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  • Writer's pictureEmmanuel White

What is the Startup Mentality?

Updated: Jun 26, 2022

In our years of recruiting for startups and corporations, we have met numerous candidates who come from corporate backgrounds assessing their ability to fit into a startup. Their doubts are not unfounded: startups are notorious for their flexibility and lower stability, as compared to large corporations. However, there are still many benefits in joining a growing startup. Our candidates who decided to join startups have stated that seeking to make a difference in a company and having passion for their career as their main motivators for making the switch. Startups think and work differently. Passionate, spontaneous, and innovative, a small team led by an inspiring leader can move more than a department of employees in a corporation. Despite operating on lean resources and budgets, start-ups manage to succeed and thrive.

Working with startup founders in recruitment, we’ve learnt that they’re looking for talent with a startup mentality. Do you have what it takes to work in a startup? We’ve broken down the key elements of the foundry mindset we often find in a startup:

  1. Passion As A Common Ground

Startups are built on passion. They’re formed around an idea or product that the founders and early employees believe in and painstakingly developed over time. Often this idea or product is borne of a side project or passion project that evolved into a full-fledged business. Everyone at the company believes in the mission and is passionate about sharing it with the masses. This passion drives the company to take the initiative and take matters into their own hands and there is a little chance for a team member to slack off and take the back seat with their work.

1. Leadership Based On Vision

The founders are the soul of a startup. Passionate, determined and driven to bring their product to the rest of the world.. Their intense and driven mentality lends itself to curating a group of employees that are passionate about the collective vision. With effective organizational skills and adequate resources, the founders can inspire and encourage their team to work towards their common vision. There’s no need to micromanage employees when the team is composed of autonomous individuals working toward executing their shared vision and goal. Delivering a business plan requires good execution by a team that shares the leadership’s vision for the company.

2. Innovation

Startups understand that mistakes happen. When issues arise, they quickly embrace the mistakes and the team moves quickly to address the problems, provide solutions, and implement changes. Staying agile and coming out with solutions to address the situation is necessary. Startups know that innovation is key is survival. Leading the way in innovation could mean they will inevitably run into roadblocks along the way, but the fear of mistakes does not deter them.

3. Flexibility and Spontaneity vs. Process and Control

Startups are reactive companies. The advantage of smaller teams and flat management hierarchies is that the response and problem-solving time are greatly reduced. Teams quickly resolve their issues and adapt to new situations efficiently. A flexible workplace fosters a sense of trust amongst the team, resulting in more efficient and productive employees. WIthout large teams to assess and execute plans, everyone needs to be hands-on on their projects and problems to make things work.

4. An Open and collaborative environment

Being a team player is necessary for a startup. Startup teams require constant ideation and collaborative work and everyone’s opinion counts. In a small team with tight resources, everyone will need to do a little bit of everything and take on tasks not spelt out in their job descriptions. Startup employees have to be ready and willing to jump in wherever needed—even if that means taking on a task they’ve never attempted before. A company where everyone actively participates and works together boosts productivity and morale.

5. Pace and Timeframe

Once a startup starts raising money with an investor, the race to start delivering key milestones to reach the stage of the foundry immediately begins. Hence, the proper execution of the business plan is key to smoothly passing those milestones and avoiding any cash flow distress. Phasing is key in building startup teams as it depends on product/service developments, resources, and product/market fit. After team building, startups will focus on retaining their employees with limited resources.

6. Risk Assessment

Many talents we speak to consider the idea of working at a startup with a sense of trepidation. That is not an unfound concern: startups may struggle and fail like many new businesses. However, the failure of the business will not jeopardise your long term career development. Your achievements and experience from working at a startup will be invaluable and increase your attractiveness to prospective employers. Companies will always appreciate risk-taking and entrepreneur attitudes. Plus, your experience in dealing with lean resources and handling different situations only adds to your skillset hence playing a part in growing your career.

Are startups right for you? Consider the DNA of the startups and their culture and think about whether it aligns with your objectives in terms of achievements, career goals and working style. Learn to access your ability to work in an agile environment such as a startup. The make-it-happen attitude may be daunting to some, but individuals who possess the start-up mentality will make a difference in their company and boost their career growth.


Thinking about your next career move? WeLinkTalent is a human capital consultancy specialising in executive search and startup recruitment. View our current job opportunities here or follow us on LinkedIn.

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