How to avoid joining startups that will go nowhere

Steve Jobs had a powerful influencing skill, that his engineers called the “Distortion Reality Field” . He could convince his engineers that a particular feature WAS possible, despite universal agreement before the meeting that it was not. Walter Isaacson’s biography on Jobs illustrated how this helped engineers to turn what was impossible into a reality. 

Early stage startup technical founders can also display this skill. They are convinced that the technology they have just given birth to will take over the world. 

Unfortunarely in their case this can be a very bad thing. The majority of startup founders are not billionaires with huge resources and talent to make things happen. They will waste many months of your career chasing rainbows and unicorns. 

Here is what you can do to detect a distortion reality field: 

  • Speak to their customers. Why did they buy the product? What is the maximum amount they will pay on renewal? Make sure they are not getting a free trial or heavily subsidised subscription. 
  • Understand the real business value (not technical value) that their product offers. At some point a business leader within an organisation needs to sign a check. They need to be convinced it will bring value to the business.  
  • Try to understand what has been been the obstacles in the past with selling this product. What will make it the future any different?

Look past the glittering lights and see what it’s actual value is. 

By doing this you will potentially be saving yourself 6-24 months of your career.