Media portrayals of startups are everywhere, from Shark Tank to Silicon Valley, depicting both the potential and the pitfalls. Working at a startup can be like flying the plane while trying to build the engine at the same time, but what attracts top talent to startups is that they are great vehicles for professionals who are inventive, adaptable, and excited about participating in today’s dynamic innovation economy. And to fuel the ambitious vision of the founder, startups need thousands of employees to do the day-to-day work required to operate a fledgling company and grow it into something of value. While many books have been written for startup founders, very few have been written for joiners.
In Entering StartUpLand (Harvard Business Review Press), former entrepreneur and venture capitalist Jeffrey Bussgang details how to enter this adventurous but sometimes confusing world. Bussgang is a former entrepreneur and cofounder and general partner of Flybridge Capital, an early-stage venture capital firm based in Boston and New York City. He also serves as a Senior Lecturer at Harvard Business School and teaches a popular class on entrepreneurship and lean startups, “Launching Technology Ventures.”
With insider analysis and expert deconstruction of various startup roles and responsibilities, such as product development, marketing, growth, and sales, Bussgang helps aspiring startup professionals figure out if they want to join a startup, which one might be right for them, and what to expect once they’re hired. The core of the book is dedicated to breaking down the key roles and departments that need to function together to scale successfully. Regardless of what position you start in, it’s critical to your strategic success to know these roles and who is doing what -- from the tensions that the product team faces, to the sales challenges, and how company goals are negotiated and set. Jeffrey offers advice directly from real people in these startup roles, and has detailed profiles that describe what they do, what they enjoy about their career, and their personal advice for succeeding.
When you join a company you may get training sessions with each department, but you won’t get their detailed job descriptions and insider struggles. Knowing the breakdown of each department, and how the roles evolve based on the stage of the start up, gives you an advantage over your colleagues when it comes to strategic career planning. Being aware of what’s going on in the back-end can help you connect internally with the right people and learn what you need to know to thrive and turbocharge your career. Startups are about getting your hands dirty, stepping up, and taking on anything in your skill set to help execute the vision. My strategic self loved this book because it empowers you to execute and and gives you the ability to dive deeper pending your interests; the resources that Jeffrey recommends for you (books, articles, courses) are listed out at the end of each chapter.
Bussgang doesn’t shy away from the hard work and hustle it takes to thrive as you enter StartUpLand. Whether you’re in the stages of launching a career or figuring out how to best accelerate and thrive from your current position, I always recommend going about it as strategically as possible in order to succeed. I asked Jeffrey for his perspective on the number of hours needed to invest in a startup career when things are just getting started in order to advance and move up quickly, and he told me the following:
With vivid stories and profiles of startup executives, Entering StartUpLand provides the blueprint for a startup job search so aspiring startup employees can find their ideal entry point into this popular, cutting-edge organizational paradigm. There is a chapter devoted to the startup job search process which I highly recommend as a valuable reference tool for college students. Jeffrey includes specific questions to ask yourself to help pinpoint what role could be the best fit for you, breaks down how to choose the best startup fit, and how to best position yourself during the interview process. Going the extra mile, on his website, Jeffrey provides a comprehensive list of exciting, growing, hiring startups – both private or recently public – that are worthy of consideration as places to start or continue a career in StartupLand. A key takeaway to remember when searching and interviewing:
“Startup hiring is not an impersonal matching process of skills to job requirements. From the startup’s point of view, it is investing its precious resources in you and the potential of who you can become and how you can impact its growth and value.
Eric Ries, author of The Lean Startup, described this book as a “sweeping and insightful view into a startup’s full range of operations and entry points” and I couldn’t agree more. Whether you’re just getting started, or you’re ten years into your career, Entering StartUpLand will be a useful tool to enhance your startup knowledge, accelerate your career, and navigate your way to StartUpLand success.