How To Pick The Right Start-Up For YOU!

In this fast-growing market, it's hard to differentiate between all the start-ups; particularly in London where there are an abundance of start-ups to choose from. For me, the most important question when choosing the next step in your career is this: 'where do I want to make an impact?'

I have the pleasure of working with some on London’s hottest start-ups and we are increasingly looking to build our network and provide a greater offering of start-up opportunities to our candidates. I make a point of immersing myself in the market; attending technology events, start-up presentations, and as part of my efforts for She Can Code, I am increasingly involved in contributing to the solution of the lack of women in technology.

Through all of this I have become more inspired by the people and companies I have met, and I see huge potential in London’s tech community to contribute to this wave of innovation and really make an impact on the world and people’s lives. I wanted to share a bit of what I have learnt with you and also offer some friendly advice from a recruitment perspective.

VC investment in tech start-ups in London is going from strength the strength, taking almost all of the VC money in the UK. Tech start-ups in London have raised £1.3 billion in 2015, compared to £100 million in 2010. London’s technology sector is maturing as one of the world’s leading tech hubs.

“We are now starting to see more later-stage investments which support the scaling of more London tech businesses.” — Eileen Burbridge, Partner at Passion Capital

There are an abundance of opportunities available and a huge pool of start-ups to choose from. For example, there are 3,228 tech firms for ever square kilometer within Shoreditch’s EC1 postcode. For an entrepreneurial individual who wants to take ownership of their work and make a real impact at a company that has huge potential, then the right start-up is a very exciting place to be!

So…where do we begin?

Passion. You need a product or vision that you can really get behind. Start-ups can be a chaotic place to work — you will not have a corporate hierarchy to guide you. Self- management and self-motivation are of utmost importance. You need to be able to find identity in the company you are working for in order to truly reap the benefits.

Growth. You want to join a growing start-up in a growing sector. FinTech, for one, has given London’s digital sector a global platform to showcase the city’s unique skills and innovation. FinTech companies such as TransferWise, WorldRemit, and Funding Circle raised large funding rounds that gave them valuations in excess of $1 billion (£652 million). E-commerce start-ups have shined in terms of investment over the past 3 months. The next generation of tech ‘unicorns’ will focus on areas such as retail, security, food, AdTech, and CleanTech, according to The Tech London Advocates group.

Why is growth so important to you? Because scaling challenges present really interesting work and it’s an exciting thing to be a part of. Look at the amount of funding the company has received and how they’re investing it. Start-ups need money to innovate, to grow and to succeed.

Team. When you are interviewing with a company it’s a two-way conversation. As much as they are assessing your suitability for the role, company and culture, you need to be assessing whether these are people you can work with, people who will motivate and inspire you, and people who you can learn from.

You. What are you bringing to the table? What are your strengths, how do they fit with this company and with these people and where are they going to be put to their most productive use? More than making an impact, you want to be able to influence the direction of the company. One of my favourite interview questions that highlights this is: "what is your superpower?". And follow up question: "how is that different from other people who have the same power?"

Get a great recruiter! It’s a competitive market out there — London is home to more software developers than anywhere else in the world. I know there are tons of bad recruiters out there but the right recruiter can make all the difference. The right recruiter knows the market, knows the companies, gets to know you, and will give you thorough, honest and professional advice regarding the options available to you, high and low value skills, what to expect in the process, how to prepare for interviews, and advice on salary negotiations.

My final thought is this: start-ups aren’t for everyone. For someone who likes hierarchy, order, a clear progression path and close management, then a start-up probably isn’t right fit. You need to be able to create order through disorder. You need to relish ambiguity, not fear it. I truly believe that the right start-up is the best opportunity for a performance-driven, passionate individual to really grow, learn and prosper, but you will more likely than not be thrown in the deep end a little and you will make mistakes. If you're ready for the challenge my advice is this: fail fast! Take everything in your stride. And enjoy the ride.