CINCINNATI -- What do you think about gambling? Are you willing to place a $100 bet at a blackjack table?
If so, you might want to apply for a job at a startup.
"Casinos are a gamble, and so are startups," said Zachary Green, founder of Woodlawn-based firefighter safety manufacturer MN8.
What else are startups looking for? We asked several ahead of the July 21 NewCo festival, where attendants can get a glimpse inside 98 of the region's "new economy" businesses, most of them startups.
About 1,000 people are expected to attend the one-day event, and it’s likely that many will be job-seekers.
It’s one place that Christina Misali, who helps startups with hiring for local new business advocate Cintrifuse, has been steering people who want to work for startups.
Which applicants are likely to get those jobs, and what kind of employees are local startups looking for? What’s it like to work for a startup, anyway?
Summer Crenshaw of the job-placement startup tilr.com said that she's looking for self-starters willing to help with tasks as varied as balancing the books and packaging orders.
“People who work for startups need to understand that they’re going to be wearing multiple hats,” Crenshaw said. “People who want to come in every day and do the same thing wouldn’t fit in well with startup culture.”
Most businesses seek employees who feel strongly about the business’ mission. That’s especially important for startups, because most startups are out to change the world in some way.
But it’s important for a more practical reason. Most startups can’t afford to pay as much as established businesses, so changing the world becomes part of the compensation package, so to speak.
“We can’t compete with the big companies in benefits and some of the opportunities they have,” Green said. “But what we do have is a different culture (and a desire to have fun).”
When he interviews potential employees, he said, all he’s looking for is to see if they fit into the company’s culture. He leaves the screening of skills and experience to others, he said, because entrepreneurs are horrible at hiring.
“They will hire everyone in front of them,” he said “We’re too optimistic. We love everyone.”
Startup employees can expect to work long and odd hours, but the upside is that startups often offer flexible hours and a relaxed work environment.
Attitude, flexibility and a shared vision are prerequisites for working with a startup, but an applicant also needs skills. The first hire for many startups is technical talent, someone who can do programming and run a website, Misali said.
Almost as crucial are marketing and sales people, she said. As the company grows, it will spend more on retaining its customers, she said, and will then hire customer service people.
For Green, a must is finding a chief operating officer, something that’s hard to find in the startup world. This region has those people, he said, but most of them work in well-established companies.
His job as an entrepreneur is to be the dreamer and the visionary, he said, so he needed someone who could take profit/loss responsibility and understand spreadsheets.
He’s seen lots of startups fail because the founder tried to both grow the company and run the company.
As with any other business, finding a job with a startup usually involves a lot of networking, Misali said. She encourages potential applicants to attend events put on by business accelerators such as UpTech in Covington and others listed at the #StartupCincy website.
Cintrifuse posts job openings from member companies here, and some startups post openings on AngelList. A good way to get engaged in the community and find job postings is to follow #StartupCincy on Twitter, she added.
Everyone ought to work for a startup at least once, she said, because it offers a unique opportunity to work on a project from start to implementation. “It’s rare that you see that if you work for a large company,” she said.
It’s a great opportunity to learn, especially for a young person with little to lose if the business fails, said Nancy Aichholz, executive director of Bad Girl Ventures, a local accelerator for female-owned startups.
It’s also great for those older workers, for whom money isn’t as critical, who want a change in careers and the chance to build something from the ground up, she added.
Experience working for a startup is great to have on a resume, she said, because it shows that you are forward-thinking, can solve problems and “are not put off by bumps in the road.”