This is not always reliable (Mark Zuckerberg or Larry Page hadn’t built businesses before) but there’s an interesting stat: 85 percent of startups fail. If the CEO has built and sold a startup before, then the odds go down to 25 percent. So you might as well have the statistics on your side.
Do they have enough money to last at least a year? (If the company has six months or fewer worth of funding then they are already out of business.)
“Good funding” means people (or funds) who will also write second checks. If all they have is one year’s worth of friends and family money, then you are taking the risk in a year they will run out of money. Why take risks when there are plenty of other good jobs out there?
Is the CEO creative enough to develop a strong vision, and also a good enough communicator to convey that vision? Could you use this product? Could you see it helping a million or more people?
Imagine you had, in cash, the amount of their full valuation. Would you be able to create a better product with more traction? Like, for $46 billion, would you be able to beat Uber? There are plenty of startups out there where if you gave me their full valuation in cash I can easily see how they can be replaced.
Make sure that even in the worst case scenario where you misjudged everything else, that you at least learn one thing fairly quickly after you take the job so that it adds to your skill set and you can move on to get a better job.
The entire culture of a company comes from the top down. So if the partners who started the business don’t have their emotional act together, the company itself won’t be emotionally sound.
Also, think ecosystem again – try to see your boss’ relationships with other people in the company. All gossiping is bad. Hopefully they think highly of the people they work with. Else you shouldn’t work for them and you shouldn’t work for that company.
Warren Buffett said, “If you have a strong demographic wind behind you then the company will do well even with poor management.”
The book Bold lists a lot of demographic trends that take advantage of Moore’s Law that are getting bigger. Robotics, Internet of Things, 3D printing, etc. That’s one start. Another start are companies disrupting healthcare since that is such a mess right now.
Another example: I’d rather work for Uber than a company that lends money against taxi medallions. I’d rather work for Airbnb than Marriott. I’d rather work for Tesla than GM.
You can’t ask in your interview, “when will you IPO?”
It’s unpredictable when a company will exit. A good company might wait 7-10 years before an exit. In fact, a good companyshould wait 7-10 years. Why? Because if they’re good then they are undoubtedly growing faster than the market. So they should stay private as long as possible to maximize benefits for shareholders and employees.
So try to figure out if management is ultimately interested in an exit. Some CEOs are not.
Some startups might be years away. But the good thing about working for a company that ultimately has huge margins (not just profits but margins) is that they have a lot of perks.
Just compare the chef at Google with the chef at Walmart. Hint: there IS NO chef at Walmart.
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