When I told my boss at my previous job that after 5 years I would be moving on to pastures new, he was understandably disappointed. When I told him that I was moving to a startup events company he was just plain confused, he asked me a few questions about whether I’d thought through my decision which I assured him I had. He then said that he wouldn’t mind spending the whole day drinking and playing ping pong either, to say I was surprised is an understatement.
This got me thinking about the impressions that “Startup culture” must present to outsiders. Over the course of this year I’ve been keeping an eye out for the biggest culture myths I could find. Here are 5 most common misconceptions that I busted!
“So you guys work in a startup, is Shoreditch ok to meet for coffee? If not Shoreditch, maybe Shoreditch high street? Old Street works for me too?”
No, having an office in East London’s poster child postcode is not a prerequisite of working in a startup. Neither is working out of your bedroom. Quite simply: Shoreditch and a startup aren’t synonyms. From speaking to teams across London it’s fair to say that there are companies which have offices in basements to yachts, with everything in between. Almost exactly like any other company then.
“So how many of your guys end up staying the night at the office?”
Yes, everyone works hard, however, we’re not homeless. There seems to be prevailing impression that after our long day of work, we push back our chair and curl up in the space under our desk between last week’s gym clothes and leftovers from Uber eats. That’s just weird. We do have homes (although the offices are in some cases a lot nicer). It’s not to say that people don’t work incredibly hard, or that there isn’t the occasional nap on the sofa, that happens. However working for a start-up doesn’t equate to a never ending slumber party.
“So you guys just wander around in flip-flops and teeshirts with jokes on”
It’s true that a lot of teams have a pretty relaxed take on dress codes, however, the cliche that everyone walks around wearing either branded “merch” or incredibly comedic (in the wearer’s eyes) t-shirts is rubbish. We’re not all dressed like extras out of the film “The Social Network”. People tend to wear whatever they need to feel comfortable and usually it’s pretty nondescript.
“So you guys must spend a bomb on Craft beer and cold-brew coffee”
Have I been to offices with beer on tap? Yes. Is the coffee consumption in most startup offices above average? Probably. Has a meeting ever been delayed whilst someone ground beans for the V60 as the cafetiere roast was too coarse? Not to my knowledge. No matter where I visit though everyone seems to think that startups move through the day consuming a spectrum of caffeine that progresses to alcohol.
“So you guys must be awesome at Ping Pong/Pool/Fusball right?”
No. This is biggest culture myth of all – yes there might be a pool table in the office, however, people spend way less time playing them than you think. In actual fact, they’re probably working far too hard to really devote much time to it.
This is just a handful of myths surrounding culture at startups, however, a huge amount of them are exaggerated beyond recognition. Every startup I know is far too focussed on making a success out of their product and trying to enrich their customer’s experiences, to be drinking cold brew in Shoreditch whilst playing pool.
Nick Larkins is Head of Talent Management at Hire Space. He is a dual Kiwi/Brit who likes to experiment, this led to him taking a degree in Chemistry in sunny Southampton. Since then Nick has been lucky enough to (partially) travel the world, sometimes with prior planning, usually without and has met some incredible people along the way. Prior to jumping on board at Hire Space, Nick worked for Apple around the UK and usually will be found with a coffee in hand.
Nick is one of the speakers at Jobbio’s career event EXPAND London happening on Thursday, September 1st. He will be leading the HR session “Hiring for HIgh-Growth Startups” together with Chris Wilkinson (Forward Partners), Michelle Coventry (Spring Partners), and Jamahl McMurran (Seedcamp).
Click here to join a startup. Or register for the event