Expect Tours of Duty at Startups, Not Lifelong Careers

Why do team members leave hypergrowth companies?

  1. Burnout — Startups are pressure cookers. Like Hoffman says, you are “jumping off a cliff and building a plane on your way down”. The amount of impact you make and the Formula 1-like speed you go at takes a toll. You can only go so hard for so long. Different stages of the company will also bring with them different challenges. Some people can manage one stage fine but find themselves burning out in another, so they leave after one year. Some people are able to keep the momentum going and end up staying for many years. Both are common in a startup environment, but there are many ways startups can help spot and minimize burnout. The line is different for everyone, and employees who leave to prioritize their mental health should always be respected.
  2. Misalignment of career expectations — Many people join startups to accelerate their career progression. There is no doubt that if you are a superstar, you will get promoted faster in a startup than in a big, bureaucratic organization. However, if a team member doesn’t get promoted as fast as they expected to, they will be disappointed and leave. Sometimes it is because of a skill gap where the company outgrew the employee, and sometimes it is that the company did not grow fast enough to support the employee’s career ambitions. Regardless, the employee will move on.
  3. Not the company they signed up for — One of the most interesting parts about startups that are doing well is that every year they can become a different company. A 20-person company is different from a 100-person company and from a 400-person company. Some team members won’t like that new environment. Simply put, it isn’t what they signed up for anymore.
  4. Better opportunities — If you joined a startup that becomes a rocket ship, your value in the market has just increased! Your association with that company means that you are now more desirable in the market and that you have new opportunities outside the company that you didn’t have when you joined. They might even be better opportunities with more responsibilities and better pay. This is just how the market works.
  5. Starting their own thing — Many people join a startup because they want to learn what it takes to scale one so they can start their own company one day. Look at the “Paypal Mafia” for example. That means that they have an entrepreneurial mindset which is probably why you hired them in the first place. You should be proud of any team member who is leaving to strike out on their own.
  6. The environment is wrong for them — This one is simple in my opinion. If you cannot deal with rapid change, uncertainty, and lack of structure do not join a startup. If an employee hates those things and joined anyway, it is probably just a matter of time before they leave. We get that sometimes people really won’t know until they try, that is one reason BenchSci will pay to part ways. If someone feels like they made a mistake joining our company and resigns within their first three months, they will get a full month’s salary as severance to help them find a new role.

Anyone who leaves BenchSci is alumni

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