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How to find and connect with scrappy startups?

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Anonymous User at Taro Community8 months ago

Question was inspired by Alex's masterclass on side projects. In it, he talked about how he was able to get his role at Course Hero because it was a scrappy startup when he joined, and was willing to take bets.

Do you have advice on how to find similar startups? And also connect with startup founders (and not get ghosted)?

Some consequent questions:

  1. How do you know if a startup is scrappy or if it is shady/dysfunctional?
  2. Are there any resources on Taro to connect with founders?

Thanks for any advice or help!



  • 10
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    Tech Lead/Manager at Meta, Pinterest, Kosei
    8 months ago

    In Alex's case, many companies showed inbound interest, which is extremely powerful. If you build something cool, you'll get people and companies reaching out to you, which already gives you a huge advantage in the job search.

    Of course, this is not always possible. A few ways to connect with startups:

    • Go through startup directories, e.g. those funded by a VC or accelerator like YC (WorkAtAStartup)
    • Go through your network. A very common destination for Big Tech engineers is to join a startup (or start a startup). Connect with them and learn about their experience.
    • Find "open-core" startups that are built around an open-source project (e.g. DAGWorks or Supbase), and make a contribution.

    In terms of reaching out, the best thing you can do is to actually care about their problem space. Many startups are starved for attention and they want people to pay attention to their efforts. So if you make clear that you understand their problem domain and attempted solution, there's a good chance a small startup will chat with you.

    BTW, we do have a few founders in the Taro community as well -- I'd post in Slack to see if you can connect with them :)

  • 13
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    Team Lead (people manager) at Mistplay
    8 months ago

    I used AngelList, now WellFound and interviewed with several startups in 2019 to find my current company. https://wellfound.com

    Some companies were in the pre seed and had exponentially more risk than others. With that comes a bigger risk reward possibility, but I decided to join a company where they had found product market and were profiting millions per year, but only had 3 engineers.

    I would recommend it to others for their first start up because you get big impact even as a new grad, without taking huge risk. 4 years later we have 30 engineers.

    The most important thing at your small startup is who are the other people at the company esp engineers and would you like to work with them.

    • In the interview are they asking interesting questions and having good conversations?
    • Are they describing interesting projects they are working on?
    • Would you like to learn from them?
    • Would you like to have drinks with them?

    The company finances are also important so here are some questions for that:

    • How much runway do you have before you run out of money? (2 years would be great)
    • What are your plans for growth and hiring (lots of hiring is a good sign)
    • Where is the company in terms of product market fit?
    • How much revenue is there and where does it come from?
    • If venture backed, how big was the last round of fundraising and who invested? (A big round with well known backers is a great sign)
  • 6
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    Tech Lead @ Robinhood, Meta, Course Hero
    8 months ago

    How do you know if a startup is scrappy or if it is shady/dysfunctional?

    It's hard as smaller companies won't have much press around them. You need to use a mix of the following:

    1. Get good reads during the interview - This is almost always the most important one. The best signal comes straight from the horse's mouth.
    2. Use your product intuition to evaluate their business - Go through any press they may have. TechCrunch and Crunchbase should hopefully have some information (these will usually be turned up in a Google search if they're applicable).
    3. Analyze the founders - Find them on LinkedIn and see what they did in the past. Did they come from good companies like Big Tech or top startups like Notion? Have they founded companies with good exits before?
    4. Go through your network if possible - This is the hardest option as it's not likely you'll know someone at the company, but it will yield the most valuable signal when it works.

    We talk more about this here: "How to evaluate a startup?"

    Are there any resources on Taro to connect with founders?

    We don't have one on connecting with founders specifically, but I highly recommend this as a general guide on how to connect with people and make them like you quickly: [Masterclass] How To Build Deep Relationships Quickly In Tech

    Another thing I highly recommend is to just use their product. Scrappy startups care deeply about their product and its users, because they're so small and absolutely have to in order to survive and achieve product-market fit. So become a very active user of their product by:

    • Sending feedback emails - This is the bare minimum as every startup will expose an email for user feedback. Use this to share your feedback, especially bugs!
    • Joining their product community - This is more rare, but some startups will have a Slack or Discord community where users can hang out and share their product feedback. This is a way for you improve the product and chat with that startup's employees in real-time: If the company is small enough, it may be the founders!
    • Contributing to their open-source - This is the rarest lever, but it is extremely powerful when it exists. This truly shows that you really care about their product, and you can show them your (hopefully good) coding skills directly!

    IIRC, Taro community champion Steven Zhang got into Airtable by being a super early user of their product (i.e. within the first 500) and submitting tons of feedback. This got their attention, so they gave him an interview! You can watch the video about his amazing job searching journey here: [Case Study] How To Land 18 FAANG+ Offers With Steven Zhang (Airtable, USDR, Tableau)