Joining a Software Startup: What you need to know - Part 2

To start off this blog series about factors to consider in the search for a job at a startup, I’m going to talk about examining and evaluating a company’s concept and technology.

Every company started with a central idea for a product or a service, and whether this idea is thoroughly researched and planned can greatly affect whether the company finds success or ruin.

To evaluate a company’s concept, you should first consider the market that they’re entering, because the target market will affect the direction of the company and the product. For example, if the company is aiming for the consumer market, then they will have to focus more of their efforts on user interfaces and other customer considerations. If the target market is businesses, the product will have to be efficient and powerful while still appealing to the eye.

The size of the potential market is also important and relevant. Is it large, with lots of customers but also lots of competition, or is it small, with less competition but fewer customers to attract?

Speaking of competition, it’s important to find out who else is in the same market and could possibly be competing with the startup that you’re considering. If there are established companies who provide the exact same product or service as the startup, then that startup might be doomed. If the startup has a unique product or a fresh angle on an old idea, then there might be room for it to grow into the industry and be successful.

When you’re first considering working for a company, you should pay attention to their “elevator pitch.” This is a concise explanation of the company and its goals. You should be able to discern quickly why people would want to pay for whatever this company is providing. If the company can’t be pitched in a few minutes, or you don’t understand what they’re selling, than the concept might not be viable.

Finally, you should consider what stage of development the company is currently in when you’re thinking about joining. Were they just created, are they in beta testing, or do they already have paying customers? If they’re in a later stage, this says a lot about the stability of the company. However, if you get in when the company is just starting, it could be a valuable experience and you could have the chance to have a large impact on the company’s direction, not to mention any potential raises, promotions, bonuses, or stock options that could accumulate.

To summarize, a startup has to have a viable, sellable concept that can be carried out and will not succumb to more established competition. If you have the opportunity to start working with a company that does, it’s worth serious consideration.

In the next post in this series, I’ll explain how you should evaluate the founders, investors, and management team of a startup. As you’ll learn, experience is extremely valuable and can’t be overlooked or overrated.