Running a Startup is Like Competing in an Around the World Sailboat Race

How do I join a startup that is not hiring, given that I am non-technical and willing to be paid in equity if cash is not an option?

Imagine running a startup is like competing in an around the world sailboat race with your best friend.

After a few weeks at sea, you arrive at port to resupply. While at port, a girl named Sally strikes up a conversation with you and asks to join your team. Sally seems like a nice person, but you brush her off. You have no idea if she knows how to sail, and you're not sure you want to spend the next two months at sea with someone you've never met.

When you stop at the next port, you meet a guy named Mike. Mike tells you he's always wanted to travel around the world. He doesn't know how to sail, but he offers to pay his own way and work as the team chef. 

You like Mike, and his offer to volunteer is really kind. But you're not sure bringing him onboard is worth the risk. The extra weight is going to slow down the boat, and there are just too many unknowns. Maybe he gets seasick? Maybe he's actually a jerk? Maybe his cooking sucks? You don't have time to get to know Mike since you're only in port for a few hours, so you turn him down and head off for another few weeks at sea with your best friend.

During your last stop, you meet a guy named John. John read about your participation in the race online, and flew from the U.S. to meet you. John isn't a sailor, but he's an expert navigator. He has competed in dozens of races, and it turns out you have many mutual friends in the sailing world.

After talking for an hour, John pulls out his laptop and shows you a shortcut that's going to cut three days off your time. It's obvious John knows what he's doing, and you're pretty sure his shortcut will help you win the race. You call up a mutual friend who you trust and ask about John, and your friend confirms that he's a really smart guy. Ten minutes later, you offer John a job on your boat.

Put yourself in the shoes of the hiring founders. What problems do they have, and how can you prove to them that you can solve those problems?

- Chase Adam, Co-Founder, Watsi.org