Over the years, I’ve noticed a pattern. Some people thrive in the early days of a start-up. They love being an early team member and turning an idea into reality. The lack of structure, wearing multiple hats, and small team dynamics appeal to them. They love solving hard problems and building something new. They’re aware the business could fail, but they’re comfortable with that risk. As the company scales, roles become more defined, and structure is added to the company, the experience is less enjoyable for these kinds of people, and they may leave.
These people are critical to the start-up ecosystem. They make great team members early on. Some people see their lack of interest in staying with the company as it matures as a negative. I see it differently. They know what environments are ideal for them and they seek out opportunities that align with that. Sure, that means they may stay only a few years, but that’s OK. Their strengths lie in helping the company overcome early obstacles and achieve product–market fit.
As companies grow, their needs change. The skills needed for, say, international expansion are utterly different than those needed to go from an idea to landing the first customer. What’s required of the team evolves as the company pursues bigger goals. Some people will evolve with the company as it matures, and some will pursue other opportunities. Either is OK. The most important thing is to recognize what stage a company is in and get the people best suited to help you make it to the next one.