5 Ways to Know if Joining a Startup Is Worth the Risk


No matter what stage you’re at in your career or where you’re working, the startup world is one of extraordinary promise: getting in on the ground floor, making an impact, putting your stamp on the business, being free of corporate structure and politics, and just maybe getting a huge payday a few years down the road.

While this all sounds incredibly exciting and exhilarating, startup situations, by nature, have big risks attached to them. The statistics on success versus failure are pretty profound toward the latter.

So, how do you know if the move is worth the risk? You don’t. However, that doesn’t mean you should just throw caution to the wind. Instead, take some time figure out if the company’s going anywhere and—just as important—if it’s right for you.

1. Ask the Right Questions During the Interview Process

In addition to asking the usual interview questions, it’s a good idea to gauge how the company’s doing and where it’s going. While you can come right out and ask (and you should!), you’re more likely to get an honest and off-the-cuff answer by asking the following three questions.

The first one addresess whether or not the business itself is a good idea. Not in the “I just had a crazy idea while falling asleep” way—but is there potential to make money at it? Ask the founder what marketplace need he or she think’s the company’s fulfilling. All successful businesses must have, at the core, a (hypothetical) customer base who’s going to be into the product. Dig into whether the founder has done enough market research to prove that this is an actually viable business opportunity.

Second: Find out if the leadership team has the ability to make this company happen. Talk to the founders and other executives about their skill sets and backgrounds. When politely inquiring about this, what you’re really finding out is if these people have what it takes to get this great idea off the ground. If they’re not fully equipped to make it happen—are they hiring other people to fill in the gaps?

Last, but not least, you need to know how they’re getting funded, and how they plan to continue getting funded. This is a straightforward question, and you can approach it as such.

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