What is this industry?

  • An industry that encompasses all industries. Startups are generally referred to by stage of funding- early-stage (also known as seed stage), Series A/B, and beyond. An early-stage startup might be just the founder(s) and might be self-funded (“bootstrapped”). A later (Series B and beyond) startup might have upwards of 50-100 employees. There’s debate on when a company grows to the point that it is no longer considered a startup, though most can agree that while Lyft and Airbnb started out as scrappy startups they are now full-fledged corporations.  
  • You can view this industry as either a startup employee or entrepreneur. 

What is a “day in the life”?

  • Varies widely by industry and role, but be ready to do anything and everything especially in an early-stage startup.
  • As a founder, your time in the early days will be mostly spent on customer & product development, and as the team grows your time will increasingly be spent on HR, PR, and fundraising/investor relations.

Where do I start? How do I know which startup is right for me?

Resources for learning about this industry

  • TechCrunch – good site for knowing what’s happening in the startup space, who’s raised rounds recently 
  • Fave startup podcasts: How I Built This, Masters of Scale, Equity by TechCrunch
  • Crunchbase
  • Attend local pitch competitions to meet founders, teams, mentors, and the community!

Typical industry entry process

  • There is no “typical path” into entrepreneurship/startup life. Some former consultants become entrepreneurs after encountering a problem that they see a need to be solved. Some want to work on something exciting and new and join a budding startup. Some see issues in the industry that they are in that they want to build a solution to solve.
  • The key here is to find a problem you’re passionate about solving, whether you want to join a startup or found a startup.

Typical career trajectory

Many entrepreneurs will go into the investing side and join a VC firm post-exit. Team members can go on to build their own startups, or join a new team and help build another one. Some will also go down the VC route.


  • The saying in the industry goes: “all you need is one good exit.” Some entrepreneurs are considered “serial entrepreneurs” and build multiple companies over the course of their career, which means they have multiple exits.
  •  Many believe that joining or founding a startup is a great way to strike it rich. In reality, there are only two main ways startup equity will be worth anything: an acquisition or going public (IPO). Many startups fall apart, or some just keep growing without plans to go public, which means employees won’t get to cash in their equity.
  • Startup employee equity is usually structured on a four year vesting schedule with a one-year cliff, which means that your shares of stock will become yours over the course of four years and if you leave within a year you get nothing.

Typical challenges in this industry – and how to deal with them

  • Startup life is not for everyone. It’s way more than just a job. Even as an employee, you will have to deal with lack of resources, wearing many hats, and often long hours. Depending on the stage of the startup, there are likely few systems and processes in place, or those systems are in the process of building built and there is often a lot of ambiguity and organized chaos.
  • It is hard to overstate how challenging becoming an entrepreneur is. Entrepreneurs have to navigate multitudes of unforeseen challenges and setbacks and pick themselves back up to keep going. But, in the end, founders get to build something they’re passionate about and make an impact on the world.

Companies to know in the industry

  • Well-known VC firms – Sequoia Capital, Andreessen Horowitz
  • Top accelerators: Y Combinator, TechStars, 500 Startups, MassChallenge

On-Campus resources related to industry