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4 must-ask questions before joining a startup

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January 24
11:39 PM 2014

Charles Brinbaum recently transitioned from working at startup Foursquare to the venture capital world where he is now a senior associate at Bessemer Venture Partners. In his guest post at VentureBeat, he gives four questions that anyone wishing to work with a startup should ask themselves before ultimately making that switch.

The first question that must be answered is "What is your definition of a "startup"?" Brinbaum said the term "startup" can mislead as it describes a business in its different stages. You must be honest about the degree of risk you can take. The individual wishing to join a startup must decide if you wish to hop on board a firm that has already established itself to a certain extent or if an earlier stage firm with promising potential but more uncertainty is preferable. Size, financing history and the level of experience of the people there will be determinants of your work experience at a startup. As an example, he said that when he joined Foursquare, there were only 20 of them and they only had funding of less than $2 million. Three years later, it already had 170 employees and had raised more than $100 million.

The next question is "Why do you want to work there?" Brinabaum said it's not enough to join a startup because it sounds cool. You must be excited to work there since the experience and expertise you gain in that space will help you determine your next steps.

The third question that must be answered is "Are you ready to define your role?" It's important to understand that when you join a startup, especially in its earlier stages, you will have to determine how to prioritize your time and determine how to add value to the firm. There will be no one to guide or give feedback constantly.

The final question that must be answered is "Have you cut through the hype?" It's important to talk to the startup's current and former employees to know the real performance of the firm, what the working conditions are like and whether or not it will fit you, Brinbaum writes.

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