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  • Itskovych Julia

What is a Startup Culture – Overtime or Ownership?

At SD Solutions, we're deeply ingrained in the startup ecosystem, collaborating with tech startups worldwide. While large corporations focus on expanding time-tested products, startup teams are paving new paths.

In the IT community, startups have developed a distinct vibe, surrounded by numerous myths. Is working at a startup synonymous with overtime and excessive responsibility?  Let’s see how working in a startup culture impacts a developer’s journey and fosters a collaborative work environment.


What is a startup in 2024?


Unlike common belief, the term 'startup' goes beyond just any new company. It refers to a specific type of culture—a blend of shared values, thoughts, and ideas that shape how people work to achieve the company’s goal.

Experience shows that technical skills alone are insufficient for success in cross functional startup staffing. Equally important is the ability to fit into the unique startup work culture. To thrive in this environment, you need to be a team player, a problem solver, and a quick learner — traits that we always look for in candidates.


Startups in 2024 are at the forefront of adopting and developing advanced technologies such as:

  • Artificial intelligence (AI)

  • Machine learning (ML)

  • Blockchain

  • Internet of Things (IoT). 


For instance, AI-driven startups are revolutionizing industries from healthcare with predictive diagnostics to finance with personalized investment solutions, showcasing the transformative potential of these technologies. We see how startups grow from small teams with just an idea to become drivers of innovation. Our results with Medisafe and Tipalti are an example of how startup culture influences product development. 


The rise of the hybrid mode has profoundly influenced the work environments of startups in 2024. They are now more than ever drawing on overseas talents and remote team members to build flexible, dynamic teams that can operate efficiently across time zones. This shift has helped startups thrive by tapping into a global talent pool and contributed to a more inclusive and diverse workplace culture that values results over physical presence.


Who Chooses to Work for a Startup and Why?


Startup culture, with its vibrancy, often appeals more to younger generations, nurturing a sense of driving innovation. However, the prospect of high turnover rates and fast-paced work environments might trigger skepticism among more experienced professionals. 

People who join startups usually strongly desire to create something new and solve problems. They enjoy the freedom and flexibility of startup culture, where everyone works together as a team without strict hierarchies. This kind of environment is especially appealing to younger people and those who prefer a more relaxed workplace.


According to ASA (American Sociology Association), the Millennials and Generation Z respect socially and ethically valued jobs more than well-paid ones. It differs from Generation X, which values stability and material growth. 


This shift underscores the changing dynamics in workplace culture. Startups thrive by promoting a culture fit that resonates with the aspirational goals of younger employees. This highlights the importance of building a tech startup culture boosting employee retention.


What is Ownership in Startup Culture 


U.S. startups offering stock options have become a strategic approach to attracting and retaining top talent. This practice not only engages employees but also plants a sense of ownership, transforming their involvement in the project. 


In contrast to the settled corporate culture, startups often encourage a more fluid approach to job roles and responsibilities. All team members can share their ideas and contribute to the growth and innovation of the startup. By promoting a strong sense of involvement, startup founders can ensure that every team member feels valued and has a voice in shaping the company's direction.


Do not wait for a strict manual sent to your corporate email on the first working day when you enter a startup.


Why Ownership Matters:

Ownership in company culture boosts motivation and improves performance. Employees who feel like owners are more likely to go above and beyond, contributing to the startup’s dynamic environment and driving innovation. They are committed not just to their tasks but to the company’s overall mission and success.


Key Elements of Ownership in Startup Culture:

  • Engage teams in decision-making.  Involving in critical decisions may give a sense of responsibility and personal investment.

  • Bring responsibility to a new level. Motivate employees to take charge of their projects and outcomes. Rewriting everything one has been working on for months shouldn’t feel like a ball and chain, as it’s ok for startups.

Transforming the usual work dynamics by adopting an ownership mindset within a startup can make a huge difference. This approach leads to mutual benefits for both the employees and the company as a whole.


The smaller the team – the wider the accountability

Small teams make every person's contribution important. This setup is usual for startups, as it encourages a cross-functional environment. Everyone is expected to share ideas and listen to different perspectives.


It means that saying “yes/no” during a discussion is not enough. Tech startup guys are expected to share their ideas openly and not only in the field of their stack.

For example, a front-end developer may initiate some changes to product architecture, and a web designer is free to tune up a marketing strategy. 


If you seriously say, “But it wasn’t mentioned in my responsibilities list,” it will definitely sound like a good joke for your teammates.


This way of working can be both empowering and challenging. It demands high adaptability and strong problem-solving skills from everyone.

In these conditions, you risk biting off more than you can chew and even burning out. That is why the ability to prioritize is crucial. A wide variety of project tasks for a few people will stress those who are used to the “one task in Jira per day” model.


Fitting in a Startup Culture Checklist

Working in a startup can be both a blessing in disguise and an incredible challenge that not everyone can handle.  However, we've seen a lot of candidates who either realized that this was their cup of tea or not during the interview process. Based on our experience, we created the checklist to see if startup culture is a good fit for you:


  • Future results are enough for your self-motivation.

  • You like sharing ideas and work closely with different departments.

  • You view challenges as opportunities to learn and grow.

  • You have a strong desire to create something new and take initiative in your projects.

  • You see setbacks as essential learning moments necessary for innovation.

  • You prefer working in a place with minimal levels of management where everyone’s input is valued.

  • You seek a role where you can manage professional responsibilities while maintaining personal well-being.

  • Receiving acknowledgment for work is a must for you.

  • You are ambitious and eager to create exceptional things.


While overtime is a reality in both startups and large corporations, the difference lies in the motivation behind it. In startups, work goes beyond traditional hours, not out of obligation, but from a genuine passion and commitment to achieving shared goals.


As we move further into 2024, the definition of a rewarding work environment continues to evolve, with startups at the forefront of this transformation. 

Startup culture's blend of entrepreneurial spirit, innovative problem-solving, and collaborative work ethos offers a compelling alternative to the conventional corporate model, building something new and impactful.

Author: Itskovych Julia


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