11 Factors To Consider When Deciding to Work At A Startup Or Big Firm

According to reports, 800 startups are added to India every year, and the numbers are are just growing. The hitherto white collar employees and CXOs are quitting their cushy jobs to start up. There’s a startup for every need, existing and growing. If not, startups are creating needs that never existed.

The number of job creators is booming, and that in turn means good news for the job seeker who’s spoilt for choice. 

While the options are many, many of us may face a quandary about which is a better career option for us- A big company or a startup. Here are some of the factors you should consider while making a decision.


1. Working Style: Startups usually mean doing everything from serving coffee, fixing the copy machine, doing social media to coding. Sometimes all at once. You’re not just an employee, but a spokesperson and a growth hacker for the startup. If you’re willing to go the extra mile and work the extra hours, choose a startup. If a conventional 9-5 suits your lifestyle better, a conventional company is the place to be.

2. Risk appetite: The risks involved in a startup do not only affect the founders and top management but every employee. It’s possible the startup may take off and have great returns, but it’s equally, if not more likely that it can fail, revenue may hit a road block. In some cases a startup may adopt a hire-and-fire policy which means you could be asked to leave anytime their need is over. Are you willing to take that risk? If yes, a startup is the place to be.

3. Perks: Unless you’re talking about startups that are flush with funds and invest heavily into employee perks, let’s face it, most startups are going to have few or no perks. Are you willing to let go of the health insurance, the door to door transport and Sodexo-enabled meals at the company mess? If yes, you’ll be fine at a startup. Otherwise your conventional company should keep you happy with its perks, if nothing else.

4. Stage in career: Whether you’ve just finished your education or you’re deeply tenured in your career may also influence your decision to go for a company or a startup. Most people prefer to join startups immediately upon finishing college as it enables them to learn a lot early on in their careers and also to not get sucked into a conventional corporate culture too soon after a carefree college life. On the other hand, if you’re well established in your career, savings neatly tucked in your bank, then you might want to switch to a startup to explore new avenues to grow.

5. Focus on learning: If one thing all startup founders would tell you, it’s the fact that startups are full of learning. Conventional companies rely more on leveraging the knowledge and skills you bring to the table. While you’re expected to contributed to the firm with your skills and knowledge even at a startup, you’re expected to learn as much on the job. So whether, it’s handling clients or being the spokesperson of the company, you are likely to learn more in a startup. 

6. Tolerance for the corporate culture: Are you someone who can’t stand jargon, rules, dress code, the works? Then the startup is the place for you. If you identify with these points, you belong at a startup.

7. Pay

While well-funded startups may be able to offer you and top your salaries at a well-established company, most startups have low disposable money to pay employees, and they rely more on offering equity. There have been cases of irregular,  delayed and withheld pays too. If a low pay, but the prospects of becoming richer with the equity, should the company take off, works with you, a startup it is. Ask the early employees of Google who are now worth billions of dollars simply from their generous loot of vested stock. But if a regular and decent pay floats your financial boat, the conventional company is the answer. If you have dependants and loans to pay, you probably need the latter.

8. Importance of brand name: A reason why a lot of people prefer to work at big companies is because of a known brand name. Imagine telling someone you work at Google VS “So I work at this startup that helps streamline payment systems for the office”. Plus, a big brand name looks good on your resume. If you’re willing to work in a little known to obscure firm, (till hopefully it becomes a hot startup), a startup works for you. You will most likely also have to forgo a big office, in the favour of a startup that could range from operating out of a house, a no nonsense setup, to if you’re lucky an office like Flipkart‘s or Snapdeal‘s. 

9. The age of startup: You may want to consider the age and stage of the startup before making the plunge. Has the startup been operating for a while? What is its funding status? Will it survive the next 5 years? If these answers point in the positive, then you might be making a well-informed call about joining that startup.

10. The age of your colleagues: While the age of the startup vis a vis the startup may be negotiable, do you care about if you work in a “young” or “old” office? Most startups are founded by entrepreneurs in their early 30’s and since they’re full of freshers, and people in their 20’s, the startup is usually a young office. If hanging with people your own age, and having a campus-like culture is important to you, then a startup is your calling. Young startups tend to be fun, experimental, and usually laid back. Companies, especially well-established ones tend to have an older generation, and along with it come not only older employees but also a conventional way of approaching and doing things. Most Indian offices look and work like this.

I mean can you imagine an Infosys or an Accenture going naked at work like THIS SF startup?

11. Career Prospects: Most companies offer stable life and a predictable growth system. You perform well, fail, meet or exceed your “KRAs” and get promoted accordingly. Growth is usually linear and hierarchical. If you see yourself becoming an associate, a partner, a manager and a director in that order across a span of 10 years, then a corporate is for you. If you can take the risk, and slug it out along with the co-founders, opportunities for growth in a startup are immense, and people have known to go from assistant managers to a CEO depending on your performance, drive and company need.

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