5 Essential Business Skills for Work in Startups | Top Universities

5 Essential Business Skills for Work in Startups

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Ben Clayton

Updated Nov 11, 2016



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Startup companies are among the most exciting, dynamic, and potentially rewarding places to work.  Whether you have an innovative business idea you want to see blossom, or you just want to experience working life within a ‘startup culture’, this sector is the place for you. A business degree will serve you well whether you wish to work in an established firm or a young startup, but if you’re committed to finding work in startups then you should definitely consider looking for a degree that can help you develop the following business skills:

1.  A working knowledge of the SME business sector. 

This point is fairly obvious, but it’s arguably even more important for those seeking work in startups than graduates joining regular firms. The majority of startup companies will begin life as little fish in very big ponds, so if you can find a business degree that will allow you to develop specialist knowledge of small businesses or the SME sector as a whole, you’ll be an asset.

2.  Proficiency in coding and design. 

Most startups focus on some sort of technology, software or website. Even if you plan on being an ‘ideas guy’ first and foremost, knowing how your product is made and how it works will give you a better understanding of both its necessary limitations and its potential for further innovation.  Similarly, while startups often try and do something in a new way, they don’t always make possible something that couldn’t already be done. As such, providing sharp, user-friendly design is often a key feature of work in startups, so it’s useful to be a dab hand at this too.

3.  Effective data analysis.

There are few roles within business where being an effective data analyst isn’t valued, but, once again, this is particularly important for work in startups for a number of reasons. First, startups often begin life fairly resource-deprived; expenditure and results need to be tracked meticulously if the company wants to head in the right direction. Second, due to the tech-focused nature of many startups, you’ll probably find that the product or service you’re working on has a vast amount of data it can track! Creating a better product is a lot easier when you have a better understanding of how it’s being used.

4.  Growth expertise.   

All startups want to grow, and unlike other larger companies they are often able to see significant growth in a short time. The stumbling block is that they have to manage this with little in the way of resources, and more or less nothing in the way of brand recognition. If you can obtain an understanding of how businesses (of all sizes) grow, you can make yourself invaluable. Almost all startups will want at least one ‘growth hacker’ or ‘growth marketer’ – people who can look at a small startup’s operations and take it from zero to hero.

5.  Financial savvy. 

You don’t have to have the same level of training as an accountant to be an asset when dealing with finance (though it helps…), but due to the relatively small scale that startups initially operate at, it’s essential that your company’s accounts are in order. When resources are scarce and initial operations focused more on development than trading, you need to make sure that what you have is being used effectively.

Each individual member of a startup will often take on multiple roles, so the more core business skills you have under your belt, the better! More than anyone else, startup founders need a huge skillset; their role requires them to be visionaries, managers, designers, accountants and salespeople all at once. Make sure you look through the modules of whichever business degrees you’re considering, to find out what you’ll be learning, and how much time you’ll be spending on developing various business skills. If the course comes with a placement or year in industry, find out if the university can provide assistance in helping you find a place working at an existing startup.

Most ‘vanilla’ business degrees will help you get a basic grounding in the key business skills that startups look for, but if you’re committed to joining this remarkable sector then why not consider an entire degree specializing in entrepreneurship? As startups and individual enterprise become an increasingly common destination for young graduates, universities and business schools have been adapting their curricula. Specialized entrepreneurship courses are aimed at helping graduates found, co-found or otherwise take a leading role in young and growing businesses.

If you’d like to find out more about courses with a focus on business skills for work in startups, check out the business degrees listed at www.QScourses.com and www.QScourses.com.au. QS Courses is a user-friendly directory where you can search through thousands of business courses at all levels of study, including a wide variety of entrepreneurship courses at European universities and Australian universities. You can narrow down the search by type, cost and length of the degree; if something catches your eye, request more information and you’ll be put in touch with a member of our Student Support Team, who will help with your questions and provide support free of charge.

Best of luck to all the hopeful entrepreneurs out there – go forth and build the future!