"In my experience, a startup is a roller-coaster ride that can offer you incredible career experiences and teach you some invaluable life lessons." - Adam Arbolin, "5 Reasons You Should Work For A Startup At Least Once," in Tech Crunch, September 20, 2014. Here you can read that article.
In the past 18 months I have worked as a communications strategic consultant and content-provider to several startups. No question, I learned plenty. And those (brutal) lessons have helped me become significantly more successful selling my communications services and doing the actual work. Here are some of those lessons.
There are no rules. All that matters is what works or might work. If the press release using foul language generates interviews, then bad language is no longer on the list of don't-dos. Instead of objecting, listen. Try it out.
Civility is 20th century. No one can expect professionalism in rhetoric, actual treatment, or reward systems.
Eventually, though, that can catch up with the entrepreneurs. When one bumped up against the law and was charged by the feds, the media et al. left no stone unturned in making that known and following the saga in great detail.
Instead of civility, entrepreneurs who are successful could use coaching in the fundamentals of Emotional Intelligence (EI).
Demand your money. No, you can't let a tab be built. This isn't a bar. This is a Darwinian setting in which cash, a lot of it, will be burnt. Grab your compensation on a regular basis. Otherwise, walk. Most startups will fail.
Know who you are. Those who aren't totally self-aware will be plowed under in an environment which sizes up the vulnerable. When you know your faults, no one can touch you.
If I agree to work with other startups in the future, probably I will learn quite different lessons. Everything keeps changing, ranging from funding sources and the amount of venture capital out there to the dominant models for success. That's why I will chase after another one of those off-beat opportunities.