The Startup Experience: Three Take Aways

A post dedicated to the startup experience could not be absent on this blog. Let’s go!

  • Venture capital and the associated startups offer one of the most dynamic environments in the corporate world.
  • The learning curve is very steep and the exposure to top tier professionals offers heaps of networking opportunities.
  • The career prospects can be simply amazing, this is the place to become an ‘under 30 ceo’.

But maybe first this: how many launched blogs actually persist in their initial goal, i.e. delivering reading material to their ever hungry online community? Not many. The internet is swamped with ‘single post blogs’ and my bookmarks folder ‘blogs to follow’ sometimes resembles a graveyard. I’m, however, committed to keep you up to date of my activities. Therefore, I engage myself to a weekly post and a strong focus on quality rather than on quantity. If not, spam me.

Back to work now.
Grab a sheet of paper and a pen. Jot down the first three thoughts associated with startups. Ready? Chances are that you listed some of the following characteristics: business ideas, garage, software, capital, Silicon Valley, food, drinks, garage again, dynamic, young and chaos. In sum, adopt the following road plan if you want to found a highly successful company. First, have a solid business idea and select a sunny spot on the globe (eg. Silicon Valley, the sun keeps you optimistic) as pied-à-terre. It also appears crucial for success that the place you’re operating from is a garage (Apple, check; Microsoft, check; Google, check). Ensure access to capital (3F -friends, family and fools- capital could not suffice in the long run), stuff your garage with food and drinks, find reliable partners in crime (mustaches are definitely an asset here) and kick off.

Needless to say, the above setting is slightly ironic but is valid in a way for my corporate habitat in Sydney. We are located in Sydney’s Central Business District and occupy a three-story warehouse with a total area equivalent to a football field. And we’re still a bit squeezed. The place is filled with a battery of computers and their operators with boundless energy and passion. We grew from 0 to 350+ employees in 3 months, not including the horde of computer wizards in India. The stellar growth results in a fast-paced environment:
– It cost me an arm and a leg to secure a decent chair (you don’t want to try the ‘design’ chairs).
– Our suppliers can’t catch up. We have entirely depleted Lenovo’s stock.
– Our internet is sometimes overheated and dies. An internet company without internet?
– There are no standard office hours. No 9 to 5 drudgery here. Most people arrive between 9 and 11 am and leave when work is done. I’m not counting hours, but I’m usually finished between midnight and 1 am. But as my colleague in operations (= getting your products from A to B, asap) mentioned subtly on Wednesday: he had already accumulated the hours of an average workweek. But weekends should be free. And that’s a good thing.
– The buzzword multitasking is put into practice. In general, I’m working on online marketing. It’s a numbers game through you win your customers. Orders are increasing, but I’m still trying to find the first customer for the My Carry Potty. Last week I worked on recruitment and who knows what next week brings.
– The main concern of many colleagues: the company is not scaling the Friday night beer.
– Furthermore when targets are met, there’s a party bus or party boat on Friday night. Work hard, party hard.

So yes, it is a dynamic environment.

But also the learning curve is steep, very steep. You’re exposed to like-minded entrepreneurs who challenge the ‘big house, big yard, two car American dream’. People are not discussing which pension fund they should get or how many kids. Instead, business ideas are discussed and you learn about every single aspect of a startup. Huge intellectual capital, great networking.

I’m working for Rocket Internet, world’s no. 1 e-commerce incubator/venture capital fund. To date, Rocket Internet has invested in over 200 internet companies including Facebook, Groupon, eBay, LinkedIn, Zalando, eDarling and Wimdu. Our present-day activities in Australia are The Iconic, Zanui, Glossybox, Dalani, HelloFresh and Bamarang.

Finally, the career prospects. High performers can acquire top positions at a very early stage in their career. I’m already senior and given more responsibilities every week.

Additionally, it is probably the best time to join the startup/venture capital world in recent memory. Facebook’s IPO brings an increased liquidity to the startup world since the (very) young Facebook millionaires are unlikely going to retire and will invest their money in promising startups.

Needless to say, after acquiring the necessary skills one can always leave and try to hit big on his own. Let’s go!


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