It seems just yesterday I was writing a post about lessons I learned six months in to working at a startup, and now I’m just shy of my one year anniversary with CloudPeeps. When I first started working in our fully remote team, there were a number of questions people always asked about our company culture – and many things they didn’t understand about #startuplife.

Inspired by Lisa’s post about the 8 most annoying things you get asked as a freelancer, I want to clear the air about the myths and misconceptions of working at a startup.

Myth 1: Remote team? Time to play!

It seems like we’re working, but we’re really throwing down some serious Quidditch skills a la Vince Vaughan and Owen Wilson.

I’m pretty convinced that the resident manager in my building things I dink around on my computer all day. Working remotely means that I’m able to be at home when someone needs to swing by my apartment for an inspection or maintenance. My building manager is always so excited to see me and remarks that I have “such a nice, easy life” that I don’t have to go to work.

The reality is that I’m busier than I’ve ever been, and feel even more connected to and engaged with the work I do each day. Sure, it looks like I’ve got a pretty cushy setup to my neighbors who see me leave my apartment twice a week to hit up a coworking space (okay, maybe I do). But the reality is, I’m putting in just as many hours a week as the average Joe commuting to his cubicle.

Myth 2: All early stage startup employees are workaholics


The people who don’t jump to the conclusion that I have heaps of free time on my hands are the ones who assume I’m a workaholic. Yep, makes total sense to me too.

Apparently all of us in startup land are crazed workaholics with iPhones welded to our hands — constantly networking, pitching and selling our next idea. Don’t get me wrong, those types do exist, but they don’t necessarily dominate the landscape.

I’m lucky to be a part of a team where work/life balance isn’t just a trend, it’s a priority. Several times a week, team members will post that they’re signing off to take a break for a run or a yoga class to clear their heads. It’s crucial to know when to unplug and recharge, as burnout can sneak up on you if you’re not caring for your personal well-being.

Myth 3: Startup founders are crazy

the office

We’ve all heard the stories of the crazed CEOs who demand 80-hour work weeks of their employees. You know, the ones who create company cultures where people cry at their desks. Anyone catch up on Amazon’s inner sanctum?

Yes, there are passionate founders and CEOs who will do anything at the expense of their employees to see their own dreams come to life. However, the reality is that not all companies are founded by people who lack sensitivity about workplace culture. There’s a growing realization – finally – that happy employees are productive employees. It’s encouraging to see more transparency around creating positive work environments.

Myth 4: You have to be a unicorn to work at a startup


Unicorns are so in right now. Everyone wants that magical team member who can mock up a website, hustle in sales and get you a million followers from a single tweet. Do they exist? Sure. Do you have to be a unicorn to be in startups? Nope!

While there’s value in being a generalist who can get your hands dirty in a number of aspects of a business, you don’t have to be a pro at everything you touch. If you told me a year ago that I would be working in areas like business development and sales while learning how to tweak code, I would’ve laughed in your face. I’m a fast learner and can pick up on most things that come my way, but I never considered myself a jack of all trades.

Maybe I’m becoming a unicorn, but I didn’t have to reach magical status straight off the bat. In other words, startups are much more likely to hire people with unicorn potential than fully grown unicorns.

Myth 5: Startup employees fear their jobs on a daily basis

kristin wiig

Working in startups is risky business, as we’ve seen with recent closures like Homejoy and Zirtual. Many people assume I’m holding my next job in my back pocket, as though I’m expecting all of this to not work out. Sure, there are risks in any new business, and it’s important to keep those in mind, but I use risk levels to remind myself of the daily hustle. We all use risk as a motivator to ensure what we’re building is around for the long haul.

If all startup employees were paralyzed by fear that our company was going to shut down tomorrow, we wouldn’t actually accomplish anything today. Not to mention, at CloudPeeps, we highly value transparency. We all know what’s in the bank and what our goals are at any given time so there’s no guessing if your job will be there tomorrow.

When you’re building something new, there will always be people who doubt your ability to succeed. Many times these doubts come in condescending waves, scolding you for that ping-pong table in the break room or the endless closet of employee snacks. I’ve met my fair share of these people who try to convince me that I should really be more careful about pursuing a career in startupland, but I know in my heart that they’re wrong.

The people I’ve met through my work at CloudPeeps have been the ultimate reward, regardless of the risks associated with working at an early stage company. Maybe we don’t have a ping-pong table or a snack closet, but that doesn’t take away from the meaningful work we’re doing or the future we have as a company.

Final thoughts

Working at a startup can be immensely rewarding. You see the direct impact your work has on the bottomline of a business – and you play a direct role in building something that matters. The point of startups is innovation – whether that’s innovating on education, research, business models or fashion. How cool is it to be a part of that type of change? So yes, risk is involved in working for a startup – but isn’t risk involved with any job? It’s half the fun, in my opinion. 🙂

Do you work at a startup? Have you had to debunk similar myths about your work? I’d love to hear them in the comments below!