6 Questions to Ask Before Joining a Startup

April 2, 2015

9:00 am

“If You Had To Hire a Small Business Marketing Expert who would you recommend?”

I got this message from a good friend on LinkedIn. I love startups and small businesses, and I enjoy meeting with and mentoring entrepreneurs in my free time. Join a startup? OMG! I thought, is this a dream come true, or does this mean I just signed on for many tired, hungry years enthusiastically working to build a startup?

Plenty of executives from well-established companies are joining startups.  Recently, Carlos Dominguez from Cisco joined Social SaaS provider Sprinklr. I spent more than a decade in big companies like Network Solutions, working on small business online marketing tools and pioneering social media marketing in this space. And now, at this stage in my career, this opportunity came my way.

How does one go about making a decision to join a startup?


1. Google it: You could start with the search words “making a decision to join a startup”.

2. Ask other Startups: Ping all the startup founders you know – I reached out to my friends at Mobomo, Make.me, and Inviter.

3. Friends and colleagues: Talk to other advisors, friends, colleagues who joined startups- Dr. Satyam Priyadarshy, Raj Malik, Brian Dresher and even my daughter Mitali Bellamkonda is working for two startups Urban Igloo and Houced.

4. Ask Guy KawasakiHe might be tough to reach, since he’s now working as the ambassador for Canva.

Shashi Bellamkonda and Guy Kawasaki during a Network Solutions Small Business Road Show


It took some time, but from all these resources I came up with my top list of questions to ask before joining a startup:


  1. Do they have revenue?
  2. Are they still in early stage, and do they give options?
  3. Do they have budget for your position?
  4. Who else is on the management team?
  5. What is the culture of the company?
  6. What does the product roadmap look like?


The team at Surefire Social were great at providing me with answers and I had a great time meeting the team and finding out about the culture. Customer service and retention is as much a part of their DNA as it is mine. They have revenue and are expanding fast and will soon be moving to bigger offices in Tysons Corner, VA. I decided to accept the Surefire Social offer to join them as the Chief Marketing Officer.

How did this all come about?  I had met Chris Marentis, founder and CEO of Surefire Social, five years ago at my favorite place to have breakfast and hang out with people from the startup scene – the Silver Diner in Reston. After a stellar career in advertising and publishing for top media companies, Chris lead startups like FortiusOne and Add This. Our conversation centered around small business digital marketing. I agreed with Chris that small business adoption of digital marketing was not keeping up with the fast paced way that technology was changing. I knew this from my own experience mentoring small business. They were too busy to find the time to take care of Digital Marketing, reputation management, reviews and advertising. There were tools available but time and training was scarce or expensive.

I am really excited and getting geared up to succeed in a “new” world of startup innovation. I am honored to be leading the Surefire marketing team on all aspects of the launch and lead generation and joining a very strong senior team here at Surefire. This is an exciting time to join Surefire Social and continue to be part of the DC tech startup scene.

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Shashi Bellamkonda is the Chief Marketing Officer at Surefire Social. He is also an adjunct professor at Georgetown University. Shashi is passionate about helping startups and small business and has been recognized twice as one of the Top 100 Tech Titans by the Washingtonian and Top 100 Small Business Influencer Champion 2011 by Small Business Trends. Follow him on Twitter @shashib.

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