Do your research if you’re looking to join startup

As the economy inches along in recovery, dreams of greater impact and/or equity may lure you into considering startups for possible employment.

Are your visions realistic? They might be, if you’re careful.

Not every startup will meet your requirements. Wayne Barz, manager of entrepreneurial services, has watched his award-winning business incubator, Ben Franklin Technology Partners of Northeast PA Inc. in Bethlehem, Pa., draw a number of job hunters. The 27,000-square-foot facility houses 27 startups with two to four employees each.

“I see a lot of resumes and people out of big corporations looking for jobs,” he comments. “Often they show up saying they want to work in a startup, but generally are networking with us because we’re connected to the community.”

He recalls lack of awareness about scale. Many job hunters didn’t recognize that small, young startups can’t offer a full-time executive salary. He adds, however, that under the best circumstances, some can afford a consulting fee of $1,000 to $2,000 per month.

In other words, seekers of full-time jobs need to hunt for funded startups.

“The notion of going to work in a startup is interesting,” Barz says, “but once inside, you’re in for a shock. There’s no marketing department, no accounting department. … They really are not a good fit for most (corporate) people.”


Matt Bruno has worked at a Fortune 500 company and had about 6,000 people under him before he joined San Diego’s Payment Logistics LLC.

Bruno joined Payment Logistics when the company was about 5 years old. He’s now the company’s director of independent sales.

While job searching, he says, “I didn’t have problems explaining what I could do, but other businesses had problems convincing me that it was a good idea to get involved in their startup.”

Bruno’s worker oversight has shrunk; now leads 1,000 employees. But he finds satisfaction in earning more money and having greater impact at this family-owned business.

An executive search firm that contacts you about a startup will likely solve the salary problem through funded startups. Ted Konnerth, president and CEO of Egret Consulting Group Inc. in Mundelein, Ill., has represented at least 50 of them in the electrical manufacturing industry, where he says hundreds of startups have emerged. He’s recruited candidates from established corporations.

Whenever Konnerth has raised the possibility of working “in an investment-backed company,” he reports, “the answer to that overwhelmingly is, ‘Yes.’ ”


Barz says the growth potential of very small startups may appeal to job hunters. If they startups aren’t funded, he recommends allowing for 12 to 15 months with very nominal salary or none in exchange for equity.

“It might be a good fit for a certain period of time,” he says.

He explains that saving well, having a spouse working or receiving an inheritance may make this transition possible.

Konnerth advises job seekers to become extremely familiar with the private equity community.

“If you’re currently out of work,” he says, “assume this is a full-time job. Do Internet research, which will be tedious, to identify which companies have investments in startups. Start in your industry and sift through the information. Go through websites.”

He says most equity firms are involved in multiple companies. He also directs CEOs to call private equity managing directors to express interest in all of their startups. Approach the new CEO, he recommends, if you’re a vice president.

Seeking jobs in startups requires at least as much effort as looking for jobs in established companies. Do the work to find the work.

Dr. Mildred L. Culp welcomes your questions at © 2013 Passage Media.


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