When I was interviewing for positions, I was lucky enough to score an on-site interview with a little start-up. During my conversations, it was beginning to become very clear as to what working at a super-tiny company would mean: lower salaries, less-than-fantastic benefits, but the chance to make a lot of money (yeah, right) and a World War II belly gunner's shot at making it all the way to Phase I without losing your job.*
It was all brought home to me when I asked about their instrumentation capabilities. Do you have a NMR? No, we use a courier service for one of the commercial NMR sites with a 12 hour turnaround. Do you have a LC/MS? No, we don't. (Seriously, a well-run, working LC/MS is worth every penny.) But, [CJ], "TLC is a very powerful technique." You know what? My interlocutor was probably right. That being said, I'd rather have an on-site NMR than not.
It seems like every start-up has a story like that. "Why, it used to be just us two and this garage", and that sort of thing. But it reminds a person about the humble beginnings of most of the large companies that we hope to work for, and the conditions and the courage it takes to work there, in the beginning.
*I hasten to note the benefits of working at a small company: independence, a lack of bureaucracy and extreme organizational flexibility. And sometimes, free Diet Coke and peanut butter and honey sandwiches.