How to get by in lean times with a lean startup–or a lean resume.


[Link] (via NMD alum Chris Bagley)

Sometimes these young people watch The Social Network or read stories about other Millennials founding companies with no experience and think they should be able to join a startup with little domain background. After all, they’ve seen their friends leave their jobs and start companies in completely different industries, right?

This is a fallacy, however. Only one person gets the benefit of the doubt at a startup: the founder….

So what should you do if you want a career switch to a job at a startup you don’t have any experience in?….First, consider looking at startups where you can get in on the ground floor; generally, companies with less than 10 people. These companies are unproven and won’t likely have throngs of experienced people banging down the doors. By matching yourself to a company where you’ll be taking on as much risk as it will be taking on you, you’re likely to be higher up in the candidate pool than you would be at an already successful startup.

Second, consider applying for a job in an area you have experience in, and then once you’re in, work your way into the area where you want to be. For example, if you have experience in sales but want to work on product, join a company that needs sales, prove that you are competent in sales and then you will be taken much more seriously internally when talking about product. Eventually, you might even get the opportunity to do product directly: companies are much more likely to give chances to employees who are already doing well in another area. This is because you’ve reduced the risk associated with you. When considering a new employee, there are many risk factors: will she be productive, have a good attitude, fit in culturally. By being a competent existing employee, you’ve just removed several of those risk factors, making it easier for the company to take a chance on letting you work on something new.

Third, spend much, much more time and effort on your “application” than you would for a traditional application. To startup founders, it is always flattering and attention grabbing when someone takes the time to think in depth about their relatively unknown business. Sometimes, job applications are more like a series of conversations about the vision and future of the product. That’s how we hired Jacob, our first designer for Justin.tv / TwitchTV, who did several rounds of mockups for the product without even being hired as a contractor. That’s how Tristan Walker secured his position at foursquare, by sending a series of emails to the founders and flying out to NYC on his own.

Lastly, try to give yourself some experience. In your spare time, design something. Almost anything goes a long way to differentiating yourself from the throngs of people who want to work on products but have never done so. Even an unsuccessful web application is better than nothing; it shows that you at least can produce something basic.

Wired interviews the proponent of “lean startups.” Sounds like Release early and often to me.

Everything you know about starting a company is wrong. At least that’s what Eric Ries says. The former entrepreneur has developed a counterintuitive strategy he calls the Lean Startup. The philosophy has been endorsed by Silicon Valley royalty like Tim O’Reilly, Marc Andreessen, and Mitch Kapor….

Wired: So the key is to be able to change your vision—or your entire company—on the fly?

Ries: Exactly.

Wired: How do you do that?

Ries: Continuous deployments. People believe that if you go slower you’ll get a better outcome—you can fix the bugs. But that’s not true. The slower you go, the bigger the batch size and the more things go wrong. What if customers don’t want your product? Do you want to find that out after you’ve built the whole product or only a tiny sliver of it?

Wired: But isn’t it dangerous to release a product before it’s ready?

Ries: The mistake isn’t releasing something bad. The mistake is to launch it and get PR people involved. You don’t want people to start amping up expectations for an early version of your product. The best entrepreneurship happens in low-stakes environments where no one is paying attention, like Mark Zuckerberg’s dorm room at Harvard.

Wired: Does that mean it’s better to have just a few customers when you’re first starting out?

Ries: Exactly. It means that you can get to know those customers extremely well and you’re not under pressure to succeed. You can take your time to figure out what’s working and then really blow it up later.

The New York Times reports on a start-up board game that offers some of the experience of creating a company — without the risk.

Most new entrepreneurs don’t have much spare time. But beginning next fall, those with a couple of hours to kill can immerse themselves in Startup Fever, a board game that challenges players to start and build rival companies.

Competitors develop their own products and vie to win the most users. They hire engineers (“nerds”), salespeople (“suits”) and chief executives (“big suits”). If employees aren’t kept happy, they can get poached by other players. There’s no one direct path to victory; many different strategies can prevail.

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