Startup Founders’ Dilemma

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Jakarta, Aug 4: Throughout 2022, there have been massive layoffs of employees in the technology sector.
What are the opportunities for ex- startups to get back to work?
Great concern also arises regarding the fate of startup founders whose companies were forced to close due to lack of funding or other factors.
Research conducted by Yale University, United States, shows an anomaly condition.
The research entitled “ Are Former Startup Founders Less Hireable? 
The newly released report reports that former startup founders in the tech sector are 43 per cent less likely to get a second call (after a job interview) when applying for a job, compared to job applicants who are not from a startup founder background.
The survey involving 2,400 respondents also stated that former startup founders whose businesses were successful apparently had a 33 per cent lower chance of being invited for job interviews.
This shows a condition that is contrary to the tendency of most companies that want to hire employees who are entrepreneurial and innovative.
Because, according to the survey, when faced with job candidates who have these two things, which are usually owned by startup founders, it turns out that companies are more likely to choose candidates who are not from startup founder backgrounds.

Is this happening in Indonesia?

Although the results of this survey better describe the conditions of the working world in the United States, an observer of social entrepreneurship at Prasetiya Mulya University, Dr Rudy Handoko, believes that a similar situation is likely to occur in Indonesia. “It’s not uncommon for startup founders to enter the job market after their business fails, or business growth slows down.”
The problem, said Rudy, is that there is a kind of stigma on startup founders, or those who have served as chief executive officer, chief financial officer, or chief marketing officer at a startup company have an arrogant character, feel all-knowing, and other negative stigmas.
“Even though recruiters need employees who are humble, open-minded, and open to learning new things.”
Rudy’s opinion is also reflected in the results of research conducted by the Yale University team.
Based on the recruiters’ observations, former founders will have a broader set of skills, a growth mindset, and a propensity to innovate.
But experience as founders of companies especially those who have had success indicates these candidates are less suited and less committed to their roles as employees, so recruiters doubt their suitability as employees.
Partners at Living Lab Ventures, Bayu Seto, assessed that startup founders actually have a number of advantages. “Former startup founders are knowledgeable generalists.
“They are critical in observing business opportunities that have the potential to be acquired, and sensitive to red flags that have the potential to be deal breakers. 
“This they have because of experience in the management and operations of the company. So that their experience as founders of this startup provides a fairly mature view in making investments,” he said.
But he also found that most former early-stage startup founders tend to be hyper-focused on the product or service they are building.
This makes them forget the big picture of the solution they are trying to bring to the market. 
“It even makes them reluctant to pivot when the market trend changes instantly.”
According to Bayu, the choice of recruiting former startup founders who “changed quadrants” to become a professional raises a number of risks.
For example, the risk of cultural fit, where conventional companies have a rigid hierarchical culture.
Therefore, creating an open and flexible working situation, and as much as possible establishing a non-hierarchical culture are the main keys to maximizing the potential of the former founders.
Regardless of the survey results, a number of companies still prioritize the competency skills of prospective workers, regardless of their background. This applies to XL Axiata.
“We select candidates based on the suitability of competency skills and work culture compatibility.
“The development also applies to all employees who have joined XL Axiata,” XL Axiata Group Head People Services, Mochamad Hira Kurnia said.
Hira, who has experience in recruiting a number of former startup founders, stated that there are indeed a number of things that need to be improved in the group.
“Especially in terms of the ability to analyze innovation versus risk and the ability to manage people, and the speed of the process to adapt to an enterprise environment that focuses on balance sheets,” he said.
On the other hand, this group also has potential that recruiting companies can maximize.
“For example, their networking skills and the ability to manage business segments on a certain scale.”

The Role of the World of Education in Character Building

With these various views, what then is the solution to build a strong character of prospective entrepreneurs, but also remain adaptive to the world of work?
According to Rudy Handoko, one of them is determined by the process they go through while studying, especially at the campus level.
“Education can create a strong business character.
“On campus, for example, we emphasize the process of forming a successful businessman or professional. Nothing is instant because all results require perseverance,” Rudy said.
He gave an example of how students at Prasetiya Mulya University, since the first semester, have been exposed to various kinds of competitions, and pressures that train patience and consistency in achieving goals.
They swap roles in the group, one time being a leader, one time being a member.
“Group members are deliberately exchanged regularly so that they can work well together, even though they have different backgrounds.”
The many competitions they participate in also train their character as someone who is used to winning or losing, and not giving up easily even if they have to crawl again from the bottom.
“This kind of thing is important for character building of prospective businessmen, as well as employees,” Rudy said.
Students are also introduced to various climates of the world of work.
Prasmul students, said Rudy, were also sent to the real world, even after the first semester to understand what was happening out there.
“They are deliberately faced with ups and downs and various difficulties so that they can understand real life. So that they are ready if one day their efforts fail, and make a choice by switching to the job market, for example.”

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