Blog Post

View from the ground, up

There are numerous posts that I came across on the web for what an entrepreneur should do, or for that matter, not do, while running a startup. Most are typically directed at founders. I haven’t yet come across enough good write ups that speak to what employees at a startup should do.
Having worked with two startups, “Thumbspeed”: (now part of “Oz”: and now “MangoSpring”:, I thought I’d put down some of the lessons I have learned, share my tips for other startup employees. I believe founders can benefit from this persepctive, too. I hope other Found|READers will add to this post from their own experiences–as founder or employee. You can read the full text of my original post “here”:, but the Found|READ adaptation begins below.

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*1. When you joined the startup, you had a strong reason.*
This could be a desire to work with an exciting product company, to feel a sense of ownership which only a startup can offer, to be able to wear multiple hats, to be able to contribute across the spectrum – ideation and development or something similar.You need to constantly ask yourself if you are doing what you initially joined the startup to do. If you wanted to wear multiple hats, what efforts have you taken in the last week to be able to multi-task? If you wanted the feeling of owning something end to end, what actions did you take which demonstrate your ownership of a project or feature? I personally remember asking myself this question in my early days at Thumbspeed. It was this that led me to push my way into the product development team from a sales team . If you are not doing what you joined the startup to do…speak to the founders (sorry startups typically don’t have managers).

*2. Startups are managed by a small set of motivated and hardworking individuals.*
You have little choice but to match up with their energy levels. Your extra bursts of energy rarely go unnoticed and are always rewarded in one form or the other. It’s the only place where you shall have your boss always working more than you. And trust me, it’s a very embarrassing feeling.

*3. When at a startup don’t just point out what’s broken, fix it.*
Though true everywhere else, this is all the more relevant at a startup. There are always a dozen things that could be done better, and there is always more to do than there is time for. Hence, its helpful if you fix whatever is broken. This could be inadequate information on the company website, bad network management, or anything else. If you can help do it better, no one will ask you why you did it. There are no possessive team leaders here!

*4. The company’s success is your success, and vice versa.*
Do not try and separate the two things. Work towards making the company a success and you shall be one. You rarely have successful employees of an unsuccessful startup. Successes of a startup doesn’t always mean a billion dollar company. Success means doing whatever you had set out to do, and doing it right. It means creating the right work environment, the right work practices, the right code, and the right features. Each day work towards making your company a successful company and I guarantee you will reap the benefits.

*5. Always remember it’s your company.*
Ownership does not end at your tasks. Just like you own the code base, the features; you also own the company’s limitations, its finances. Save where ever you can. Save paper, electricity. Of course don’t over do it at the expense of your comfort or efficiency . But wasteful expenses should be kept at the minimum.

*6. Since the company management is easily accessible and extremely responsive in a startup, we often tend to get in the ‘ask’ mode.* One must resist the temptation to ask for things.

*7. Self-drive and self controlled.*
There are no IT policies, no IT departments blocking access to sites. There are no time sheets to keep track of how many hours you have been working. This is none of this because startups don’t have the resources to do so. Its because startup founders find it very hard to believe that someone would waste time when he/she has so much to do! Working in a startup requires a great deal of self control and you need to be able to motivate yourself to produce 110% output on a daily basis.

6 Responses to “View from the ground, up”

  1. iamronen

    Good points Anuj.

    I feel that the list you started can be developed on and on. I would suggest that One of the key qualities of startup’s – is that everything is intense – everything moves fast – and this leads to what Shawn mentioned – emotions. I don’t know if you can “prepare” for this – I do believe that emotions and the questions you raised need to be an explicit part of the day-to-day process and not set aside for when there is time – there never is!

    I also feel that your side-comment “sorry startups typically don’t have managers” is worthy of an extensive discussion. I just added an idea on this from my current experience in a different perspective:}

  2. underwds

    I’ll add another one if you don’t mind.
    8) Be Prepared for the Emotions
    Just like you have access to the founders on business issues, you’re going to be directly exposed to their highs and lows. Sometimes it’s the good news of a new customer or more money, and sometimes it’s the crush of rejection. Yes, they can probably handle it, but you need to be prepared to handle it as well. And, for what it’s worth, a simple “dude, we’re still here for you” is worth its weight in gold.}

  3. adambenayoun

    Nice guideline. I would sum up the experience of working @ a startup like working at your own business. you should act as it was your own baby. You’re there because you care.}