← Techstars Blog
hh

Written by Tanja Lindner from Zervant

If you are a person who likes to follow rules and strict procedures, don’t even bother looking for a job in a startup. There’s nothing here for you my friend. Unless, of course, you want to see change and you want to thrive; both professionally and personally.

I’ve never intended to work for a startup.

When I moved from Austria to Finland 3 years ago, I didn’t know what I was going to do or where I wanted to work, but joining a startup was definitely low on my priority list.

As a ‘soon-to-graduate’, with work experience in the traditional ‘corporate world’, I didn’t know much about the startup-scene in the first place. But looking back, I have to say that I couldn’t be happier I’ve filled that gap in my knowledge.

I joined Zervant – a startup – 3 years ago. Zervant offers online invoicing and accounting software for sole traders and startups. We were purely running on investors’ money and had just started to see our first growth outside of the Finnish market.

We’re a tech-oriented, young and driven company that went within 2 years from 5 to 20 employees. And now we are even able to sponsor events like the Startup Weekend.

I tell you, it has been an exciting and fun ride so far.

What does it take to be part of a successful startup?

There is no secret formula to answer that. On second thoughts, there might be one actually.But before we jump to early conclusions, let’s have a look at these 5 ultimate signs you are ready to take that leap of faith and join a startup:

1.You have ideas. And you are not afraid to make them happen.

You want to create. You want to change. You want to see your ideas develop.Have you ever experienced that tingling sensation when an idea is coming up and you feel like your very being is filled with it in an instant? I know that feeling. And I love it.

When working in a startup, it’s much easier to express your ideas and to be taken seriously – after all, there are not many other people who can contribute to the success of the company. Another plus is the low hierarchy that enables you to start working on your ideas right away, before waiting to get approval from several layers of middle management.

However, it’s not all like a walk in the park. In the process of developing your dreams, you have to be ready to take on different tasks to the ones you were ‘hired’ to do. Flexibility is the key to success in any startup.

At the beginning of your startup-journey, there will be no marketing department, or customer service center – one day you’re the customer support person, the other day you’re the professional marketer pitching a deal.

The plus side is though, that while making your ideas happen, you can build your own processes and procedures too.This has been the most important aspect for me in my early professional life: Freedom to choose when and how I want to get things done.

2. You know what ignites your passion. And you simply do it.

I’m doing the marketing for invoicing and accounting software. I’m also blogging about entrepreneurship and related topics on our company’s blog. I get it, you might now be thinking: Accounting and invoicing, how boring is that? I’m not gonna lie. There are times when it gets boring. (Another article about how to do your taxes…seriously?)

However, I’m passionate about writing and marketing, so I find a way to make this topic more interesting to me. “Any topic, can be transformed into something exciting, if you have the freedom to define it yourself.” If I can transform a boring topic into something that interests me, so can you. Or even better, do it in such a way that you start loving it.

Your passion for the bigger thing, in my case it’s marketing, must be bigger than your discontent for the small steps that take you there.

Be a self-starter, be passionate and be willing to learn. That’s where the journey begins. Nobody is gonna tell you what to do or how you should do it, just do it in a way that helps you to start loving it.

3.You make mistakes. And you own them.

Are you afraid of failing? So is everyone else.

As soon as you start working on something that matters, fear will inevitably be there. And there’s no shame in admitting it.

Many times during my endless search to  do better marketing, I ‘thought’ I’d encountered the holy grail of customer acquisition. I felt that sensation (yes, that one I described earlier) and said to myself: “What an idea! This is groundbreaking!”. And many times it was indeed groundbreaking. Yes, when I hit rock bottom and realized that this “ain’t gonna work”, it shook the ground I was standing on.Hours of effort and energy gone to waste. And for what? To make it even better the next time.

“The truth is: Nobody knows how it should be done”.

You get a lot of hands-on experience and you are responsible for your actions: You do something great, you own the success. You do something not so great, you own the failure, learn from it, and move on.

Just like these guys here:

4. You actively learn. Every. Single. Day.

We all know that life is a never-ending learning process. No matter what you do, or don’t do for that matter, you learn something new every day.

But what I’m talking about here is intentional learning; a longing for knowledge, inspiration and change – that’s what the startup-spirit is all about.

Let’s have a look at these examples about problem-solving in the corporate sense and in the startup-world:

1 Corporate Charlie doesn’t know how to do something.

He will find someone to fix it for him. After all, there are so many people in his company – one of them surely knows how it’s done.The problem is solved and Corporate Charlie has learned: nothing. Or in fact, he has learned that if he’s in trouble, he will just delegate the task to someone else.

2 Startup Steve doesn’t know how to do something.

He’s still gonna do it himself. After all, there are only a handful of people working in this company, and everyone is struggling with their own challenges. He’s scouring the internet for more information on the topic, he’s experimenting with possibilities and in the end, he will tackle the problem by himself. And if not, he has learned something in the process anyway. This is how you conquer challenges in a startup.

What it means is that you think and try it yourself out, before you go and ask someone else. And it doesn’t mean that you can’t ask your colleagues for advice. Your co-workers will be happy to help you, if you have put some thought into it first.

5.You are true to yourself. And you are not afraid of experimenting.

I think it was Albert Einstein who said: “Creativity is intelligence having fun”. For me this is what working in a startup feels like.

A startup is a place for innovation, in other words, the place for those crazy ideas that the corporate world would be too afraid to pick up on.

Be true to yourself and say those ‘outer-space’ ideas out loud. They might not lead to immediate action, but they might lead to something bigger. The big plus of working in a startup is its flexibility, so changes are often happening fast. Fuel that train of change with your ideas. People are the most important asset in every company. You are the most important asset in a startup. Be self-confident and show what you’ve got.

In the end I have only one question left to answer:

What does it take to be part of a successful startup? It takes you to go and join one.

Zervant invoicing software is the proud sponsor of the Startup Weekend in Helsinki. I’ll be there too and I’ll be talking about how our company got more than 65.000 users within 5 years. I’m looking forward to talking about my experiences working in a Finnish startup.

If you have any questions that can’t wait until the startup weekend, simply drop me an email on tanja.lindner@zervant.com .


, ,


Ekaterina Perfilyeva