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Should You Join a Startup? Pros and Cons for Young Entrepreneurs

Who says that being a young entrepreneur means you have to do all the work yourself? There’s no law out there forcing you to come up with an idea and launch a startup yourself. You have unique skills and talents that might be better suited to joining an established startup. But how do you know if joining another startup is right for you? 

For those who might not know, a startup is a brand-new business. Someone, or a team of someones, have come up with a unique product or service, or a new way of doing something. Startups look to fill a void in a certain field or solve a problem in a whole new way.  

Before you accept an offer to join a startup – or offer your skills to one – weigh the pros and cons. Joining a startup isn’t for everyone. But it may be just the thing you need! 

EARLY-STAGE STARTUPS 

This is the time when young entrepreneurs like you are getting started. Business plans are being written, marketing strategies are being discussed, and financing is…still in the future. Everything is shiny and new, with nothing but potential ahead.  

When considering joining an early-stage startup, you’ll need to ask a lot of questions. What is their plan for financial backing? What will the structure look like? What do they expect from you? What are their goals? 

Early-stage pros: 

  • You’ll probably have a lot of say in how the company develops 
  • Being an early participant means reaping more of the rewards later on 
  • Your voice will probably be heard more 
  • You likely have your choice of jobs and responsibilities within the company 
  • It’s energizing and exciting! 

Early-stage cons: 

  • It can be quite chaotic 
  • There may be a lack of centralized leadership 
  • It’s risky – you might fail 
  • You may not always know or understand what to do 
  • You may be given responsibilities you’re not comfortable with 

If you love creating order out of chaos, joining an early-stage startup might be a good fit for you. Most young entrepreneurs are perfect fits for early-stage startups because they’re full of energy and ideas. You’re not yet stuck in other ways of doing things. Your dream is to break the mold, disrupt the status quo, and launch something the world hasn’t seen before! 

However, chaos isn’t for everyone. Those of you who depend on a preset structure might find it overwhelming to join an early-stage startup. Or maybe you don’t have the kind of time needed to help get one off the ground. These aren’t character flaws. Knowing yourself means you avoid setting yourself up for failure and disappointment. 

 MID-STAGE STARTUPS 

At this stage of the game, the startup is up and running. Profits aren’t pouring in, but the company is out there. The legs may be wobbly as they learn to walk, but they’re definitely standing up. There’s a website, advertising, and even a few customers.  

By this point, the founders and leaders of the startup are learning how to adjust their marketing plans and online presence as they go along. They’re starting to gather information on how their message is being received and gathering customer feedback. 

Mid-stage pros: 

  • It’s less risky than joining an early-stage startup 
  • It’s less chaotic than an early-stage startup 
  • Most, if not all, of the financial backing is in place 
  • You’ll probably have a more specific job to do, rather than wearing lots of hats 

Mid-stage cons: 

  • You may be joining a company run by friends who have bonded over the “trial by fire” early stages together – and you’re the newbie 
  • Fewer rewards, because you joined later 
  • There’s already a way of doing things, so you may have less input 
  • There will still be uncertainty and setbacks 

For those young entrepreneurs who follow the principle of “seeing is believing,” this stage might be right for you. Much of the risk has been overcome. The business has customers. If you’re receiving an offer, that means there’s a specific role someone believes you can fill. If you’re asking to join, that means you feel good about the company’s direction and momentum. 

However, maybe you don’t like the idea of being the noob. Maybe the existing employees are too cliquey. Or maybe even a mid-stage startup isn’t established enough for your comfort. All of these are valid reasons not to join a startup at this stage of the entrepreneurial journey.  

LATE-STAGE STARTUPS 

By now, the company is pretty well established and will probably drop the “startup” label soon. Things are running smoothly, though adjustments are still being made as they go along. There’s a solid customer base, employees with defined roles, and some profit coming in.  

Late-stage pros: 

  • Job security 
  • Less hustle, more cruising 
  • Well-defined structure and expectations 
  • You’ll probably be joining other newbies just starting out as the company moves into their growth stage 

Late-stage cons: 

  • Less input on how the company should work 
  • An already-established work culture that might not be a good fit for you 
  • More structure probably means less creativity for you 
  • You may not get to use your best skills or talents 

Some young entrepreneurs truly crave structure. If you’re one of them, then a late-stage startup is for you! No need to reinvent the wheel here: everything is set up and all you have to do is step inside. You know what’s expected of you. The leadership structure is clearly defined. You’re secure and comfortable. 

For adrenaline junkies, though, a late-stage startup probably isn’t a good match. You’ve missed the excitement and potential of the company’s early stage. You won’t have as much input. And you’ll likely be seen as just a regular employee, rather than a partner in running the company. 

Whether or not you join a startup depends entirely on your disposition. Have an honest conversation with yourself and think about your personal entrepreneurial goals. Joining a startup is a commitment. It’s a responsibility. Don’t take this lightly. If none of the startup stages feel right to you, you’re better off building your own startup from scratch.  

However, if you do decide that joining a startup is the right move, make sure you ask lots of questions. Know what you’re getting into. Know where you fit in. Why you? Why now? Why this place?  

Whatever you decide, know that you’re still a wonderful young entrepreneur with a bright future! 

The Kantner Foundation offers college scholarships to young Florida entrepreneurs. Ready to learn more? Click here to see if you are eligible! 


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