Should I include my start-up on my resume?

Kassad's picture
Kassad - Certified Professional
Rank: Almost Human | banana points 7,469

Hey WSO,

In 2008, I worked on a tiny self-owned business. I worked with 3 other people as IT consultants for a handful of business clients in NYC, all of which were engineering firms. The business was an S-corp and only operated for 1.5 years (I got my first internship in finance and decided to forget about IT). It DID generate considerable profit relative to the time investment (sub-$100K, however).

I've had this on my resume during recruiting season under a "Leadership & Startup Experience" section, and interviewers always ask about it and find it pretty interesting. However, I now have another internship doing equities research, and am wondering if I should take out the business to make space for this, or find a way to keep them both on.

Should I present only my 3 internships in finance, and present a "straight path" trajectory for my career? Or should I keep the small business on it and risk getting a "not-finance oriented enough" sentiment from hiring managers?

I have an internship in management consulting, so even my 3 finance internships aren't completely relevant to IBD (the other two are equity research and Asset Management).

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Comments (85)

Sep 20, 2012

I would keep it on in a small way that doesn't inhibit you from displaying your other internships, especially if you've gotten positive feedback about it in past interviews. Shows initiative and is an interesting talking point if you spin it the right way.

"We are buried beneath the weight of information, which is being confused with knowledge; quantity is being confused with abundance and wealth with happiness. We are monkeys with money and guns." - Tom Waits

Sep 20, 2012

Also interested...

Sep 20, 2012

I'd see if there's an acceptable format that you can put roles and dates on your functions there and leave the advisory/board type of position as -current. For example:

Founder/CxO, Jan 12-Jan 14
Advisory/Board (whatever) Jan 14-current

Maybe a reversed order with the most current on top though. You could also do it as two separate entries but I think that's goofy looking on a resume and better on LinkedIn.

    • 1
Sep 20, 2012

In regards to the second point I put a line at the bottom of the section, detailing the current status of the company, to emphasise it's still doing well.

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Sep 20, 2012

I'd like to comment on this and just ask that however you choose to showcase the startup experience on your resume you be very careful. I recently switched roles and had a startup on my resume that one of my lifelong friends cofounded. In my interviews I was very clear that my role in the startup was limited to minor consulting (brainstorming) and business development (promoting/selling the brand and introducing potential partners). However, after the interview process HR (at BB) dove very deep into my startup experience and grilled me on the details, asked for documentation and called the founders etc. Obviously I had discussed with my friend and his cofounding partner that I had plans to put their startup on my resume prior to doing so. We discussed what I would be putting in the detail as far as experience working for them, so when HR at my new firm called them I checked out. Make sure your previous employer/startup knows you will be putting them on your resume. Also make sure you are specific about whether or not you were paid, worked for free as a consultant, or have an equity stake because they will dive into it. I would hate to see someone lose an offer because they over "fluffed" their experience at their frat bro's startup and didn't check out when it came time for the background screening. Again, just wanted to share so that anyone reading can avoid the stress this caused me in my onboarding.

"They key to having it all is the realization that you already do"

    • 1
Sep 20, 2012

I sold one of mine and merged the other into an existing company, subsequently collecting a piece of future revenue generated from my brand. If the company is still running but you aren't really involved and didn't sell it, it looks more like you got fired/forced out than it went out of business. If you are still actively consulting for them, why is this even a question?

Sep 20, 2012

I took advantage of the opportunity because it was unique and hard to turn down and was able to maneuver back into the post MBA role I had wanted without doing an MBA given my prior. I'm an equity partner but didn't have enough equity nor fluent in the language where the business was based to make it worthwhile - more so to work with a passion of mine in an emerging economy .

Yes the background check panned out and I had to divulge equity stake etc

Sep 20, 2012

If you have a start up why are you trying to get into investment banking? If you landed a job in IB, you would have literally no time for your company.

Has your company even seen a dollar in revenue? If not, then it definitely isn't worth mentioning.

Sep 20, 2012

If you can spin it towards why having a start up has led you towards investment banking, then put it on there. Otherwise, it will work against you.

Sep 20, 2012
JustADude:

If you can spin it towards why having a start up has led you towards investment banking, then put it on there. Otherwise, it will work against you.

What? My entrepreneur friends in college had the easiest time of anyone getting finance jobs. One of them pursued a five person startup for a year after graduating, sold it, and started as an associate at a middle market bank. All you do as a young entrepreneur is pitching and fundraising for fifteen hours a day; unless your company is a Norwegian DJ blog, I don't see how it would work against you.

Sep 20, 2012

Obviously there are a variety of different stages your startup could be in. My rule of thumb is that if it has seen a dime of funding or revenue, you can put it on. Else do not put it on.

Sep 20, 2012

Put everything that is relevant. As a freshman, I'm thinking you have close to zero experience. I would definitely put it on there, and make sure to spin the experience to relate to the job you are applying for.

Sep 20, 2012

I'd much rather see an employment gap or lack of initiative from my prospective candidates. Really?

Sep 20, 2012

Also interested.

The HBS guys have MAD SWAGGER. They frequently wear their class jackets to boston bars, strutting and acting like they own the joint. They just ooze success, confidence, swagger, basically attributes of alpha males.

Sep 20, 2012

Nothing at all wrong with putting 'Founder' and I would definitely include it, even if it's not wildly successful (as long as you can show what you've learnt from the experience!).

Sep 20, 2012

If you're able to convey what you learned in this experience and how it's relevant to banking than absolutely put it down.

Sep 20, 2012

agreed...i have one on mine

Sep 20, 2012

As long as you don't come off like the marketing version of Lumina Investments LLC (http://nymag.com/daily/intel/2012/10/worlds-most-o...), it's a great way to show that you mean business. Spin it appropriately - it doesn't make you a master of the universe in any sense, and definitely don't take yourself too (or even very) seriously. It will draw attention to your profile if you present it the right way.

Some tips on that - don't call yourself CEO, CMO, Managing Director, or any bullshit like that. If you're a co-founder, that's a fine title to put on your resume. Also, you need to make it as legitimate as possible - quantify everything you do in order to show that you actually did work.

Good luck.

Sep 20, 2012

'So it says here you are CFO and Cofounder of so and so..'

Then comes the part where you talk about it.

Sep 20, 2012

doesnt really matter what you talk about, just be logical. i.e. this is where the idea came from, here is how we thought about the opportunity, maybe talk about some challenges along the way, and then talk about where it is today. pretty straightforward, you should have a 3 min elevator pitch.

Sep 20, 2012

i think it would be odd to see that on a resume. if that project becomes your full-time job when you're on vacation, convincing an interviewer that you'd be cool just forgetting about it for the summer could be a bit of a challenge. i might list it as a side project/hobby/interest but not as a company.

Sep 20, 2012
turtles:

i think it would be odd to see that on a resume. if that project becomes your full-time job when you're on vacation, convincing an interviewer that you'd be cool just forgetting about it for the summer could be a bit of a challenge. i might list it as a side project/hobby/interest but not as a company.

^

This, I worked in a startup, but excluded it from my resume, I felt like it was more of a side project. Besides I had better, and more important work experience

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Sep 20, 2012

What a fantastic compliment. That company might have just saved your life.

Go do something entrepreneurial where you'll wake up with a fire in your belly every morning. You're obviously not suited to the drudgery of a cube farm. That's something you should celebrate.

Sep 20, 2012

+1, spoken like a true father figure

Edmundo Braverman:

What a fantastic compliment. That company might have just saved your life.

Go do something entrepreneurial where you'll wake up with a fire in your belly every morning. You're obviously not suited to the drudgery of a cube farm. That's something you should celebrate.

If the glove don't fit, you must acquit!

Sep 20, 2012

Yea, Start your own thing!

Sep 20, 2012

Interested to hear - what's your background entrepreneurially? The only reason I ask is that I had significant entrepreneurial experience on my resume coming out of college, and almost every firm I interviewed with said it was my strongest selling point.

Sep 20, 2012

I agree with Eddie. Go an do something entrepreneurial. I hated the risk averseness that was rampant at the BB I interned at.

I am not cocky, I am confident, and when you tell me I am the best it is a compliment.
-Styles P

Sep 20, 2012
trazer985:

Just got off the phone with HR at a bigger company, made it through most of the rounds of interview, and explained that the reason they rejected me was that I was too entrepreneurial and wouldn't fit in the hierarchical structure.

I would never trust someone from HR, especially at a large company.

Sep 20, 2012

There's some chance she may say things like that somewhat often.

Sep 20, 2012

Yes that happens, I've seen it before, more than entrepreneurials i'd say rebelious.
That means that you are likely to be a freethinker and extremely smart.

Sep 20, 2012

I recently interviewed with Credit Suisse S&T and I brought up how I've been selling stuff on Ebay for years. The trader took an interest and I ended up talking about it for half my interview. I ended up making it to the final round, so it must have not hurt.
Although, I wouldn't put it on my resume I do encourage to bring up your entrepreneurial ability in the interview.

"I wanna Thank the Good Lord for Making me a Capitalist"

Sep 20, 2012

BUMP

Sep 20, 2012

Anything?

Sep 20, 2012

I think you can go ahead and put this under either work experience or activities, depending on how big a part of your life it is. If you are considering this more of your job then definitely under work experience. Either way if you have a business name, just list it, then president and founder, then typical bullet points.

Sep 20, 2012

I'm not sure if its something to necessarily reveal in the interview process, but I think once you get the offer, you will definitely need to disclose it. There are other reasons why financial firms would need to know if you are a C-level exec at another company aside from time commitment issues - you could pose a conflict to them on a regulatory level, depending on your position at the firm and what you'd be doing.

Actually thinking about it some more, maybe you should tell them during the interviews or let the recruiter know.

Sep 20, 2012

Just list it as it is, formulate it in a way that it shows that you're familiar with how finance people talk etc. and you should be good. I think with that entrepreneurial touch, you should be a good fit for an internship with a smaller PE. A lot of these shops are keen on having someone who's entrepreneurial and just needs to learn the finance tools. After that you can always move to IBD etc.

If you are unsure how to formulate everything, use the resume service provided on WSO.

Sep 20, 2012

What do you plan on doing with this venture while in IB?

Sep 20, 2012

Why are you doing IB if you have such a successful company?

Sep 20, 2012

It hums along without too much activity required from my end - I have a few people in place that can work on it more than I can. By no means am I making it rain, but this will be a nice nestegg when I get sick of working in corporate. I want to work my way up the ladder and work in PE/HF, and maybe when I'm sick of it all I'll just quit and work on my company full-time. Thoughts?

Sep 20, 2012

ahh..if it's something you want to keep I would leave it off. It will raise more questions/doubts if anything. As long as you don't have any gaps because of it.

Sep 20, 2012

Thanks for your input. You think if I were to say that I wanted to sell it off, it would be acceptable to throw on the resume?

Sep 20, 2012

I had a company that I was in the process of selling during interviews for BB IB. I felt like the feedback surrounding that experience on my resume was completely positive. Bankers like to think that they are entrepreneurs. It is all about how you can relate your experience to the interview.

Sep 20, 2012

Is "pharmaceutical arbitrage" a nice way of saying you brought drugs in from Canada and sold them here at US prices? If so, you may want to be very careful about mentioning that at all - I know there are myriad legal issues and regulations around Cross Border trafficking of drugs, and you've probably broken at least one.

  • Capt K
Sep 20, 2012

After 1-3 years of general start-up:

Financial Modeling Skills = 0
Knowledge of LBO = 0
Knowledge of 10-K/10-Q/... = 0
Knowledge of M&A process = 0

Why would PE hire you if it could hire ex-Analyst from solid MM who knows his/her shit?

Sep 20, 2012

pussinboots-guy actually makes a good point. i went through the motions of starting a business right out of undergrad. i quickly realized that this is not the kind of economic environment you want to take risk in. or at least this was the case for me.

what i learned from that experiment is that if you do fail - and you probably will - its nice to have some practical and marketable skill sets you can fall back on. attempting to start a business out of undergrad might be a nice story to bring up in an interview, but you dont learn much from a failed start up. and you definitely wont gain any relevant skill sets for PE.

man made the money, money never made the man

Sep 20, 2012

while you got a point, i think you can acquire quite an extensive skill set, considerable business sense for starters and some credibility when it comes to evaluating management, opportunities and so on.

I've been in interviews twice with smaller shops and was asked if I have any entrepreneurial experience. The Partners there had very diverse backgrounds and possibly looked for a non-conformist route, i dont know.
But that made me curious, other comments?

Sep 20, 2012

I think all of the above are pretty logical, but I think it would probably lean more towards the other comments (no relevant skills for PE). However, i think this would probably look better in VC where its less financial and more managerial, however PE is still managerial but definitely more financial.

Sep 20, 2012

Everyone has made some very valid points thus far. Start up experience will undoubtedly be valued ten times more in VC assuming the company is of any value. If you start some dud company just to say you started a company, VCs would question your ability to assess the idea/marketplace and therefore question your ability to evaluate their investments.

Generally, I don't think it transfers as well for PE. You may learn some the basics of financial modeling, but would still be leaps and bounds behind an Ibanker. You may find a PE shop here and there that likes start up experience, but overall the PE recruiting process is pretty formulaic unfortunately (Ibank first). However, if you are in it for the long haul and end up building a great company that down the line may need growth capital or even become a PE acquisition, it could be an interesting way to develop PE contacts. But again, this would obviously be a long and difficult process.

If you are serious about starting your own company, you need to do it because you are passionate about it, not because it could potentially be used as stepping stone to PE.

Sep 20, 2012

How feasible is the path of joining a start-up after your 2 years at a GS/MS/JP IBD, spending ~2-4 years at the startup, and going into PE after that? How would one approach recruiting (would there be headhunters involved)?

Would it give you credibility to have the business sense previously mentioned?

Sep 20, 2012

Do you go to a target? Do you have a high GPA? I think those factors would help you get an interview without traditional work experience.

If not, try networking with alumni to get the interview. It sounds like you have unique experience that could be spun well in interviews. You would need a good answer to the why banking question though, as it seems like based on your background the logical next step would be to continue running your business after graduation, unless the business really isn't that serious enough to provide a real income.

www.sharpeinvesting.com

Sep 20, 2012

In my experience, it's a huge positive - provided you have the other stuff like grades, good school, etc. I had a small ebay business with a few thousand in sales when I went through recruiting, and nearly everyone I interviewed with seemed impressed with it, even though it was nothing major. I had even debated leaving it off my resume, since "ebay business" seems kind of cheesy. I would focus on your business experience - it will set you apart from the numerous other applicants who had finance internships previously.

Sep 20, 2012

This is the same poster; I forgot my password. To the first poster, I have a 3.7 GPA at a borderline target business school (Think Berkeley-Haas/UMich-Ross), but my best EC's would just be being a team captain of a championship intramural basketball team and tutoring kids for 4 semesters.

Sep 20, 2012

As others here have alluded to, the #1 question recruiters will have for you is, "So why not just continue with your business if it's doing so well?"

And you need to have a good answer for that.

I also had some of my own ventures before getting started in banking (and have now returned to them, but that's another story for another time) and I purposely did not play them up in interviews. Of course, mine were probably not to the scale yours were, so it's a bit of an apples-oranges comparison.

Beyond just the inevitable "Why banking now?" question, here's specifically what recruiters will be concerned over: Banking is an extremely structured environment where everyone does what they're told to do. As an entrepreneur, you have done the complete opposite and never worked for anyone else before... so will you be able to adjust to such an environment now?

They may not ask you that question explicitly, but it will come across via other questions and throughout your interviews in multiple contexts. So you should have a good answer that shows proof you can work in such an environment.

On a side note, such experience would be valued much more highly in private equity because the job is, by its very nature, more entrepreneurial and operational experience is valued highly. It's tough to get in without previous finance experience or a good connection, but that's something you may want to consider as well.

Sep 20, 2012

Although I have already graduated this year from a non target (baruch)with a 3.55. I have a very successful eBay business, in fact it was one of the top 10 eBay business by revenues last year. I also had a mid office job at a BB for about 4 months before getting canned due to budget cutbacks. During college I had a PWM internship at Smith Barney as well as extra curricular like Ibanking club in school etc..

I know that being from a non target Ill never get into a BB for anything front office but I do believe i may have a small shot with a boutique or a MM. My business runs itself now so I dont need to be around to help out.

Sep 20, 2012

no, i wouldn't sounds like a cool story caught my attention.

Sep 20, 2012

With a resume like that why the fuck are you doing an MSF/MBA at Drexel?

Sep 20, 2012

I was diagnosed with dyseidetic dyslexia at an early age. Only thing that has saved me is my persistence and a strong work ethic. Dyslexia makes standardized testing for me very difficult, I scored 610 on my GMAT and undergraduate GPA was 3.12, not really in that target school range. I did a lot of research and chose Drexel because of its location, proximity to numerous boutique firms, program structure and Co-Op opportunities which will allow for me to get my foot inside the door and impress management with my strengths, instead of a piece of paper.

Sep 20, 2012

you could have had a solid story for a top 10 or even 5 mba

Sep 20, 2012

Get the hell back in your ball pikachu.

"...all truth passes through three stages. First, it is ridiculed. Second, it is violently opposed. Third, it is accepted as being self-evident."

  • Schopenhauer
Sep 20, 2012

god all you people and your prestige whoredom is unreal...anyway texastycoon, to answer your question i would leave it on, sounds like a great story!

My drinkin' problem left today, she packed up all her bags and walked away.

Sep 20, 2012

Banking - no.
Vc - maybe. depends on how much you sold that company for.

i think it would be a great story for top 15 bschool admissions. try retaking the gmat if possible.

Sep 20, 2012

I can honestly say I am happy with my choice to go to Drexel. Ever since a child, I knew I would have to work twice as hard as the average person to get to where I want to be in life, so the challenge of going to a non-target school actually motivates me. Everything I do is strategic, including my choice to go to Drexel. The co-op opportunity is perfect for someone in my situation. Instead of going to a another school where my GPA could possibly take a hit, I am able to get full-time (school placed) work experience in the field that I see myself working in the future. That alone gives me an advantage over those only doing summer/winter associate programs, because it allows for the opportunity to show off my on the job talents; (hard work, genuine passion, creativity, sociability etc.) which is what really sets me apart from the competition.

The question I had was NOT whether to re-take my GMAT or should I apply to a top 10 school. The advice I needed was how to better position myself through my resume in the future. What is everyone's take on young entrepreneurs in the banking industry, is it something that will mesh? Are employers intimated by the idea of hiring someone with that type of background? Should I leave it off my resume while searching for Co-Op and Intern opportunities?

Sep 20, 2012

Yeah... take it off your resume

Let me put it on mine haha

Impressive stuff sir, I would leave it on, but that's just me.

If your dreams don't scare you, then they are not big enough.

"There are two types of people in this world: People who say they pee in the shower, and dirty fucking liars."-Louis C.K.

Sep 20, 2012

Absolutely not - definitely leave it on your resume. Many in finance wish they had the guts to start their own company - and would love to hear about how you did it. I would not be surprised if some of your interviews consisted of little more than talking about that. Good luck!

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