How to evaluate a startup job before joining

Deciding to take up a startup job is confusing, even for seasoned professionals. There is limited information available about startups and the popular opinions are often subjective and based on the media hype. Result – many people either join a wrong startup or skipping a very promising one.

As an example, let’s say these two startups have offered you jobs:

  • FashionNext, a hot new fashion startup that has not raised funding yet.
  • TalkNow, VC backed SaaS startup with 25,000 app downloads

TalkNow looks like a better choice – after all it’s VC backed and also has some visible traction. But what if I told that the FashionNext is started by seasoned Myntra employees and is soon to raise a seed round from a marquee set of investors such as Ratan Tata & Flipkart founders?

You might be reconsidering now. But wait, here’s another fact – the team at TalkNow have an IIT/Stanford background and had sold their previous company for $25M.

Confused which one should you join? There isn’t a clear answer, but here is a model we have developed at CutShort that might help you decide.

Finding the unknown: How risky is the startup?

Let me be clear – predicting which startup will be more successful is extremely difficult. Even seasoned investors get it wrong 9 out of 10 times.

But as a potential employee, your goal is NOT to pick the next unicorn. It is to find the best startup job that offers you the right career opportunity at the lowest risk possible.You know what you’d be investing (your time & energy) and what would be the rewards (new job role, compensation, stock options et al.). What you don’t know is how much risky the startup is. Will it survive, and flourish, in the coming years? Or will it be another one to fire/lay off people or just shut down completely?

Determining that risk with certainty is difficult. But we at CutShort have developed a model to guesstimate this risk. It is based on our learning within the overall startup ecosystem in India and abroad. (It is still evolving, so please let me know your suggestions below).

The Startup Risk Calculation Model

This needs you to do some unbiased, objective research on the startup. The model simply involves giving risk scores to the startup along these dimensions.

The Stage Risk

Is the startup at an idea stage or has a working product with paying users?

The earlier the stage, there are simply more things that can go wrong. The idea might not work or be difficult to execute, the team might break apart or that committed funding may never hit your bank.

Depending on the stage of the startup, give these risk scores:

startup job - stage

The Team Risk

Having IITians or ex-Google, ex-Paytm OR ex-XYZ  is NOT always equal to having a strong team.

The strength of the team depends on the context of the startup. You need to figure out – what does the success of the startup most depend on? Is it the ability to build the complex piece of technology (like building Alexa or Siri)? Or it’s about putting together the entire value chain to solve the problem at scale (like Amazon)? Or it will come down to securing massive funding to beat out the competition (like Flipkart)? Ask the startup this question and discuss with your friends/well wishers at other startups.

Once you know the main challenge, the core team at the startup should have the necessary skills/experience to counter that. Brand names may not matter there – a team of IITians faced with the primary challenge of striking big partnerships may not look like a winning team anymore.

startup job - team

The Financial Risk

99% of startups fail due to running out of money.

Beyond the initial funds put in by the founders, more money either comes from the revenues or external funding. You need to understand from the startup:

  1. What is their next financial milestone – securing (more) funding or become operationally profitable?
  2. What is the expected time frame to reach that milestone?
  3. How much money they have as “cash in bank”, not “expected money”.

I know – you might feel a bit uncomfortable asking these questions. But asking them have two extra benefits. First, great startups actually love candidates who are serious about their careers and are not afraid to ask the right questions. Second,  the startups that don’t handle these questions confidently are either not well prepared or not transparent enough and should be avoided.

A caveat though – apply your own discretion while trusting the information shared by the startups. Startups often underestimate the challenges in reaching either of the milestones – funding or getting profitable. Investors typically look for proven traction (and nowadays – even unit economics!). Getting profitable is even harder – you need to have the full product + marketing + sales + operations.

Once you have more clarity, you need to estimate the runway the startup has before it runs out of the money it has in the bank.


So should you join that startup?

Simply add the above 3 risk scores to find the overall risk score of a startup:

Startup Risk Score = The Stage Risk + The Team Risk + The Financial Risk

Congratulations, now you have some idea of the risk. But a high risk startup is not necessarily bad for everyone. Depending on your risk appetite, the current situation and career preferences, you may prefer taking more risk to get higher rewards. In fact, founders/entrepreneurs are an extreme example of such an employee!

To decide whether you should take up that startup job, use this table:

evaluate startup job - final decision

Hope this model will help you select the right startup job and while avoiding the ones that don’t fit.

The factors and numbers used in this model are evolving, so would love to hear your suggestions & thoughts on how we can improve it further.

All the best!

Top skills startups are hiring for in 2015

You are cruising along, and then technology changes. You have to adapt.

-Marc Andreessen

This is true for everyone, but more so for “techies” like us. For us, failing to upgrade our skills can significantly impact our career growth.

So what skills you should be working on? To help our users decide, we dug into data on our platform to see what skills startups are hiring for. And we got this infographic:

[infogram id=”tech_hiring_in_startups_2015″ prefix=”M2o”]

So what skills are you going to work on?

Join the rocketship: The premium startup hiring event in Pune

If you’re offered a seat on a rocket ship, don’t ask what seat. Just get on!

-Sheryl Sandberg, COO, Facebook

Sheryl Sandberg said this while explaining why did she join a new startup in 2001. Wise choice since that startup went on the rule the world and became a verb in itself – Google!

The challenge is how to know if a startup is a “rocket ship”? Nobody can be sure, but we can try.



“Join the Rocketship” – an online event to meet the premium startups in Pune

To help you identify your “rocket ship”, we are bringing top 25 tech startups in Pune that are growing fast and looking for the right talent. If you are fascinated with startups and want to know which ones can be a great fit, don’t miss this online event on 16th September 2015.

Why participate?

  1. Discover and get found by 25 hand-picked “rocketship” product startups
  2. Get upfront salary (with equity %) and profile details from interested startups
  3. Get the final offer within a week
  4. Get hired and earn INR 10,000 bonus from SocialHelpouts + a free T-shirt!

Since this is a premium event, we only have limited seats. Save your spot now!

Questions? Let us know at


Startup Upclose: RainingClouds Technologies

About “Startup Upclose” series: With every other startup claiming to have “passionate founders/awesome culture/great traction/$$$ market size”, it is incredibly difficult to decide which should one join. Our attempt is to bring out the unique personality of each startup so that people can easily visualize what it will be like working in them. Suggestions welcome!

We are kicking off this series with one of the better known Android startups in India.

Company: RainingClouds Technologies. (Earlier: AppSurfer)

Established: 2011.  Funding Stage: Seed   Team Size: 1-10

Area: Mobile Apps, Gaming, Hardware, Home media, Streaming

Technology Stack: Golang, Java, Xcode, Swift, Android, iOS


History: Their first product was AppSurfer, an app discovery and evaluation platform. This innovative idea landed them a global recognition (Techcrunched , YourStory, NextBigWhatAgain Techcrunched  ).

What they’re working on now: Their upcoming next product is Twist,  a high-end portable USB device (think Chromecast on steroids) that lets you enjoy highly engaging mobile games on your TV using your Android phone. You can even stream you local media files to your TV (something that Chromecast can’t do easily). See the guys having fun with it here:

Culture: So now on to the really subjective part. The team is closely knit, obviously smart (how else you can think and build an innovative product like AppSurfer) and is really really down-to-earth. They work from a great cozy duplex house in Baner, Pune where a TT table greets you as soon as you enter. To summarize in one line – it’s fun to be in their company – we have always spent more time in their office than we originally planned for. 🙂 Check the team out on Twitter to see what keeps them ticking: @aniketawati @akshay_deo @itamit.

Trivia: A good first hand account of their whole journey:

Found RainingClouds interesting? If you want to join the team, Get introduced to them via your friends using SocialHelpouts: . (Hiree) reviews: Love it or hate it, but you can’t ignore it

(Update: This post was written before MyNoticePeriod was rebranded to Although the name has changed, finding people on “notice period”, which is the theme of this post, remains one of their core USPs.)

So after creating a lot of awareness with its unique solution recently, MyNoticePeriod has stirred up some hot reactions online. Some call it “unethical”, some “a new hiring nuisance” and some go to the extent of calling it a “scam”. Strong emotions!

Here are our comments on these reviews:

  • MyNoticePeriod actually makes sense: It promises solutions to a real problem. Employers can find serious job seekers who’re ready to join within the right time and budget limits. Job seekers too can find better job offers while serving their long and boring notice periods. Smells like a win-win!


  • Ethical or not? It is debatable : Are candidates “required” to join an employer if they accept the employment offers? Whatever be the theory, it’s an open secret that many candidates today keep searching until they actually join the employer. Many employers, in turn, plan for this situation and roll out multiple offers to candidates thus making the problem worse. So the concern really is that MyNoticePeriod is aiming to make this practice much more organized and will encourage more candidates to “betray” employers they have accepted offers from.

To those employers concerned with this – the real problem is with long notice periods in first place. Forcing leaving employees to work for 60, sometimes even 90, days is a plain terrible idea. It doesn’t help you, it doesn’t help the employee and it definitely doesn’t help the industry as a whole. Until you change that, services like MyNoticePeriod will try to plug in the gap in the market.

BTW, are you hiring or looking for job? Experience a fresh way to find jobs via your trusted network –