Startups are remote, but how to work there?
3 min read

Startups are remote, but how to work there?

Today I'm telling you about the massive shift I'm seeing in Startup team compositions, compared to a few years ago.


I'm Sergio Pereira, and this is the Remote Work newsletter 👋

Last week, I told you about the key questions your need to answer in remote interviews, and how to standout.

Today I'm telling you about the massive shift I'm seeing in Startup team compositions, compared to a few years ago.

On one hand, I've been closely advising some members of the Remote Jobs Braintrust to succeed in their interviews with remote startups.

But beyond that, as a Fractional CTO I've been transitioning clients this month, and actively speaking with more startups that reach out to me.

In what seems like a great coincidence, two of these startups went recently through Techstars, the popular startup accelerator.

I went through it myself, as a CTO, back in 2016. I recall, most startup teams back then were composed by:

• A business co-Founder (the "CEO")

• A technical co-Founder (the "CTO")


Most investors would require that fairy tale founding team in order to invest. All startup accelerators and mentors would advise business Founders to get a technical co-Founder.

But now I observe that none of the startups I speak with have a technical co-Founder. The common startup team composition these days is:

• A business co-Founder (sometimes more than one, actually)

• No tech co-Founder at all

• A few freelancers, usually in a LCOL region

This is a massive shift, caused by 3 converging factors:

  1. Remote work became the default for new startups,
  2. Startups aim for niche products towards profitability (smaller scope of work),

3 It's harder to get VC funding, so startups need to stretch runway by keeping costs low.

In fact, this is why a Fractional CTO is increasingly required, and I'm seeing more demand than ever before. And I'll be lecturing an extra session about Fractional CTO and freelance career paths at the Remote Jobs Braintrust community, later this month.

Of course, one of my key contributions as a Fractional CTO is to recommend startups to hire more experienced (and obviously more expensive) Engineers as they grow, as clients expectations grow, and as more revenue is on the line in case of outages and bugs.

It's around this time that startup teams move away from that initial freelance-y look and feel, and more towards a proper team vibe, with higher caliber profiles, proper documentation, and more grown up async processes.

But for most people our there who are job seeking, the question remains:

• "How can I get those opportunities myself?"

You must nail the fundamental interview questions, like I described last week, but beyond that, you need to understand that startups are different and show that you fit in:

1/ Startups are small

Most startups don't yet have an HR team or person, it's probably the Founder who's in charge of the interview process still. Don't simply apply to the open position in the job board. Go around, connect with the Founder on Linkedin and message them. They are very busy, but if you're the solution for the gap in their team you've likely skipped a line of hundreds of applicants.

2/ Startup's processes are ad hoc

If you went to an interview and didn't hear anything back from them, follow up with your interviewer. Very often other priorities come up and they just forget to push the recruiting process forward. Again, by showing up you'll likely standout, in case your profile is considered relevant for the role.

3/ Startups have a very distinct culture

You need to be a bit a jack of all trades, rather than a specialist in one thing. You also need to be curious about new technologies and partners in the company's space. And above all, you need to have a very high level of ownership and accountability. Bring all this to the interview, with concrete examples from your past jobs, and you'll be a step closer to the offer. 

Despite all the looming news about layoffs, tech is hiring, and certainly startups are hiring too. This week, in the Remote Jobs Braintrust we got the good news that Fabien got a great remote+async job:

I'll be chatting with Fabien over a fireside session on Monday 5/Feb at 12pm UK time, to learn his best practises for job searching and interviewing that led him to succeed. If you join us for cohort 5, you'll receive the calendar invite on time for this session. See you there.

Thanks for reading this newsletter until the end. You can read all past editions here. Make sure to share it with your friends and colleagues so they can read it too.

See you next Friday,

Sergio Pereira, 
Startup CTO & Remote Work Lover

Get the free ebook on your email with advice to land a remote job.