As job hunting season approaches, we’re getting a flurry of emails in our college inboxes. MAP Programs. Graduate studies. Corporate job at the Big 4. Perhaps you’re already on track to your dream job. Or you’re figuring things out. Or you’ve been working for a few years and want a fresh change.

So how about a startup?

Yes. That high risk venture which could fail any moment. It’s really not such a crazy idea after all. Here’s why.

Learn about everything. At a startup, you get to wear all hats. Does the monotony of doing the same thing day in and day out terrify you? Not here.

During my time at Massive Health, I was doing everything that the engineers, designers and business development people weren’t. Medical research, user experience, social media, market analysis, business development support, event coordination. And I loved it. I learnt so much from a terrific, smart, knowledgeable team of people. The same people with whom I would have been several ranks away in a corporate environment.

For a young, driven person, startups are a great opportunity to accelerate your career. There’s always more tasks to be done than people. This results in a lot of employee “stretching” – doing work that you may not be quite ready for. But you’ll have to take up the challenge, adapting efficient methods and solutions.

Culture that’s a whole different ball game. In a good way. Startup and corporate culture are worlds apart. As an early stage employee, you’re working with a small group of people in a dynamic, fast-paced environment. You’ll be in the room for an extended period of time. You really have to like each other. So make sure before you sign the dotted line, that you’re not only in love and obsessed with the product, but equally in love with the team.

Love being independent? You won’t have someone breathing over your neck to tell you to do something their way. Your boss is not going to have the time to do so anyway. You have to pull your own weight, and take the initiative to execute and problem solve through trial and error, finding your sweet spot that propels the team forward.

Meritocracy is our mantra in Singapore. And guess what, the same goes for startups too. There’s no such thing as not being credible just because you’re too young or you don’t have experience. Have an idea about how to increase user acquisition through social media? Try it out. A/B test. Doesn’t work? Tweak your method and try again. Having everyone on the same page means that you get a myriad of perspectives and often a better idea.

Passion — that burning desire to change the world.

Imagine being stuck with a project that literally makes you want to bang your head against the table every time you look at it. It’s not fun for you, or that large company that hired you.

At a startup, you’ll get to work on what you’re passionate about. The thrill of growing a product from a few hundred users to thousands or millions around the world. Everyone has ideas. But ideas are worthless without execution. Whoever executes the best (and hopefully fastest) wins. That’s what you’re there for.

How about the money? Yes, there’s some talk about money if a startup can make a huge exit. And yes, having stock makes it in your interest to work hard and do everything you can to have the product succeed. But given that only 1% of startups succeed with a sizeable exit, the chances are small. You aren’t getting the short end of a stick at a startup though, as most startups can pay competitive salaries. As Mark Suster writes, “Learn now, to earn later.”

I’ll leave off with the words of Paul Graham. “Think of startup years like dog years. Economically, you can think of a startup as a way to compress your whole working life into a few years. Instead of working at a low intensity for 40 years, you work as hard as you possibly can for four. This is the best way to learn.”

Want to know more about making a difference as an early employee? Or looking for the perfect someone to add to your team?

Come join us today at our first StartupRojak: Pioneer Employees 101! A new fortnightly meetup, today’s session will feature panelists who will discuss their experience as early employees and the entrepreneurship scene in Singapore. Founders from 30 of Red Dot’s portfolio companies as well as other actively hiring startups will be there to mingle and network. RSVP on Facebook or our Eventbrite page. We’re looking forward to talking!


  • Date: Feb 7, Thursday
  • Venue: *SCAPE
  • Hubquarter, Level 4
  • 2 Orchard Link
  • Time: 6-9pm

About the Author

Cassandra Leong is the ex-community manager at a Silicon Valley startup Massive Health. She thinks the valley is awesome, but is even more excited to be back in Singapore and getting her hands dirty in the entrepreneurship scene as an Associate at Red Dot Ventures. Follow her at @cassandra_leong where she tweets about what she loves – community, healthcare, tech and of course, delicious food.

About Red Dot Ventures

Red Dot Ventures is a Singapore-based technology incubator focusing on high-tech startups in areas including Infocomm Technology, Interactive Digital Media, Medical Technology, Environment Technology and Engineering. Follow us @RedDotVC and join the conversation.