Esti event – IT jobs: ‘Start-up survival skills’, by Thomas van Arman

What can you expect working for a start-up and what can they expect from you?

Thomas van Arman, Founder at Tapp

By Stefani Mans

Educated as an architect in the US, Tom moved to Amsterdam as an expert on developing smarter cities. He worked with the Appsterdam community, based here in A-Lab, and as a start-up mentor for Rockstart. He founded, amongst others, his own start-up named Tapp where Smart City apps are developed. Tom knows what it’s like to start new initiatives and how to be a frontrunner.

Amsterdam is Hot

Thomas states that Amsterdam is hot. Amsterdam is hosting 3000 start-up companies and 900 tech events per year. He emphasises that this is a good time to find work in start-ups. Furthermore, he points out that big companies like Uber and Netflix are moving here because of the talent and expertise you guys are offering.

Hipsters, hackers and hustlers

According to Thomas Hipsters, Hackers and Hustlers are the three kinds of people that you find at a start-up company. He states: ‘You have the Hipsters who design stuff, Hackers who make stuff and build the infrastructures.’ And then there are the Hustlers, the sales guys, who are on stage, like I am right now,’ he jokes.

No 9 to 5 job

Working for a start-up is not a nine to five job. He states. ‘Whether you are a designer, programmer or a tester, you need to take the responsibility for the thing that you do and deliver results.’ ‘It’s all about committing to what you are providing for your team and customers. Thomas also warns those with ambition to work for a start-up never accept the promise of equity in the company, ‘You need to have a salary to survive.’

Pitch makes perfect

When you are working for a start-up you will spend a lot of time at events, constantly at the scene, constantly networking. You’ll be talking a lot about the passion you have for the start-up you are working for. Being able to communicate this passion in a clear comprehensive way within a short time span is very important.

To illustrate this point Thomas uses an anecdote about Steve Jobs: None of Steve’s employees wanted to bump into him in the elevator at work because he would always ask just that one question: ‘What are you working on? ‘From the moment he asked you that question you had approximately one minute in between floors to pitch your project.’ Next there were two options; either he liked what you were working on, in which case he wanted you to work more and harder resulting in four hours of overtime every day, and the other option was that he didn’t like what you were working on in which case you had to be afraid you would lose your job.


Thomas emphasises that working for a start-up is very rewarding: ‘Even if the start-up doesn’t succeed it will earn you so much in life.’ He concludes his speech stating: ‘If you have the guts and the flexibility to work for a start-up you should definitely go for it.’

Personal and professional

When Maarten Langbroek asks him about the closeness that develops within a start-up team, Thomas explains that the closeness of the team is ‘the secret sauce’ of a start-up because you are dependent on each other’s skills and knowledge: ‘However it is important not to lose sight of what is professional and what is personal.’ According to Thomas most successful companies are the ones that are able to maintain a family feeling.

When asked if he has any concluding pointers or tips about successful networking, Thomas made a comparison between networking and dating. He answers: ‘Be smart about it.’ it’s not because people have a good conversation with you that they want to have sex with you.’ Date, court and see if there is a fit, don’t come on to strong
but be cool and be clear.’

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