Stereotypes of a Startup: Facts or Fiction?

When you think of a startup, what and who do you think of? Is it the cast of The Social Network? Or that one guy from your university rowing team? Perhaps you imagine a ping pong table or two. Although such characters do exist, they aren’t the majority nor the monopoly.

[Startups aren’t just for the guy who watched the Wolf of Wall Street one too many times. Source: James Devaney/WireImage ]

Startups aren’t just filled with people who repeat that pen selling scene from the Wolf of Wall Street (you know what I’m talking about). In this blog post, I’m going to debunk some startup stereotypes – and confirm some too.

Stereotypes that are false

1. Startups only offer tech jobs

Some startups seem very techy, and some of them are. In fact, being tech-savvy is quite important in this day and age. Yet, like any other business, you can’t survive on tech alone to be a functioning organisation. Startups actually offer a plethora of roles – marketing, sales, human resources, operations, finance and many more. Of course, you can’t be completely illiterate in your digital skills. However, working in marketing at a tech startup won’t require you to code and working in finance doesn’t mean you need to handle the social media accounts.


Thus, don’t feel discouraged by the world of startups if you don’t think you’re the next Mark Zuckerberg (apparently he’s the Elon Musk of people over 30). Perhaps you could be the next Kris Jenner of marketing or that overzealous HR recruiter on LinkedIn.

2. Startups are full of hedge fund bros

[The crypto bro is one of the three of the holy trinity: the finance bros, the hedge fund bros and the crypo bros. Source: Twitter]

There’s nothing wrong with these bros. However, they can contribute to a sense of gatekeeping or inaccessibility in the world of startups. There are many within startups that have been helping to contribute to diversity and inclusion. 


One way in which the startup world has tackled the traditional lack of diversity is through AI, as demonstrated by Talenya – which has a diversity AI to create a more level playing field. 

3. Startups don’t pay well

There are startups that do pay well, and some don’t. There are a lot of startups that pay competitive salaries and industry standard. For startups that don’t, the positions they offer often require a lower threshold of experience. Thus, they are great for graduates, those wanting a career change or those with less experience to secure a job. This is also a good opportunity to plug our other latest article, how to find a job as a graduate

There are also stock options, where the employee then has the option to buy equity at a significantly reduced price. A good guide to compensation in startups can be found here.

Stereotypes that are true

1. Startups prioritise impact over hours

At startups, there tends to be a priority of your impact or efficiency over hours. This is in comparison to *some* traditional office jobs that may require you to clock in/work certain hours even if you aren’t being productive with your time. As a result, working at a startup can provide greater autonomy with how you use your time and energy.

Fred MyLeg on Twitter: "another day, another migraine. heh heh. mi graine.…  "
[This is currently you at your non-startup job. Get a grip. Source: Nickelodeon]

2. Startups have a defined culture

Startups tend to be seen to have a different culture than other office jobs. Usually, this consists of smaller teams, more of personal culture, perhaps even working closely with the CEO. There are often perks such as snacks and fancy coffee. Being valued by team members and unlimited fancy coffee? No thank you! I’d rather be exploited at a corporate job.

3. Startups provide flexibility, flat hierarchy and a real say in the business 

Being a valued member of a small team? Being able to have my opinion and actions valued? Not being cut off by a C-suite structure? Gross. No wonder startups have a bad rep. 

All jokes aside, the structure of most startups allow all employees to develop and improve skills. Moreover, there is a real sense of ownership as employees can single-handedly shape the business rather than be another number at a desk.

To conclude, there are stereotypes of startups that simply are not true. Startups provide many perks and challenge traditional office roles that are stuck in the ways of rigid structure, schedule and impersonal culture.

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