Would you consider a job at a start-up?


As a graduate business student, there are broadly speaking three options when looking for a job. You can start working at (1) a multinational company, (2) at a SME or (3) become an entrepreneur / start working at a start-up company. According to the RSM faculty, RSM graduates are more or less evenly distributed among these three options. However, when I speak to fellow students and look at the career events organized at the university, I sometimes wonder how many of us are really considering a job at a start-up, or would be interested in starting their own start-up from the beginning. The companies that participate in the events organized at the university are mainly the big multinational companies, which is kind of logical considering their big recruitment budgets. Starting your career at such a company can have many advantages, as it can be good for your future career, working conditions are good  and such a job brings little uncertainty. You might wonder, why start working at a start-up company then?

The Netherlands has everything a start-up needs

To begin with, you are in the right spot. The Netherlands might not be Silicon Valley, but it does have a lot of ingredients to become a mature technology start-up ecosystem.

The Netherlands has got a good combination of technical and business schools with RSM and TU Delft, but also with TU Eindhoven and Tilburg University. With Neelie Kroes as a supporter of start-ups, the government can be seen as supportive. There is space to physically expand growth companies. Furthermore there is a good mix of accelerators, angels and VC’s that are willing to invest. Dutch start-up Adyen recently received a huge investment and is now being valued around $2.3 billion. The only ingredient that might be missing is you: a critical mass of people that want (and are able) to start their own company.

The personal benefits

With the right environment, the opportunity is here. Still the question remains; why work for – or start a start-up company? Working at a start-up brings multiple personal benefits. First, start-ups are the new sexy. Explaining at a drink that you started your own company in the tech business is simply more interesting than you talking about being the master of the universe because you are a king in making Excel-calculations. Just as IT loses its dusty image, start-ups are becoming more broadly accepted and recognized as good learning schools. Second, start-ups will give you a lot of responsibility – which you will certainly not be getting at a multinational start job. You will be able to call the shots and meet with interesting people. Finally, if you make it, you can make it big. Leading companies such as Google, Facebook and Airbnb didn’t exist 20 years ago and all started small. There are plenty of Dutch start-ups that are making or have made a name for them self as well such as Adyen, Booking.com, WeTransfer and 22tracks.

There are probably more benefits to come up with, and on the other side there are of course downsides as well. Yes, working at a start-up brings more risk. If the start-up fails you are unemployed. You probably won’t get a car from your employer; the salary and secondary working conditions are way worse. But the potential upside and the personal benefits on the other side can cover for this. Besides; the disadvantages aren’t that bad at this moment in your life. As a student you are used to not having too much money around, not having a car and you probably don’t have kids yet to take care of.

In the end I think there should be a personal fit. If you are a creative, risk-seeking person, starting your career at a start-up might be the best option. If you like routine and want to work in a structured professional environment, starting your career at a multinational might be your best option. As a BIM student, would you consider working at a start-up?



3 responses to “Would you consider a job at a start-up?”

  1. 375253nl says :

    I think this is an interesting topic and for many students a hard dilemma. Working at a start-up can be a great opportunity and challenge but there are also downsides. Working for a start-up or starting you own start-up is very risky, since 90% of all startups fail (Forbes, 2015). For me the salary and secondary working conditions wouldn’t be a big problem, but the change it will fail is too big for me. Maybe I will give a shot if I have a great idea one day. But for now working at a big multinational company is for me more likely.



  2. ruudschippers says :

    This blog immediately drew my attention. Being involved in the startup world for more than three years now, I have to admit that you have mapped out the current situation really well. When you get hired for a startup, there is a high chance that you have to deal with a high degree of responsibility, which is mainly due to the fact that a startup has to maintain high growth rates. As a result, there is often too much work, forcing the founders to delegate important work to the new employee earlier than expected.

    Contrary to working at a multinational company, when working in a startup you can see your impact day in and day out, since you are a member of a small team (Jalali, 2014). Additionally, startups expect you to do more than what is written in your job description. In fact, you have to be that so-called ‘jack-of-all-trades’, who can cover the work of another employee when necessary.

    In the end, I think the most important thing when choosing to work for a startup, is whether you believe in their idea, product or service. Looking at it from the founders’ side, that is also what they are looking at, because they aim to hire employees who are passionate about their ideas and who would love to share them with the rest of the world. As long as you are passionate about your work and love the job you are doing, the salary will come in the end. In the startup scene, that is likely to take longer compared to a multinational company, but in return, you will experience how a company can grow really fast and you will learn a lot from the organizational changes during that growth phase.

    Jalali, I. (2014, July 29). A Reality Check for Anyone Eager to Work for a Startup [Blog post]. Retrieved from http://www.entrepreneur.com/article/235767

  3. 373227yj says :

    I do agree that working in a Start-up involves a lot of benefits such as independency and more rounded personal development. But I still would prefer to work in a well-established firm unless the Start-up is founded by a serial entrepreneur who has tons of experience in running a business. There are several reason why I prefer a well-established firm above a Start-up run by novice entrepreneur.

    First of all, working in a Start-up led by a novice entrepreneur means you will hardly get any concrete guidance during the work, because everyone is just as inexperienced as you are. You will have the sense of being lost. This might be beneficial in a certain way; you get to learn new things in your own way and your independency increases. But I personally prefer professional guidance that you would receive in a well-established firm, since it will save you a lot of time by preventing you take the wrong way.
    Next, working in a Start-up means you will often have to carry out the work of several positions, because of the financial constraint of the firm. That might be good in terms of personal development, but you do need to take account that your focus will be spread over so many different task which might lead to fatal error. Besides that, you don’t really have the time and energy to really focus on one certain thing that you are interested in and good at since the workload is just too huge. Whereas in a well-established firm you apply for a certain function and you can fully commit to it without wasting time on other miscellaneous stuffs.
    Finally, Start-up might have the problem of group thinking resulting in an over commitment in a certain project that will obviously fail in outsider’s perspective. This is mainly caused by the limited number of workers who can critically assess or dare to doubt the viability of the project but also naivety due to inexperienced plays an important role. In a well-established firm, you have various departments that all come together to judge the feasibility of certain project. In this way, objective measurement is guaranteed to avoid sunk cost both in terms of time and money.

    This is my sum up of reasons why I would prefer a well-established firm over a Start-up run by novice entrepreneur. But in the end, it all comes down to preferences of each individual. People that likes more challenge will tend to choose to work in a Start-up, whereas those that likes more certainty will tend to choose well-established firm.

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