Alexander Lynn, who recently joined early-stage VC fund Real Ventures, is putting together a free community event called Breaking into Startups, targeted at young hopefuls with entrepreneurial drive who wish to join local Montréal startups.
The event is Tuesday Aug. 5th from 5 to 9pm and you should definitively join if you are interested in startups, or wish to meet the good folks from Busbud, Frank & Oak or PasswordBox. it’s nearly sold out, but you can still RSVP with this special link for NewTech readers
Having this kind of event questions the state of startup employement in Montréal. How do you exactly join startups? There isn’t exactly a process so to speak, and we’re eager to discuss with Alex Lynn the matter. The discussion was meant to get insights, for current and future job seekers. Here we go:
NewTech: Hi Alexander, can you present yourself, what motivates you in the startup world, and what organization you represent?
Hi I’m Alex Lynn, Director of special projects at Real Ventures - Canada’s largest and most active seed stage venture fund.
I stumbled into venture capital at a pretty exciting time in it’s life. The industry is living through structural changes that are redefining the rules of the game, all while making it easier for entrepreneurs to build better businesses. It’s a pretty exciting thing to awake to every day. On the one hand I get to see the future before it fully materializes and on the other I get to help people bring it about.
NewTech: You are organizing an event titled “Breaking into startups”. Does that mean entering startups is difficult, if not impossible?
Getting a job in a startup has never been easy - largely because founders are extremely careful about their first hires (since mistakes can literally cost them their company). But the high ceiling to entry is not the real problem. Great jobs across all industries have always been hard to get. The problem we’re faced with here is actually one of supply. There remains too few people that are choosing startups as their career path. The world doesn’t have a scarcity of smart people, it has a scarcity of smart people that are willing to take on the risks that come with startups. Events like ‘Breaking Into Startups’ wont single-handedly solve this problem, but they’ll shed light on the issue & deepen the conversation. Eventually all these incremental steps will add up into materiel change.
NewTech: What are the main differences between working for a large profitable company and a startup? Can you tell us of examples or stories you’ve encountered illustrating this?
The biggest differences have to do with speed and responsibility. Traditional top down management structures make for environments in which a person’s ability to do something is directly linked to his/her ability to get permission for it. Unfortunately, this means change can only materialize as quickly as the chain of command’s ability to assimilate it.
In startups, the organizational constraints are quite different. Change doesn’t happen from the top down, but rather from the bottom up. At the earliest of stages, no one is there to tell you how to do your job. This means your ability to have an impact is directly dependent on your ability to take initiative.
Facebook’s infamous motto: “move fast and break things” perfectly encapsulates this idea. On the one hand, it says: ‘let’s move quicker than our competition’ and on the other it says: ‘the only way you’ll move quicker is by taking matters into your own hands and conquering the fear that you might be wrong’. It’s obviously done wonders for them.
NewTech: Working for startups involves long hours, stress, precarity, mixing personal and professional life, without necessarily getting equity or compensation like the salaries you get when you work for Morgan Stanley. Why would any sane student or talented person want to work for a startup?
For the sheer feeling of purposefulness that comes from making a dent in the universe.
Working in a startup is to acknowledge that the world is malleable. It’s to acknowledge that everything that surrounds us was built by people just like us. It’s to acknowledge that the future remains to be built.
Our time on earth is counted and the way we spend it is important. Most of our lives are spent living in systems that were built by others in the past, and it’s inspiring to think that some of us - those of us that choose - get to build the systems that others will depend on in the future. That’s what startups are about. Creating the future. From scratch.
NewTech: Let’s say I’m interested in working for a startup. How do I get prepared for this? How do you recommend approaching a startup so as to maximize chances?
The primary thing to remember is that startups are resource constrained organizations. Any person they bring onboard literally closes the door to somebody else. As such, hiring anybody that isn’t essential simply becomes out of the question.
If you’re thinking of joining a startup, make sure you spend significant time thinking about what you bring to the table and why this matters to the company. If you aren’t able to communicate this in a clear way, you simply won’t make the cut. Remember, you’re either essential or you aren’t. It’s a binary outcome.
If I’m currently in school or university, what do you recommend me to study or do so I can be qualified for a startup later on?
People often confuse schooling for education. It’s important to remember that schooling is a means by which one obtains an education, but not the only means to do so. One’s ability to join a startup has little to do with what one studied in school and everything to do with the skills one chooses to develop along the way.
If you have discipline and work ethic, you can pick-up any technical discipline on your own. In fact, the web has probably become the best possible place to do so. It just requires you put in the time. More importantly, this means that for the first time in history, what you choose to do in school comes at little cost to your career.
For those of you that are diligent, this is great news. It means your choices are wide open and you can choose to study subjects that’ll help you develop skills that are hard to pick up on your own: like critical thought. You’d get this by pursuing any humanities degree for instance.
If you’re not very disciplined, things become trickier. At this point, your schooling and education are very likely to be one and the same thing (and your choice becomes a lot more important as it’ll dictate your possible futures). As such, I recommend you think long and hard about which industry you want to join and reverse engineer the most direct path to it.
NewTech : Thanks Alex. For all, the link to RSVP is here.