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Why it Pays To Work in a Startup Before Launching Your Own

An Interview with Mike Fishbein

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Mike Fishbein leads business development at Casual Corp, a tech studio in NYC. He’s also a Contributing Writer for Huffington Post, a Mentor at TechLaunch, and a Skillshare Master Teacher. You can connect with him at twitter.com/mfishbein.

Mike's next Skillshare course is called "How to Hustle Your Way to a Non-Technical Job at a Startup" and starts on April 11.

Why do you think it's valuable for aspiring entrepreneurs to work in a startup?

Starting a company requires many skill sets and relationships. Working at a startup you can learn a ton and meet a lot of great people.

I usually advise young people looking to break in to take an entry level sales role at a later-stage startup that’s about to break out. Sales is one of the most valuable skills a founder can have (partnerships, recruiting, fundraising, and, of course, actually selling the product).

You will also learn a lot just by being on the inside of a scaling company. In addition, there will probably be an amazing team behind the growth, and you can form relationships that will last the duration of your career. I chose to work under an accomplished CEO as one of the first employees. In part because the earliest stages of company building are what I’m most interested in and in part because the skill set and personality required to do so suits me well. Having someone who’s done it before as a resource has been extremely valuable. In addition, because of his previous accomplishments and relationships, we’ve been able to open a lot of doors that we could not have otherwise. I’ve learned a ton and met a lot of amazing people as a result of working under an accomplished CEO.

What is startup culture like? How is it different from a traditional corporation? Is it difficult for people to make the transition?

In a corporation you feel like one small cog on a wheel. At a startup you are a wheel.

At a startup you have a big impact on the growth of the company. At a corporation the work comes to you. In the early days of a startup, nothing happens unless you make it happen. Gravity is against you. You have to be proactive about creating and seizing opportunities. Start-ups are not for people who need structure and can’t tolerate uncertainty. For people who like to hustle and are truly passionate about entrepreneurship, it’s a dream.

You teach Skillshare students "how to hustle" their way to a startup job. How do you define "hustle" and what are some of the best examples you've seen?

Hustle is difficult to define, but when you see it, you know it.

Hustlers create and seize opportunities as opposed to waiting for opportunities to be handed to them. They’re willing to do whatever needs to be done, even if it’s less than glamorous. And they’re ruthlessly competitive. You might not always want what the hustler’s got, but for some reason you can’t say no -- in part because they won’t take no for an answer and it part out of fear of missing out.

What are some of the biggest questions you get from students about startups and startup life?

I get asked a lot about how to meet and maintain relationships with awesome people. My advice is to be someone that people want to know, and to be helpful. Being some that people want to meet means showing potential and how you can be valuable to a company, being passionate about startups, and just generally being a cool person. Being helpful means finding ways, big or small, to add value to people. I always try to help through introductions, advice, and/or information.

Anything else you'd like to share on working in a startup?

It’s really fun, and really hard :). One of the things I like most is the people and culture. Entrepreneurs, people that work at startups, and investors are some of the coolest people I’ve ever met.

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