The ten years I've worked since graduating college have been for companies with more than 40,000 employees. I am being interviewed by a startup. The job seems to suit me and I am ready for the culture difference from working for a giant company.
[Edit]: I have a relationship with the founder and have been following his progress for six months. He has founded at least three successful startups (independently verified) and I have no reason to doubt the "first sale" story.[/Edit]
What questions can I ask the founder so I understand the company and my place in it?
What can I expect in terms of benefits?
I like a lot of things about my corporate job. Like paid vacation and great healthcare.
Is it appropriate to ask for a signing bonus?
In your position, there are several questions you need to ask. Some are for the startup and some are for you. For the startup, I would recommend asking things like:
The questions you should ask yourself are:
In terms of asking for a signing bonus, that is usually not done. Benefits should be competitive. If not, then that is kind of a red flag. What I mean by competitive is that they offer the standard medical, dental, 401k, etc.
I am sure that there are a lot of guys/gals on this site who will give you some excellent questions to ask. Having moved from a Multinational to a small (20 people) company in the past - the biggest thing was to make sure you are ready for the major culture shock. Gone are the long standing set processes that you have been programmed to adhere to for the last 10 years and they are replaced by much more fluid and sometimes chaotic environment. As well as asking them questions, make sure in your own head that you can cope with this huge change.
Questions to ask:
For "expectations" for benefits and salary, there's no rule. It just is what it is! You will almost surely not get "great benefits." That's part of what you're giving up by being at a startup.
I currently work for a small startup (current team is 4). A few quick things to keep in mind as you go into this:
You will be working a lot, a normal week will most likely be 55-75 hours. Make sure you are ok with working some crazy hours, 1 day is a long time at a startup :-)
You will be paid less then you are making now, possibly a lot less, this will be made up for in stock mostly, and some of the perks.
Per the last one, asking for a signing bonus (in my mind) is way out of line. At a early startup cash is really tight, the capital is just not there to be tossing it around like that. Note, unless you really are THAT good, we are talking you are the difference in making it big or failing.
You just need to go into this knowing that it is a high risk, high reward job. I am pretty young and love the excitement, so the risk is totally worth it for me. Also make sure you have a backup plan for when the startup goes under, because 9/10 will.
Best of luck, and if you do take the job... Work hard, there is nothing better then building a product from scratch and seeing it grow beyond your dreams!
Read one of Paul Graham's essays: http://www.paulgraham.com/really.html And Steve Blank's as well: http://steveblank.com/2010/01/14/a-startup-is-not-a-smaller-version-of-a-large-company/
I would ask the founder these type of questions and I would listen carefully to the answers.
I think the start up would pay a signing bonus if you are being recruited and the start up really wants you.
Startups generally have minimum benefits because cash is extremely tight. Expenses are more than revenues and any cash is put back into the business to keep it going. People who thrive in a start up environment like the excitement, freedom and creativity of doing things from scratch, things that have not been done before and are made up as you go along. In the startup I worked at, there was a critical two and a half year period where everyone in any supervisory management position did not go on vacation!