So, you want to work in a seed start-up?

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It’s interesting to see how quickly candidates realise this stage isn’t for them (which is perfectly fine). Below shares common exchanges we’ve had, so candidates can digest before applying to roles in seed stage in future.

1.    A founder’s strength is vision

If you tell us, you want to learn skills and be directed by the founder 24/7 it’s highly unlikely you’ll get that now. Many assume a founder by default is the finished article. This is not the case (none of us are). Don’t expect to be line managed by them.

2.    You tell us you want career progression

We’ll be honest; this is not the priority at seed. It’s not that they don’t care about you, but this is the make-or-break stage where laser focus is on product market fit and early traction. It’s ‘do or die’ for everyone’s sake. If you’re executing, people have the sense to expand your role, but there’s no sit-down exercise with a plan. The execution is repaid later at Series A, when more structure comes in, but the Series A could be 18 months away. Growth and learning available? Absolutely. Promotions and defined paths? Probably not.

3.    You’re asking loads of questions about hours and where you can work etc

All sensible questions whether a company is hybrid vs remote, but if lifestyle is a priority, and you want a job vs a mission, then it’s unlikely you can ‘have it all’ during seed. If you’re working ‘to time’, you’re likely giving 150% output within hours, and if you’re the type that likes long lunches and extensive chats, well you’re going to be working late. If you’re chatting and not working late, you’ll be slower to execute, and then one day the founder says, ‘it’s not working out’. The way to impress founders is to deliver fast, with quality, and thinking ahead on *everything*. Goals are ambitious for a reason. Responsiveness is key reporting to a founder. Founders try to have boundaries, but there are few rules at seed.

4.    You’re enquiring a lot about certainty of; the fundraise, the roadmap, the market

Here’s the low down… no one has a clue at this stage! Until we’re in the market, figuring it all out, it really is a test, learn, repeat, go, go, go. Every. Single. Day. We have some idea, but the only certainty we can rely on is the mission. The thing you thought you’d do next week will probably be scrapped.

5.    You tell me your main strength/skill set is building and managing teams

Unfortunately, this is likely irrelevant. They’re probably going from 5 to 12 people, not 5 to 50 this year…There may be some roles where this is key, but usually the critical leadership hires are the hands-on ‘Head of/VP’ that straddles 50% individual contributor and 50% leading. It’s means they won’t be the best leader because that is a full-time job really, but means they do a good enough job to keep people happy and the work gets done. As you scale, they dig themselves out of hands-on and work on leadership development.

Are you still in? Or out?

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