What They Didn’t Tell Me When I Signed My Offer to Work at a Start Up…

Today my company, Leeo Inc, officially came out of stealth mode and launched a product: The Leeo SmartAlert NightLight.

It has been a crazy day of our marketing team arriving at 3:30am, competitions to see who can guess how many units we will sell, and multiple champagne toasts. Our team is absolutely spectacular and it has been so much fun working at Leeo and seeing the product come to this point. I know that it will continue to be an adventure as we figure out our place in this Smart Home space and start to develop new products.

Deciding to work at Leeo was one of the best things I’ve done, but also one of the most stretching for me as a person. I moved to the Silicon Valley to work for a start up (not Leeo, but that’s another story for another day) and coming from the conservative world of working at a University, that change was something I was entirely unprepared for.

From pop culture we have all come to expect start ups to be super casual, filled with employee perks, and have employees working more than 40 hours a week. While a lot of start ups have awesome perks like that, there are also things that are not quite what media has presented.

Here is the list of 5 things I was unprepared for when I took a job at a Start Up.

  1. Massive Weight Gain: One massive pro of working at a start up is that they feed you. Breakfast. Lunch. Dinner. Snacks. Alcohol. All of it. Con: if you don’t have AMAZING self control, you will gain weight. A lot of the meal options aren’t super healthy unless you like to only eat salad for three meals a day everyday. Hence they also offer you a free gym membership! 🙂
  2. Hive Culture: While Leeo doesn’t have this quite as much as other start ups I’ve seen (Good Job Us!). In the Valley at some start ups there is definitely a culture of “stay at the office, live near the office, eat at the office, do EVERYTHING close to the office so you can work at much as possible while still feeling like you have a personal life.” A few companies have made it so that employees never have to leave the office: onsite doctors, massages, food (for your family too), nap rooms, everything. While working somewhere you like to be is great, having a work life balance is also really important. You have to be super intentional about making sure you spend time on things outside of work
  3. Being Exhausted, like ALL the time: I suck at being rested. But working at a start up has made it 10x worse. I don’t know that it is anything specific, but the weight of actually being responsible for things and having REAL pull over what happens at work makes me anxious and affects my sleep. When you work in such a small company, things you do actually can change the “world,” and that makes me work harder and become more invested, which makes me more tired. Don’t get me wrong, it is worth it, just not something I was prepared for.
  4. Little to No Structure or Guidance: Chances are, if you’re at a small start up, a lot of the things you’re doing have never been doing before. You will likely have to do things without any guidance, because no one else has ever done it before either. There also aren’t any processes for anything. I am SUCH a process driven person, this might be the hardest thing for me (notice the present tense, I’m still working on it).
  5. Responsibility: This ties in with being tired. People obviously talk about how you actually have things that you can change at start ups (like I just did, haha), but it is super real. No matter how many time people told me, “If you come here, you can have real decision making power,” or, “here you will have true ownership over things,” I was not prepared. I have weight in the company. I am in charge of things. It is a lot of responsibility. And I absolutely love it. While this is a hard thing, it may also be the most rewarding.
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