Startups are infant companies and as such, they have a high mortality rate. Therefore, as a startup employee, you can expect even more chaotic working dynamics than in a corporation. Usually, startups work in the Business-to-Customer (B2C) model, Business-to-Business (B2B) model, or Business-to-Government (B2G) model. The amount of associated chaos in the startup also depends on which of these three business models that the startup represents.
Business-to-Customer (B2C) means providing products and services straight to the private individuals. These can be, e.g., online social media platforms, online stores, or other online services that attract individuals who spend their private time and money. In that case, a startup sells products and services with a low retail price and at low customer-acquisition costs.
Therefore, to become profitable, they need to acquire as many clients as possible and make the clients happy—but at the same time, their overall success doesn’t rely on any particular client. So, they closely monitor the growth curve, and are occupied with improving on both the product and the marketing strategy to make sure that the number of users, and therefore also the company revenue, gradually grows.
The typical workflow in such startups is setting weekly targets and trying to reach the expected inflation in the number of active users week by week. If it turns out that the current marketing strategy doesn’t lead to the reaching the targets, it might also mean rapid structural, personal, or procedural changes to the company—hence, the constant uncertainty and chaos.
On the contrary, a startup working in the Business-to-Business (B2B) model provides services to businesses. In this scenario, the company depends on a few core clients—and sometimes, even on a single client. It means that the dynamics within the company is hardly ever stable, as the life within the company pivots around the deadlines established by the client. As the popular proverb says, the client is the king—therefore, whenever the client expect some last-minute amendments, they should be delivered asap.
Lastly, startups working in the Business-to-Government (B2G) model usually have the most stable dynamics. It is because governmental organizations are loyal: they usually keep on working with the same subcontractors for years. They also usually have well-defined deliverables, thus, there are less surprises and last-minute changes to the plan then while working with companies. However, the B2G model is rarely represented by startups as it is rarely scalable.
In either case, while working for a startup, you can also expect that investors and other stakeholders of the startup might interfere with the roadmap at any stage as they also have their say in how the company should further develop. Therefore, the plans might rapidly change in the process.
One thing to mention is that, the extent to which your startup life can be unstable strongly depends on where in the world the startup is based. If you find yourself in one of the sacred temples of entrepreneurship such as the Silicon Valley in the US, or Bangalore in India, you can expect a high tempo of work and fast dynamics within the company. In those epicenters of startup culture, there are herds of dreamers obsessed with the idea to create yet another bigger-than-life project that will change the world. So, if you decide to work them, it might be the case that they won’t treat your free time with too much respect.
For comparison, in Western Europe, it is often the case that working hours in a startup resemble the proverbial 9-to-5, and employees stand their ground in that respect. Therefore, please take into an account that the dynamics of the startup life will highly depend on where the startup is based, and according to which school of thought is was created.