Is the company you’re interviewing with a “startup,” or a “scaleup?” While some business writers may use the terms interchangeably, there are essential differences between startups and scaleups regarding structure, culture, and funding. Understanding these differences can help you decide which sort of company you want to work for, or to run.
Startups: Move Fast, Try New Things, Wear Many Hats
A startup is a young company, typically either bootstrapped or funded by a Seed or Series A Round. In most cases, it is still experimenting with its product-market fit, leaving open its option to iterate or even pivot if its current plans don’t pan out as anticipated.
The office culture of startup companies tends to be fast-paced, frenetic, creative and fun if a bit intense and unpredictable. Likewise, their corporate structures can be nebulous and improvisational as an “all hands on deck” mindset takes on shifting arrays of responsibilities to solve problems in real time.
Startups often use growth hacking, guerilla marketing, and other unorthodox tactics to find customers and spread their word. The heroes of the microprocessor revolution, the dot-com boom of the 1990s, and the current wave of Silicon Valley tech billionaires exert a substantial influence on the startup world, and their risk-taking ethos drives its innovative and hearty frontier spirit.
When a startup has established a place in the market, along with its culture and plans, it may be ready to begin the transition into a scaleup.
Scaleups: Responsible Growth and Maturity in Mind
Compared to startups, scaleups have moved beyond a minimum viable product and have established a reliable product-market fit. They can provide more clarity and security, which makes them more appealing to conservative investors.
In general, scaleups more closely reflect the values of the traditional corporate world. Their role models are long-time business and industry leaders with decades of history and persistence through ups and downs. This suits their status as more mature and well-defined entities.
In the world of scaleups, job responsibilities are more defined, corporate hierarchies are more concrete, and onboarding processes are more gradual and deliberate. Since scaleups already have a definite and established sense of their value, they tend to be more risk-averse. Investors, employees, and customers have different expectations of a scaleup – so there’s more to lose by playing fast and loose and more to gain by playing it safe.
Which Is Right For You?
If you’re a generalist, enjoy working at a fast pace, want to be on the leading, bleeding edge of technology, business, and culture – and you’re willing to sacrifice some security and stability – you may consider working with a startup. If you find one aligned with your values, the startup life may give you the satisfaction and stimulation you crave.
If you are more risk-averse and personally conservative, or you have additional responsibilities outside your professional life and want more life/work balance a scaleup may provide you a more calm and structured environment in which to apply and develop your specific skills.
Here at Artisan Creative, we join forces with creative professionals and clients at all stages and know the secrets to building the right team or career to exceed your expectations. Contact us today to learn more.
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