WTF Are Unicorns? A Move From Consulting to Tech Startup

Alex is an ex-consultant, and also a movemeon member who previously founded and worked in different startups. Currently, he runs FinTech Summary a blog covering the junction between startups and finance.


 

Ok, so you woke up one day and want to change job for something more ‘sexy’. Or perhaps you have seen too many episodes of the Silicon Valley (great show!) and would like to move into the startups. So what can you expect in this glorified unicorn hunt? (Unicorns are startups that are valued over $1bn).

 

Let me preempt the main question – yes, you can wear shorts and flip flops to work (you rarely get to cash in on this perk in this country though). Before you burn your suit or work skirt…

 

…(I do hope it is not too late) there are four steps to successfully integrate into a startup:

 

Step number one – lose your consulting slang. None says “we need to get all our ducks in a row to identify the low hanging fruits otherwise the grass might grow too long on this one but, obviously, make sure to leverage existing resources and let me know if you don’t have enough bandwidth.” Really, just do it.

 

Step number two – learn to speak ‘startup.’ Make sure you get at least 50% when someone says: “No, bro, it’s a SaaS play in the on-demand food space. Think of it as the Uber for gluten-free Whole Foods delivery, ok? We’re actively raising, but really want to make sure that we hit investor-board fit before product-market sync, you know?” Here are some resources from TechCrunch (that should be your new bible) and Forbes. Make sure you read some blogs by Venture Capitalists (VCs) or people covering startup industry. A good start is Fred Wilson, perhaps the most famous VC out there, Mark Suster or more industry specific blogs such as FinTech Summary (self-promotion, check).

 

Step number three – don’t get lost in the open sea. Moving from a consulting to a startup is like rushing out of a thick wood to an open field. You can see the light and feel the breeze – THE WORLD IS YOURS! In work terms, this means you don’t need to run your idea past your manager, his manager and then his manager followed by the Design Authority, Investment Committee and make sure finance and legal sign off on it too. Actually, you rarely need to ask someone if you want to do a small to medium change. You own your role and your output. If you believe your change will bring positive impact and not sink the company – do it. But remember, as the old cliche goes, with great power comes great responsibility. You are responsible for this and don’t have a cushy ‘I didn’t know’ option. You are expected to know, you need to think through edge cases, critical scenarios and take the best decision. You can always consult your peers, but it won’t lift the responsibility of your shoulders, it’s on you buddy.

 

Step number four – get good at shit. All kinds of shit. As a consultant, you are treated as a Swiss army knife, the Buddhist monk of organisation and discipline and the sober voice of reason and analysis. A lot of skills that consultants take for granted (primarily because all their peers also have them) are scarce and rare in a startup. Many people will bow before the god of Excel that you are once you show them what a pivot table is or the dark magic of PowerPoint formatting. Don’t use too many hotkeys in front of people, they will think you really are immortal… Having said that, while you have the advantage of very strong basic delivery skills and analytical mindset, you are behind on subject matter expertise compared to most other employees. You may often end up filling up many pairs of shoes because, remember, you got good at all kinds of shit? There were certainly times when I would do photo editing in Photoshop and then write some customer comms and do a financial model all on the same day. Happens. And it’s damn exciting.

 

Moving from consulting to a startup is a huge step, but it is definitely worth it. I loved my time as a consultant, and I wouldn’t change that even if I could. But I certainly love working in a small team, powering against the odds to create something magnificent (a unicorn, hopefully). And you can wear shorts too.

 

- by Alex  

Alex is an ex-consultant, who previously founded and worked in different startups. Currently, he runs FinTech Summary a blog covering the junction between startups and finance. Make sure to sign up to his newsletter that is received by thousands of startup and finance enthusiasts every week.

 


 

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