamically” (Kristina Narusk, Memrise).
Have a knack for getting more for your money? Resourceful startup employees know how to generate big successes from a small budget and team. Whether it’s growth-hacking for lead generation or iterating on lean product development, scrappy startup workers know how to spin straw into gold.
4) Expert communication skills
With a flat organizational model and no shortage of priorities– as is usually the case at a startup– there may also be a lack of clear hierarchy for accountability. Strong, open lines of communication are paramount to ensuring everyone is on the same page and moving in a positive direction. Top-grade startup workers are able “to listen and respond constructively– not to follow instructions blindly, but process them and respond honestly” (Adrian Lloyd, Episode 1).
Are you inquisitive? Do you ask the tough questions and seek the best answers. For partner company Toothpick, “the most valuable team members are those who intelligently evaluate and question what we’re doing as a company, how we’re doing it and why” (Lotta Holmberg).
Disrupting an industry requires out-of-the-box thinking, and the best startup employees are bold in imagining new and improved solutions for the stalest of routines. In a startup career, fear of the unknown is crippling, so courage to challenge convention and seek creative solutions will make you an asset.
7) A drive to self-learn
For startup workers, there’s always more to learn. The more you advance or supplement your skillsets, the more value you can bring to your team. Great startup employees are “passionate about learning… they want to become experts in their areas and manage their own development” (Sofia Quintero, Geckoboard).
Through all of the blood, sweat, and tears of startup life, nothing is more important than being able to truly trust in the work and intentions of your colleagues. Above all else, to be a great startup worker you must have great integrity, and instinctual trust in your co-workers.
While major corporates can afford some diverse quality in their numbers, at a small startup every teammate counts. If you don’t tick all of these boxes, not to worry! Above all, startups value a growth mindset; the conviction to embrace challenges, because intelligence and character can grow with effort.