True Story: Begin With a Job at a Startup, Then Start Your Own

The title of this post is taken from Martin Zwilling’s Begin With a Job at a Startup, Then Start Your Own on the Gust blog. In that post, Martin starts with this:

For those of you who want to get in on the ground floor of a new venture, but haven’t yet worked up the nerve to start your own, begin with a job at a startup.


I say that it’s not just the nerve to start your own; it’s also the resume, experience, and resources. And that you shouldn’t feel that every entrepreneur proves him or herself by jumping straight from childhood to business owner. Breathing first, and learning something, is a good idea.

When I was in business school 30-some years ago, Professor Steve Brandt paused on one point, in front of the class, and reflected. He was teaching developing a business plan and getting funded. He said:

Most of you are too young and not ready to jump from school into your own business. Don’t worry about it if that’s the case. If you’re serious about entrepreneurship, just choose the right stream to swim in. Get out of school and do something that relates to what you’d like to do eventually.

I repeated that advice often during my 11 years teaching entrepreneurship one quarter per year at the University of Oregon. Some of my students took it to heart. They didn’t jump straight from college to starting a business. Instead, they worked with startups in their field of interest and eventually started their own.

I’ve noticed since then that the world changes very fast, and the startup leap is happening much more often at a much younger age. But the fundamental value of that advice still applies.

Martin Zwilling goes on to list some concrete specific tips that might help. If you’re interested, that’s a good post to read.

For another taste of that post, let’s finish this post with this quote. I agree with this …

But a word to the wise, be picky about what startup you join. Ask around about the founders. Make sure you meet more than the boss and check the culture before you take the job. Reporting structures are fluid in startups, and unfortunately many startups are like dysfunctional families.

… except that I’d add: well, but not too picky.



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