The culture and pay structure are obviously different from a regular corporation’s; they use terms like “pivoting”, “sprint” (project) and “10x”; and they love to “disrupt” the status quo. These seven women laid it out on the table for us - being in a start-up is not as easy as it seems.
Tan Peck Ying, co-founder of PS Love (which specialises in feminine pain relief and period tracking)
"Embrace challenges and own what you do"
“Having your priorities and goals laid out beforehand will help you cope. Be prepared to make sacrifices. Most importantly, you have to trust your team. Start-ups face all sorts of problems. For us, trying to get our first retail partner on board was the hardest.
It was extremely demoralising when no one believed in our product, but the rejection helped us understand consumer needs.
In a start-up, every individual is able to contribute and make a larger impact. Most start-up teams rally around a common goal and are always seeking growth. The employees are on the same page as their bosses.”
Gillian Tee, co-founder of Homage (it provides personalised home and nursing care for the elderly)
"Don’t rush into a start-up because of the media hype; look into what needs to be done"
“Focusing too much on the image of owning a start-up has led to complete ignorance of the fundamentals of building a business today.
I always urge aspiring technology entrepreneurs to learn more about what a start-up involves instead of rushing to attend conferences and raising millions of venture capital dollars.
They need to figure out the problem they’re looking to solve with their company’s service, and if it’s worthwhile to devote a good part of their life to the business.
At a start-up, speed is your competitive advantage.
Business decisions, launches, operations and product initiatives have to be made directly to market within weekly (if not daily) cycles. You’ll often find yourself making a faster and more immediate and significant impact on the company.”
Cynthia Siantar, co-founder of Call Levels (which provides market monitoring services for investors globally
"Be prepared to build everything from scratch"
“Running a startup means facing multiple ‘life or death’ challenges regularly. Not being able to raise enough funds, losing key hires from an already lean team and not being able to clinch a really important strategic partnership are common issues.
Realistically, it isn’t a path that’s suitable for everyone.
Before jumping right into it, understand where your baseline is. For example, how much of your savings are you willing to burn through without ever getting it back? And give yourself a time limit. If it doesn’t work out, there’s no shame in going back to a more stable option.”
Claire Yap, business administration manager at Qourier (a local logistics service that connects you to hundreds of international couriers)
"Have faith in the product or service you’re providing"
“In a corporation, there may be more red tape and the challenge of reaching consensus than in a startup company. As start-ups are more focused on long-term rewards, they may not be able to match the salaries offered by regular corporations. So your pay shouldn’t be the No. 1 priority if you want to join a start-up.”
Shannon Kalayanamitr, venture partner at Gobi Partners (the first Chinese venture capital firm to expand into Asean)
"Start-ups are lean, and everything moves quickly'
“Going head-on into a start up means that you have to be ready to for setbacks. Always have a plan B (or C), and if you fail at something, come back from it quickly.
Fit in time each day that is meant just for you – at least an hour a day. Sometimes, you get swept away in other people’s needs and wants, and forget why you started the business or what problem you are truly solving.
You need to be open and fluid because start-ups are lean and quick. It’s in a start-up that you will most often be doing something outside of the job description (if there is even one). Just have fun – if you’re not having fun, then you might not be in the right job.”
Krystal Choo, founder of Tickle (her app lets you book and host unique lifestyle experiences)
"The aim, process and power of the whole team must be singularly aligned"
“While every company has its own DNA, I believe the start-up and large corporation cultures contrast most in terms of personal impact and focus. Start-ups are timecritical, so a lot has to be accomplished by every single person.
This creates a palpable sense of urgency and responsibility in each individual. The individual impact is immense.
At Tickle, we aim to financially empower people who host experiences and also empower guests – it’s a platform for them to push their boundaries.
The potential for societal impact is exhilarating. Because a start-up is lean, an unswerving focus is extremely important.
The aim, process and power of the whole team must be singularly aligned.
I think that in large corporations, there is more dilution and multiple cross-functional objectives, so you’re coasting a bit more, moving different things forward simultaneously, but at a slower rate collectively.”
Clara Low, marketing manager at Qourier
"Get ready to get your hands dirty'
“Being in a start-up means having to wear multiple hats.
If you are assigned to the marketing department, be prepared to handle bits of business development, operations and what not. This is where growth opportunity lies.
You get to experience challenges firsthand and propose solutions that can directly impact the business – and that’s what creates a sense of satisfaction.
The millennials who seek instant gratification seem to love start-ups for this particular reason.”
This was first published in the magazine's February issue.