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Bullshit Startup Experiences (totalgarb.tumblr.com)
530 points by supjeff on Dec 13, 2015 | hide | past | web | favorite | 288 comments

Feel free to steal mine:


me: the candidate seemed pretty good, even if he made some mistakes.

CEO: a false negative is better than a false positive! Better to reject and err on the side of caution!


CEO: we can't find people! There's a shortage! It's a crisis!


CEO: we only hire the best, smartest people in the world!

me: OK I found one! He wants a high salary.

CEO: welllll, average market salary is only $, but since "we're a startup" we can't even do that....

Number 2 is currently one of the most infuriating parts of trying to hire people at my company right now. I don't know how our recruiting wing handles the cognitive dissonance.

Yeah that one always cracks me up. Every startup says "everyone here is really smart."

Everyone says that. So everyone is really smart. So it doesn't matter.

"We lost another one to Apple!"

More accurately: "We lost another one to Apple... because they pay tip top of the market salaries."

The sad thing is that (in terms of base salary), they don't remotely pay tip top of the market in SV. So consider how bad it is to lose out to a giant mega-corp that only pays 80% of top of market salary.

Who is the current top? Netflix?

That I've seen, Netflix and VC firms.

I hear Facebook is higher.

All the programmers in silicon valley are above average.

All the actors in Hollywood are above average.

All values greater than the mean are above average.

Well, that's the news from Lake Wobegon, where all the women are strong, all the men are good looking, and all the children are above average.

Ha, I don't live on the West Coast.

CEO: We need X done Manager: That's too short of a timeframe CEO: Buy the Devs pizza every night if you need to, just get it done.

Ah, the tried and true "We are out of time, so let's slowly kill our employees to make up for it!"

If I see one more "kitchen" where everything is either fried, made of corn, or both....

I never understood the concept of working for one tenth of an hourly rate in pizzas. I hear that and wonder how people can be trusted writing a program that uses division when they don't understand the fundamentals of maths.

By that measure, those open source devs are the stupidest of all.

Helping an old lady cross the street, helping the public and helping some cheap asshole get rich. Are all of these equally stupid in your opinion, if done for free?

What about helping an asshole across the street?

You downvote, but realistically that's what Tor contributors/operators wind up doing a lot of time.

But some people have decided -- for a number of understandable reasons -- that Tor is actually a good thing to help with.

Everyone's got different ideas of worthwhile uses of their time. Some people love contributing to something; others won't spend 5 minutes on it. It has to do with desire, goals, values, and passion, rather than strictly mathematical aptitude, as you suggested.

Not sure how true it is, but one of my friends who used to work at Microsoft said that's what happened with the Xbox One, specifically after the PS4 release date was announced.

There is a slight difference with MSFT, a company that has a wee bit of cash and resourses set aside just for cases like that.

No amount of money can magically produce a new console overnight. Lots of people had to work lots of hours to make it happen. Whether extra monies were given to them though, I dunno.

I mean, they may need something delivered by a date. It may be impossible, but that doesn't change the fact they need it. This is where you step up and say it's impossible.

I think this is when a manager is supposed to add resources. I don't accept the idea that it should be normal for everyone to have to work ridiculous hours until the crunch is over.

It's the manager's job to make sure there is slack in production; that there are resources available for emergency situations, and that there is enough redundancy built into the production team that if somebody gets sick or somehow can't work a normal workload, somebody else can pick it up. If a crunch situation is unavoidable, as a manager, I would be deeply apologetic and appreciative of my employees' sacrifice, while frantically searching for a solution to ease the burden. If I can't bring in help, I need to adjust the scope or push back on the deadline. Plain and simple.

>I think this is when a manager is supposed to add resources.

No, no, no, a thousand times no. Software isn't an assembly line. It's not piece work. Adding more people to a late project only makes it later, as the existing dev team has to work to bring the new hires (even if they're experienced developers, they're still new to the project) up to speed. Adding more resources to a late project, without accounting for a period of reduced productivity is the absolute worst thing management can do. I have literally seen projects go from, "Well, it's borderline, but we can deliver if we work weekends," to, "There is no way we can do this by the delivery date," because management decided to add two new developers to the team.

The worst thing is, Fred Brooks published a book talking about this phenomenon in the '70s: The Mythical Man Month. And somehow, the lesson still hasn't sunk in.

Anything that is important enough in business can have its deadline extended. I think strict deadlines are more about managers trying to save face than an actual need.

I think sometimes strict deadlines are sometimes about coordinated efforts, as in the case of a Superbowl ad. If you're the company responsible for producing the ad, then submitting it a week after the game is unacceptable. I feel like where software is concerned, it's most often like you've said.

Except Christmas. If you're making hardware, there's tons of deadlines you absolutely cannot miss if you want to be stores for Christmas.

A year is a long time to wait in startup time.

Well, if it were actually one of the smartest people in the world then they'd understand the true value of a 0.5% equity stake vesting over four years :-/

Which is exactly why he asked for a large cash salary. =)

Well, I'm not very smart, and even I understand that the true value of 0.5% over four years is odds-on very likely to be zero...

> "0.5% over four years is odds-on very likely to be zero..."

More importantly, that even if you beat the odds and the company is a smashing success, 0.5% over four years is likely worth less money than the cash/stock bonuses major tech companies are handing out anyways, especially accounting for liquidation preferences and ratchets.

The big lie in startup equity isn't how unlikely they are to succeed, it's how little you would walk away with even if they do.

Exactly. An 80% chance of zero and 20% chance of millions is different than an 80% chance of zero and 20% chance of 70k.

And a lot of people fail to identify the difference.

I ran into a #1 where during the interview they wanted to know if I was planning on leaving for Silicon Valley anytime soon, because that's where all their employees were going.

I said no and gave reassurances, they didn't hire me, the guy who did the peer-programming part of the interview (stage 4) me changed his LinkedIn to "Apple" about a week later.

They've taken down that ad and reposted it about a month later three times since then.

#2 is giving me ptsd.

I'm not even involved with hiring, and I hear this so often it makes me hurt. Also, I'd add:

CEO: drives off in over-priced car to fly to Europe on the company dime for "business"

CEO: "Team, we have to pull together on this one and I need all of you to work through the weekend to get this feature out the door before open of business Monday morning. I appreciate all of your hard work, and we'll all be nose to the grindstone from Friday morning all the way through to Monday morning. I know you can do it, and together we can make this a killer product and a very successful venture going forward.

Team lead at 9pm on Saturday: "Hey, where's the CEO? We need him to review a few things, he wanted sign-off before we got too far."

VP Product: "He's in Vale all weekend with his family, skiing. He's off the grid until late Sunday night."

Your #1 and #2 can be reduced to:

"We hire extraordinarily productive people, who are very good at interviewing and are also ready to work for peanuts. We can't seem to find any, there is a crisis in this market"

Technical product manager position, responsible to develop highly distributed big data / advertising platform:

CEO: "Although he was a strong candidate, he was more engineering focused than what we need right now. We need a Product focused person."

This is a great and depressing read, and as the CTO of a soon-out-of-cash startup I can only say that we receive this bullshit on a founder <-> investor level day in and out.

I've actively thought about creating something like this where you could anonymously tie those stories to the real names of VCs because some of these guys are totally out of their mind.

As a EU-based startup raising a moderate seed round I could tell you two hours about the incestuous and unprofessional VC scene here. People lie into your face, VCs forward confidential information directly to competitors' management, suddenly 5 emails into a conversation people stop from replying for three weeks, etc.

I can tell you that Greg from Boxgroup, New York, has done by far more leads and intros for our shitty EU-based startup than any of those Mr. fancypants German mega-VCs (or so they see themselves).

We have had several cases where we sent the phone # of a very rich business angel to our VCs after they asked for an intro to him in order to take part in (his, kind of) round. They not once called him.

So depressing, but yet so absurd that you can't keep from laughing manically for what kind of high-paid job people are doing there sometimes.

I've actively thought about creating something like this where you could anonymously tie those stories to the real names of VCs

That site has been around for years and it works really well: http://thefunded.com

Thanks for the heads up, but it seems thefunded.com is not very active. Andreesen Horowitz has last entry 2013, Union Square ventures last entry 2011, HTGF and Point Nine are both not present.

I figure if you make something like this in a legal safehaven (slandering rich people etc) with a proper tweet button it has the potential to piss people off.

it's also really funny that the founder of 'thefunded' is also the founder of 'founder institute' - which the OP and this HN thread both rail on

>I've actively thought about creating something like this where you could anonymously tie those stories to the real names of VCs because some of these guys are totally out of their mind.

I have about a dozen entries if you ever do start this. My one from last week was a doozy.

The reason your comment is so highly rated is that your description of European VCs pretty much matches those of US and Asian VCs as well. Many VCs got where they were by being sociopaths that threw a lot of social convention out the window.

This thought is often voiced, but I think on a partner level most of them are somehow nice and clever guys.

What I don't understand is that salarymen "Investment Managers" have the mind of Donald Trump and seem to really enjoy having a gatekeeper function towards their partners / managers.

Another point is that so many people say "we want to fund innovative stuff", but once you show them something innovative they rather prefer the next amazon or IoT US-to-EU rip-off.

Very anecdotal of course!

>Another point is that so many people say "we want to fund innovative stuff", but once you show them something innovative they rather prefer the next amazon or IoT US-to-EU rip-off.

Actually worse, they end up investing in some low risk company doing CRM for government contract management or even better some kind of non-scalable thing that was their friend's company.

Oh and they are all "early stage" but tell you that you are "too early."

Social convention! How can you disrupt industries by following social convention!

Always remember: nothing is impossible when you're an asshole.


Been thinking about doing the customer version of this.

[after a long indepth technical discussion with a qualified opportunity, quoting, resources allocated, ready to pull the trigger on a large project]

me: So we are ready to go, waiting on the PO

them: Sure, just working through our process

(falls off internets, doesn't respond to phone calls/emails/rejects visits)

Months go by

them: We set up an RFP and bought from someone else.

me: Er ... you used our confidential material (marked as such) to set up a public RFP, that you didn't even invite us to, or respond to our queries? Seriously?

them: Yes.

[bangs head on table, but it gets better ... no ... the other thing]

them: the system we bought (not yours), isn't performing nearly as well as your system that we POCed on.

me: So? Why not call your vendor and have them help you?

them: they aren't able to. They don't know this stuff as well as you do.

me: So, let me get this right ... you want me to provide consulting services to help a competitor of ours ... compete ... with us?

them: Not so much consulting, as free advice and guidance. Like you did during the POC.

[resumes banging head on table]

them: hello? whats that noise?

[years pass]

them: we need to rethink our strategy, it was an order of magnitude slower than your unit at about 2-3x the cost.

me: no kidding Sherlock

them: we want to start this process again ....

me: (fits of laughter) uh ... no.

Years back, I was on the other side of this. They didn't like my mockups but they liked my price, so they took the other company's comps and handed them to me. Their logo, "confidential" and the like were still on them.

I told the customer I wanted a written release from the other company to use their stuff, especially since some of it would end up in our promo/marketing info.

They called me "not a team player" and cut my team loose from the project. Six months later they fired many of the senior staff for missing funds and a lawsuit from that other company.

Karma is a bitch.

I had a client who was curious why I was charging him to draw up quotes as a sub-contractor.

Weeks went by after they proposed the project. Later, I found out in a slightly roundabout way they went to another developer (overseas, cheaper) after sharing my quote and spec with the client :)

The customer version already exists: http://clientsfromhell.net/

uhm, this is your fault. why were you working for free?

a quote is one thing and as a sales professional you should expect to waste a huge amount of time on quotes that never go anywhere, but a proof of concept is supposed to be something you charge for. it's engineering work!!!

if they don't want to pay for a poc, that's a real good sign that they're not worth working for.

We've limit "working for free", to things that should help us close business against existing quotes with a commitment from the customer to execute on the quote in question. Our work is hard enough to replicate elsewhere that there is a natural incentive to work with us if we meet their objectives. More formally, we had at least an agreement to work together if we met their objectives. We blew them out (way better than they anticipated), which worked strongly in our favor.

Unfortunately, while you are correct it is our, and specifically my (the buck stops with me) fault, I've run into variations on this from very small "free advice" requests, through what amounted to fake RFPs, where the 'customer' loved our design, and in one case specifically asked us to train our competitors and share our IP (with no compensation) to have them deliver it.

This POC was piggy backed atop another project that had ended, and it amounted to getting some run-time in for them, after they indicated a strong preference for us (given our recent domination of an industry benchmark at the time). The 'customer' swore they would buy, and I worked to get an operational quote in front of them that they agreed to push through if the POC was in fact viable.

So much for that.

One thing I've learned over the years (no, decades) of startup life is, you don't have the deal until the check clears. Curious how similar this is to raising capital.

The cost of this POC for us was power/cooling, some of my time, and the opportunity cost of not using the machine for other engineering work. But the long term cost to the customer for their poor behavior and poor choices can't be easily measured, other than them not hitting their KPOs.

I do take full blame for this failure though. It was mine. But it is still annoying. All teachable moments leave marks.

here's a tip: if a customer ever asks for an 'escape clause' in a contract, unless tied to very specific measurable things, they're going to rip you off.

> We've limit "working for free", to things that should help us close business against existing quotes with a commitment

heuristic: if someone has to log into a machine, it's no longer sales, and is engineering.

this is hard to do. it takes discipline. it takes wondering "gee we could have gotten that sale." and tossing it to the wind. it's HARD. but you have to do it. please have some self-respect, our industry is short on it.

> Curious how similar this is to raising capital.

Exactly the same.

interestingly, a lot of our sales woes went away when we started asking for some money up front. we're all first-time sales people at my outfit.

people who are willing to pay a small fee up front are the only people you can work with as a services startup, the rest are worthless.

This is my worst nightmare.

Enterprise sales cycles kill startups. Yes, the stupidity of big orgs is maddening. But it's that same stupidity that leaves so many opportunities on the table for startups to seize.

My favourite:

Founder Institute

- run by international group of millionaire magazine-cover entrepreneurs

- doesn’t invest a penny in its companies

- charges founders thousands of dollars for mentorship

- well-regarded startup accelerator


I was once offered the position to head the local chapter, after having a private phonecall with Adeo, I declined as I couldn't see the value offered. The next person took it, and as expected, the local chapter failed spectacularly and the people founding it were out of a lot of work and didn't get anything in return.

It's still a mistery to me why that organization has credibility.

Some good answers here.

Is the Founder Institute a good deal for entrepreneurs? Why or why not?


After reading these, Founders Institute still seems like a _really_ bad deal.

I'm surprised people don't talk about this and Draper University more. Draper University has some interesting things about it (room / board / meals in SV) and the fact that it is SPECIFICALLY billing itself as a University (which you'd expect to pay for), but Founder Institute has started billing itself as a "global ACCELERATOR" despite CHARGING $2k up front + $4500 + 3.5% on the backend. I know the 3.5% is technically shared by the founders as well but I'd love to know that breakdown.

I don't want to be overly negative on people trying new things in education, but the word "Accelerator" has a specific meaning to people now. Using it for something you charge the founders cash to be a part of is bad news to me. Never thoughts I'd be putting Draper U on the "positive" side of a comparison, but even at 5x the cost it feels a lot more up front and honest.

The funny thing about Draper University is that the reality show Startup U (http://abcfamily.go.com/shows/startup-u) was essentially intended to be an advertisement for Draper University (with a mix of Shark Tank thrown in)

I watched every episode. Startup U, if anything, served an anti-advertisement for Draper University. (Spoiler alert: the winner of the show was a 3D printing startup by a non-engineer who wanted to 3D print a house. All he was able to 3D print on-camera was a nonsolid pipe.)

Oh my god, this is like watching The Office, except without the punchlines. Tim Draper might as well be David Brent and Michael Scott rolled into one person. I'm only ten minutes in, but what I love about it so far is the narcissism: none of it is about like, business, it's about what owning a business says about them.

Damn, I have to be in the US to watch the videos :(

Oh well, guess I saved some times.

tomasien "SPECIFICALLY billing itself as a University"

Draper University - Silicon Valley's top entrepreneurship program and accelerator founded by Tim Draper. Startup bootcamp and crash course in business and entrepreneurship.

Is Draper University of Heroes a scam? https://www.quora.com/Is-Draper-University-of-Heroes-a-scam

Oof yeah that's not good. I think this is one of those things where you need to draw REALLY clear lines.

I had this exact situation - and I told him it felt "off" and was scolded for not being a community leader. Oops!

In their limited defense, they do position themselves more as an educational program than as an incubator.

In marketing material they use the word "accelerator" constantly. Poke around Twitter, you'll see it. Not cool IMO.

> me: hi i'm here about the lead developer position

> CEO: cool man lets grab a couple beers

> me: (over beers) hi i'm here for the lead developer position

> CEO: yeah dude but are you any good at foosball?

> me: (over foosball) i'm here for the lead developer position

This is surprisingly common and not just for hiring technical roles. I find it especially odd when founders do it in the process of hiring their first few employees....it's like dude, you don't even have a culture yet, why do you care about culture fit?

It would be impossible to quantify but I wonder how many good ideas tackled by good founders never got off the ground because they were overly fixated on getting the first 10 hires EXACTLY right.

I don't know that grabbing beers and playing foosball necessarily equates to getting the hires "EXACTLY right". I feel like it's the litmus test for "Can I hang out with this person casually and for very extended periods of time?"

Edit: Not sure why the down votes. For anyone that's worked in a seed/pre-seed startup, this is absolutely an essential thing.

That's a valid point and I'm not sure why people are downvoting you.

I think the litmus test should be, "do I not dislike spending a lot of time with this person", not "do I really like spending time with this person". Shooting the shit over beers and foosball is really testing for the latter, not the former.

Plus let's face it, a lot of technically gifted and experienced people ain't exactly extroverts. And people act different when they know they're being evaluated anyway. So some founders' insistence on fratting it up for step one of the hiring process just strikes me as stupid.

And by the way...I'm a tall, white, former college athlete male. I'm VERY comfortable in a "drinking beer in bars with dudes" environment; it's what I often do with my friends on my own time. I'd likely be even more opinionated about this if I were not as naturally comfortable in a bro-y environment.

I'm not okay with somebody expecting me to be their friend if they hire me. I'm here to make software, not lend emotional support.

That said, we're all still just people, and if we're gonna be friends, we'll be friends. That usually sorts itself out just from sharing circumstances.

Friendship isn't really about emotional support. To think that working in a high-level position at a growing company doesn't require getting along with people is incredibly naïve.

In my experience "getting along" is a large spectrum and working with someone professionaly isn't the same thing as going to a beer with them. I've had extremely productive professional relationship with several people I wouldn't go out to grab a beer with (mostly because they were at different stages in life and we didn't really have much to talk about).

Filtering via non-professional social occasions is pretty much the worst part of the bro culture.

This is a good point. Depending on the stage of the company and the type of people working there it is very possible to have productive working relationships that would never extend to events outside the office.

But that doesn't mean a first meeting outside the office over beer or coffee isn't a good idea. It isn't necessarily part of "bro culture" either.

I've found that it's a good way to have a conversation with someone to get a feel for what they like to think about, and hopefully learn a little bit about what kind of decision maker someone is.

Of course you have to be able to get along with people, but friendship is way more than just getting along with people. It's being involved in each other's personal lives for non-business reasons.

When someone is explicitly looking to hire not just colleagues but new personal friends, it can be a sign of immaturity, and that they might not be great at understanding boundaries.

On the other hand, there are probably some people who would like that kind of a work environment. No harm is done if the potential employer is up front about it, at least they're being open about what they want. Much more awkward to take the job and get surprised by Overly Attached Coworkers if that's not what you want.

You're filtering out people who don't drink alcohol.

That probably doesn't have much to do with whether they're any good at the job or whether you like working with them.

Actually, wouldn't you expect drinking to correlate negatively with a programmer's output? Whatever bullshit people say about drugs enhancing their output, I've never heard similar bullshit about alcohol/hangover being a stimulant and if someone drinks a lot there's a decent chance they'd program when drunk or hungover.

(Personally I've tried once to program when drunk - I ate nothing the whole morning and drank half a bottle of wine, which is more than enough for me given my very little drinking experience; I couldn't stop laughing at any joke by the guy we drank with - or at pretty much anything he said, really. I did write pretty decent code in the couple of hours it took me to become sober again, in retrospect, and I think it actually gave me courage to tackle the shit I had to at that moment, but then I thought about it all a lot before getting drunk and it was almost done and all I had to do was finish it. It didn't feel like I'd do very well in general in that condition.)

Obligatory xkcd:


Even in a startup environment with a keg in the office, I wouldn't typically drink and code, besides perhaps a Friday afternoon beer.

That said, for personal projects in the evenings, I find having 1-2 drinks helpful for removing barriers to perfectionism when you have simple coding tasks to solve.

Bingo. Implementing features doesn't usually require it, but keeping an entire system in your head with all its complexity and chain reactions from making something work another way keeps me from moving ahead sometimes -- especially when it isn't clear what the best option is. A beer or two helps me pick one and keep moving, to discover the answer as I go.

> You're filtering out people who don't drink alcohol.

I might consider that valuable information. I also might consider whether you can drink a responsible amount of alcohol useful information.

Especially at single-digit employee stage, just about anybody might wind up doing marketing or sales calls.

Not drinking alcohol can be a large handicap in that instance.

It's indirect discrimination against people with a religion that forbids drinking alcohol or people with a disability that prevents them drinking alcohol.

You can try to rationalise it, but you should be aware that you're just justifying your cognitive biases.

> you're just justifying your cognitive biases.

Or acknowledging the biases in my industry.

Try sending a woman to close a deal with a Japanese company. You're gonna get a veiled request to send the actual man in charge, if they don't consider themselves insulted and simply torch the deal. (In this instance, it was the woman herself who warned us not to do this. It was very funny, because we always brought her along as a "secretary", "assistant", etc. She was actually CTO and extremely fluent in Japanese. We got quite a bit of information because somebody said something stupid in Japanese right in front of her "secretary" act. Only one company recognized her and called us on it--we all had a good laugh making fun of the stupid old guard and wound up with the contract, but I digress ...)

Try closing a deal for defense contracting. I can't tell you the number of contracts where the signature occurred in or near a strip club. This has gotten better--it was WAY worse even 10 years ago--20 years ago it was ridiculous.

As much as it pains me, as a startup founder, I'm really not an equal opportunity employer. I'm looking for people who can fill roles that I know I need filled. If someone can't fill some important role because of religious belief, moral stance, health status, need to telecommute, inability to fly regularly, etc. I'm simply not going to hire them until I get bigger.

> I'm really not an equal opportunity employer.

I'm always surprised when people open themselves up for legal liability like this.

IANAL, but if a US company has fewer than 15 employees, they are exempt from many of the equal employment laws.

You forgot gender from your list, as per your story.

You don't sound "pained", you sound complicit.

Feel free to start your own startup and outcompete me with the people that I choose not to hire.

Otherwise, you basically prove me correct.

You're the one in a position of power with the ability to change things, you coward.

> you coward

Personal attacks are not allowed on Hacker News, even if you find a comment reprehensible.

..not to take any side here, but to bully other people for having other opinions is more a reddit than a hn thing.

Cognitive bias (and dissonance) is heavily involved in the maintenance of religious belief.

You mean hiring echo chambers is an essential thing?

Considering the vast majority of startups fail, maybe this is one aspect that needs rethinking.

I had an interview a little similar to this; ended up doing vodka shots with the founders, shooting the shit for awhile, but not really talking about anything technical.

Turned down the job in favor of a bigger, more corporate experience.

Surprise surprise, a few months later, the start up in question was lambasted for being the exact stereotype of a dudebro startup, from underpaying its employees and expecting them to work 16 hour days to outright sexual harassment.

A lot of young founders are just enacting their dreams of having fun, getting rich, and being high status cool kids. Doesn't have a lot to do with the business. Fortunately those are the type of founders who fail terribly, although they still probably have enough $ to keep being a serial 'entrepreneur'.

All of the beers-and-foosball culture definitely troubles me.

It feels so...frat boy to me, and I was never a frat boy.

It is frat boy, because a large portion of these types of start ups are funded/started by and for frat boys.

While it is an obvious culture to examine, realize that most companies (and certainly all startups) have a cultural expectation. Sometimes it is as highly overt as the above, but other times it is a quieter expectation that is more in keeping with mainstream corporate American culture.

For example, in many companies not caring about sports can make casual conversations and friendly connections with coworkers difficult. Also, certain departments (such as IT) can be overwhelmingly focused on standard geek culture.

It is a really tough and interesting problem to examine. A strong culture can bind a team together in fantastically productive ways. However, a strong culture can also lead to groupthink and exclude voices that would help build an even better team. The exclusionary aspect can also be seen as sexist/racist/bigoted from an outside perspective even though it is doubtful that the team intends it that way.

On balance, I think a founder focusing on the type of culture they want is good as it allows both founder and employees have a clear understanding of what the jobs expectations. That said, a culture of beer-and-foosball hardly seems like the most productive and conducive to success.

How about focusing on a culture of getting stuff done? That's about the only thing that counts in a small company.

Certainly one I favor! But there's still going to be variation with that.

There's the 'soft' cultural variation of expected work hours (duration and placement during the day), remote vs. in-office only, single 20 somethings that work all the time vs. mature family focused that aims to have a healthy work-life balance, star wars vs. star trek, etc.

Some of those soft things can really matter to long term happiness of both the employer and employee.

Then there's the critical 'hard' cultural variations.

Is it a culture of sticking with the tried and true tech stack and focusing on reframing the tech challenges to fit that stack? Or a culture where NewFunStack.js made by Behemoth Tech Company should be used?

Strangely enough I bet both sides of the debate would say they're a culture of focusing on "getting stuff done". I've seen people be highly productive in both approaches, so I'm inclined to say its more a cultural fit question than anything else.

Star Wars vs Star Trek?

That question isn't specific enough. It's "Millenium Falcon vs. The Enterprise: who would win?"

In what universe? Star Wars or Star Trek? Also, who would be piloting each ship? Solo and Kirk? :)

Already asked by Egg Troll (search for the chaos it caused!):


Frivolous example, I know, but you'd be amazed how different Star Wars and Star Trek fans can be!

Their differences have tended to be less in recent years as both franchises have become "cool".

Oh for sure. Just hire the people who say yes to the question of getting stuff done. Easy!

> A strong culture can bind a team together in fantastically productive ways. However, a strong culture can also lead to groupthink and exclude voices that would help build an even better team.

You are conflating "strong" with "exclusionary".

>The exclusionary aspect can also be seen as sexist/racist/bigoted from an outside perspective even though it is doubtful that the team intends it that way.

Team members have to be very callous not to realize that an exclusionary culture is, well, excluding people.

It's very interesting to consider: What commonality, common interests, etc., in a group would be healthiest and best in some way for humans and maybe humanity?

"you don't even have a culture yet, why do you care about culture fit?"

Sometimes they do, and it's not about "brodude startup"

If there are some founders and they share a vision/way of doing things that's their culture already and that's how the company is going to do things.

I'm not saying it's bad, quite the contrary.

What's your focus? What's your way of solving problems? How do you prioritise stuff?

"Cultural fit" just means "I don't want to work with anyone I'm not friends with"

Yep. And that's not weird.

I work where I do now largely because my friends do. I mean, if you're going to spend 60 hours a week in close-ish quarters with people, it'd be nice if you enjoyed it as much as possible.

Granted, there is an extreme, and there are discrimination laws, but I do want to spend time with people I get along with.

For an early employee the effect on the culture may be more significant than their impact on the technical side. Technical interviews suck anyway; maybe they were going to give you a take-home technical task, or a couple of days' contract work, both much better ways of assessing technical skills.

First few people often define the work culture heavily.

roots in a missunderstanding a lot of people have from my pov

imo company culture isnt how a company acts

it is how people within treat each other

Startup: We need an experienced Foo programmer.

Me: Those are easy to find.

Startup: Our lead developer keeps shooting them down because they don't know (obscure keyword).

Me: How long would it take an experienced programmer to learn (obscure keyword)?

Startup: I don't know, maybe an hour?

Me: How long have you been hiring for this position?

Startup: About six months.

Me: Would it help if I sent you a transcript of this call?

Startup: What?

Me: Never mind...

I might have down voted you by accident. Was trying to up vote you, little arrows/big thumbs/mobile. Sorry.

Hi, so this is all happening at the startup I work at:


CEO: We just closed a XX million dollar Series C funding round!

-- later at an a company wide meeting ---

CEO: we have zero revenue. if we asked our customers to pay us, they would drop our product in a second... so, uh, we really don't have product market fit yet.

me: ...

CEO: no worries. we are attacking such a large market. surely we'll find something. and when we do it will be HUGE... it'll be... it'll be... it's so huge I'm having trouble even describing it!


-- at an important weekly product meeting --

CEO: okay it's been ten minutes. where is [cofounder]

CTO: oh he's in china for the week.

CEO: ...

CTO: On vacation.

everyone else: ... (your cofounder didn't tell you that?)


me: your company name "cadabra" sounds like cadaver.

ceo: nah, dude.

me: you had to spell it out when I asked you to pronounce it.

ceo: nah, we just need to hire more marketing people.


wannabe designer: so tell me how you approach design.

me: well I really like being apart of the process from start to finish, since I've also done UX wor--

designer: great, let me tell you how we do design here. i draw up the stuff and you do it, unless there's a technical problem. you can argue and you will be wrong, ha ha.

me: you're joking right?

designer: * proceeds to create barely passable UIs *

And the list goes on. I have plenty of more stories to share but I am currently busy seeking employment elsewhere.

Shameless plug: If you're looking for an American android developer (10,000+ install base on play store), or a front end web developer ( Tech Giant), a back python/java developer ( past startups ), let's talk shop at snarkyhackernewsuser@gmail.com.

It's honestly baffling to me how much #2 resonates with a company I'm working for.

I just don't get it. There typically aren't that many co-founders in a company. How hard is it to keep one another on the same page. Sometimes it's about vacation times. Sometimes it's about resourcing. Sometimes it's about projects being worked on.

It's not a question of "how much effort" but more "what kind" of effort. In my situation, I'm getting a firm impression one of the cofounder is "checking out"[1] so the kind of effort needed to notify his fellow cofounder is probably not something he can summon at the time.

I find it particularly distressing because, in my view, your cofounder is like your lifelong partner. Imagine going to another country without telling your husband or wife for a week. Maybe it'll be fine if you apologize afterwards... but what would you tell your kids? Metaphorically, the "kids" are everyone who sat in on that meeting and were amazed at the lack of communication between the two.

[1] He doesn't really seem to have a huge role in the company anymore. He does not seem anywhere near as stressed as his cofounder. He kept silent when there was a "we don't have product market fit, oh shit" situation when it was revealed to the company.

Story #3 reminds me of a rule: if your company's name causes spontaneous laughter from multiple people, it's a bad name. This really happened:

(at a party, in a group of 6-8 acquaintances)

Me: Oh hi Fred, how're you doing? I heard you got a new job. Where are you now?

Fred: I'm at Clustra Systems.

(entire group laughs spontaneously)

[explanation: everybody in the group other than Fred simultaneously thought, "That sounds like a Clustraf*ck of a company." OTOH maybe Fred did too.]

Ah, #1 is very familiar. Except that your CEO is slightly better in that he can admit they don't have product-market fit.

Not completely honest however. Before I joined, she overstated the number by a factor of 2... without clearly defining that that the company was making no revenue.

She's extremely stressed and there's a lot of pressure on her. I understand that and I commiserate-- the problem is that at this point, it's all just "playing house".

-- me: sits through yet another mandatory hours-long meeting where the loudest two developers one-up each other to find the best hypothetical solution to the most convoluted problem they can imagine as it relates to the urgent, critical problem we currently face whose simple, plain solution goes entirely ignored and where no decision is made. --

I have trouble laughing at what I know is supposed to be humor, because of how tragically true this is and how much this affects me on a regular basis.

But I don't work for a startup! I thought it was supposed to be different in that world.

Perhaps some problems are just universal.

How about the meeting where the non-problems and false concerns are beaten like a dead horse by people without the knowledge or skill to be in the discussion. But you have to just sit there with your face in your palm because if you say anything to try and correct the misdirection, you will be considered not a "team player".

This is the default for Fortune 500 work.

Case in point, grossly expensive COTS implemtation requiring 80 consultants to build ETL pipeline to handle roughly 5,000-10,000 transactions A DAY simple XML files to DB rows.

Told client a few smart devs could build this in a few months. Got the ಠ_ಠ

If you're not the leader, you're waiting quietly for the leader to take action, but more often than not, the leader is enthralled by the exhilarating debate taking place before them. A non-technical leader takes it as an opportunity to learn, which is a great attitude to have, but the rest of us are dying.

Other times they know they need to get things back on track, but they don't know how to stop the runaway train that is a developer ruminating on something that gets more convoluted with each syllable.

It's amazing how many of these apply to the company I just quit. I emailed it to their lead developer. Hilarious and depressing at the same time.

A lot of these anecdotes are the frustration with dealing with people that waste your time. I guess it's not limited to just the startup space but one thing I've learned is that there is an unlimited number of people that are willing to waste your time and boy is it frustrating.

On the bright side, at least you get a free latte or cappuccino while having your time wasted.

Not always. I wasted a day interviewing at TrueCar (well, some faction of TrueCar) and paid for my own lunch. Never heard back from them or the recruiter. Talk about a real waste of time (with footnote I clearly learned I never want to work for TrueCar).

I had a very negative experience with them some years ago. I'd rather not divulge it because it would identify me, but suffice it to say, I'd strongly recommend no-one waste their time on these folks.

I don't do coffee or alcohol.

I just want to talk over Thai iced tea damn it! Screw this coffee and/or beer! Thai iced tea!

After doing a number of "coffees" there, I can disclose that Blue Bottle also has a good hot chocolate.

Can you not get a juice or water or something else whenever you have these meetings?

> A lot of these anecdotes are the frustration with dealing with people that waste your time.

Having been both a founder and an employee, these examples don't really ring true to me. At least personally I've seen a lot more employees and consultants wasting founders time than the other way around.

As a founder you're a magnet for bullshit artists trying to hitch their star to yours, especially if you're seen as 'hot' in any way, shape or form.

...And as a developer you're a magnet for bullshit founders desperate to hitch their star to yours, especially if you're seen as 'competent' in any way, shape or form.

There are more types of founders than just business guys without technical capabilities. There are also technical founders.

There are, but it's a market for lemons. The founders who can build things & get users are off doing that. You mostly don't see them in the startup "scene", because they've found the majority of people are bullshit artists who just want to waste their time.

The developers who understand product and can build it successfully are off doing that. You mostly don't see them in the startup "scene", because they've hitched their wagon to a founder who knows where he's going, has a realistic plan for getting there, and treats all the people with him well. When they do appear on the open market, they get snatched up really quickly.

What's left are the folks who have impressive-sounding but unattainable dreams, the folks who would rather talk about programming than program, and the folks who believe that everyone exists just to serve them without them needing to bring anything to the table.

I'm going to have to disagree with that. As a technical guy I used to be biased in the direction that you're indicating but the last couple of years (since '07 more or less) I've been introduced to a very large number of non-technical founders that absolutely rocked. It is very easy to write all non-technical people off as 'lemons' but you'd be throwing away some very valuable people. Tech chops do not automatically translate into ability to run a company, ability to do sales, marketing, finance and so on. These are essential skills for running a business and just like not everybody is interested in those skills not everybody is interested in making computers jump through hoops. The sum of those skills can be considerably larger than the parts.

"You've been introduced to." That's the difference.

I'm not disputing that there are good business founders out there. I'm disputing that you're likely to run into them at random. Good business folks disappear from the market really quickly; they partner up with a good technical person, usually through a personal introduction.

This rings true to me. I work at a young company outside California with plenty of revenue, no debt, employee owned. It was all started and run by older engineers who knew their market. Nobody asked anything of the VC circus because the VC circus has literally nothing of value to offer such a company.

It's not even just that though. It's like you sign an agreement with a photographer to photograph an event, and then they don't show up and you never hear from them again. Or a potential investor won't respond to your emails, but they add you to their mailing list. Or you hire someone to build a web app, you go away for two weeks, and when you get back it becomes clear that they've been trying to build it on top of their new database hobby project.

"... you hire someone to build a web app, you go away for two weeks .."

I'm not trying to be a jerk here, but, could 'going away for two weeks' have been the point when the project started down the wrong path?

It was a hypothetical example. But no, you shouldn't have to babysit people. Even junior devs should be able to exercise good judgment about that kind of stuff.

Collaboration =/= babysitting. Hiring somebody to build something and then going away for two weeks is managerial negligence.

> it becomes clear that they've been trying to build it on top of their new database hobby project

That sounds like no one sat down and discussed requirements or even talked things through other than "I need X, do whatever you like"

How do you handle the database guy situation? Do you try to salvage anything or just start over with someone else?

A person like that doesn't have the maturity and experience to stick to tried-and-true tools, so not much will be salvageable. So you should start over with someone else.

You asked for a link to a 802.11 USB wifi adapter 20 days ago but I can't respond to that post because it's too old. Here you go: www.aliexpress.com/item/x/32557465326.html It's $1.71, I guess there is additional demand for these things due to the release of the Pi Zero.

Thanks for remembering and responding.

I've been on both sides and I think it goes both ways. I won't take coding tests ever again because of the wasted time involved. And I've had cases where even existing consulting clients thought it was OK to try and cut my rate in half.

As soon as your name is out there as a successful founder you'll get a ton of this, the more media coverage you get the worse it gets.

A few years ago I got publicity (TechCrunch among others) for a side project I developed. For at least 6 months I got non-stop solicitation emails for outsourcing and 30 second promotional videos. I can only imagine if I got that same publicity tied to a business with known funding.

After announcing the GitLab's A round I'm getting two recruiting emails, one outsourcing and one investor email per day. Having a note on our jobs page https://about.gitlab.com/jobs/ doesn't seem to help.

Your job descriptions are the very model of clarity.

I wouldn't normally comment, but it makes a great impression.

> married hetero male founders: we're thinking of getting an intern

> me: okay but I don't see what we could offer. You know we're on a really tight

> married hetero male founders: we're getting an intern.

> intern: (beautiful 18yo girl)

Young male intern --> Everyone assumes you're a Wunderkind.

Young female intern --> Everyone assumes that the CEO is having sex with you.


Hells to the no. In my experience, if you see a useless young male intern, he's probably the nephew of the dumbest investor.

But the pattern holds in one way, because to keep up appearances, we're supposed to put the useless male intern on coding projects. So he's more of a net negative.

> Young female intern --> Everyone assumes that the CEO is having sex with you

Well, to be fair, a young, attractive, competent female intern has far better opportunities than intern at a shitty startup.

I hold founders' motives suspect. Not the relationship (which actually seems to have worked out) that resulted.

for me at least, I would assume the young male intern got in through nepotism of some kind.

Actually, I would say I would stereotype first on their credentials before their gender (since I would likely see their resume first before seeing them in person)

So many... so many.

me: (up all night fixing bugs in production due to technical debt and mistakes from overworked and tired devs. Sleep from 5am to 9am, show up to office at 10am)

CEO (sales background), walking by as he sees me enter the office: "Hey tone, I want butts in seats, including yours. We have a culture of hard work here. Set an example."


CTO: "We don't need to hire expensive devs. Just hire from overseas and promise them an H1B. They'll work for the minimum."

me: "That's not only unsustainable, it's unethical. H1B is a lottery, we can't promise that!"

CTO: "I don't expect them to know that, and you're not going to tell them! Get them on-boarded and working a.s.a.p."

me: (goes home, writes resignation email)

Interviewer: We need someone with [describes soft skill set for my dream job]

Me: Great career opportunity, I'd certainly be willing to move across country for this

Interviewer, day 1: Here's your desk, now I'm going to assign you a ticket off the backlog. Let me know when you're done and I'll assign you another one. [pats me on the head and walks away]

Bait'n'switch, and I fell for it. I think it's the only way they can get people to come to this no-good podunk town, with not a sushi bar for miles, and 19th century development practices. And yes, I am preparing my awesome flameout exit. I hope to hear the lamentation of their womenfolk.

A valley company with an ex-early-google-engineer founder hired me to do ML. It turned out he lied; nothing I worked on for 8 weeks was in any way related to data science but rather pure backend engineering. Said founder actually got super butthurt when I quit 8 weeks in, and had the balls to ask me to stay for a couple weeks to finish projects. After the job description, the interview, and the list of sample projects I'd asked for were all machine learning work. None of which I actually did. This was particularly frustrating because I'd turned down another great offer for them, and it was no longer available after I realized I'd been deceived.

Not sure what your dream job is. But pulling a few tickets off the backlog is a pretty normal way to ramp up new hires.

I take your point, and I do that with new hires myself.

I'm compressing things for comic effect, but I promise you the core of the story is true - I got suckered in by wonderful promises, and interviewing in the industry hot spot I was in is going to involve significant time and cash outlay.

If you're in the Bay Area and want a new dream job, send me a note. I'm incubating new B2B/B2C products at Google and need a senior full stack dev* who's as comfortable talking with customers & biz execs as they are coding.

* Google SWEs aren't typically swiss army knives. I need a swiss army knife, so this is not a SWE position, if that matters to you.

Bay Area swiss army knife here. That sounds awesome! @jamespshields

A lot of these appear to stem from inexperience -- the founder/CEO/CTO doing and saying what they think they're supposed to do or because "that's what successful people do."

I'm going to be slightly reverse-ageist for a moment: I'm at a startup where the average age is over 40, the founder is deeply experienced as both an engineer and a manager, and I can honestly say that NONE of this stuff happens. I took my reading these anecdotes to appreciate how nice (and apparently rare?) this is.

The anecdotes show inexperience on both sides. If you are taking interviews with so many bad startup founders that you are able to compile a list like this, maybe you should work on your own filtering mechanism to stop talking to people who will waste your time.

Can you say which company this is? I feel like I should try to work there

I loved these! I certainly have been through some of that nonsense.

i would add:

job offer: salary range $100-$130k

interviewer: the max for this position is $80K

interviewer: hello?

I see this a lot with startups hiring on Angel List. Angel List makes them specify a salary range so they do, but always offer well below the minimum.

At best they are blatantly insulting the candidate, at worst they are liars. Probably both.

wow, they've all been from angel list for me too! i didn't realize the connection till now.

Sorry to hear about your experience. We take abuse like this seriously. If possible, could you email me the names of the companies at amit@angel.co?

I think it's awesome that you take this so seriously. I also think it's great that you ask companies to be upfront about compensation (I say this as an founder). It irks me when companies aren't forthright with potential hires.

Definitely replying to this, I've had this happen more than once at the offer stage.

I've also gotten on Angel's List:

Me: "So, the salary range for this position starts at 130K?" Founder: "Yes, that's the salary you'll recieve..." Me: "..." Founder: "once I get funding." click

"Sounds good, call me up when you get funding" click

Based on my experience, there doesn't seem to be much overlap between the type of charismatic pitch founder capable of raising money and getting people to work for less than their market rate, and the bean counter-oversight founder capable of running an efficient business. But it's the former type that is able to raise money, so they find themselves in a position to have conversations like these.

That's fine, but if you're that kind of founder you have to know your limitations and hire a top-flight COO to handle that side of things. If you can't, or won't, you're just another shitty founder-CEO whose company is going to fail.

Have you read Good to Great? The book describe those founders as rockstar CEOs. Very charismatic and good for morale, but not so much for business.


Problems are not just limited to startups. Here's some of the shenanigans which went on in the last company I worked for:

Company is constantly on credit hold. Engineers receive calls from suppliers stating that they haven't been paid and no one in accounts payable is returning their calls.

Company does layoffs on a recurring basis, and then hires different people for a new project. In one case they hired back the same people they laid off a year ago and paid them signing bonuses.

CEO shows gross indifference when someone leaves the company. Just shrugs it off.

CEO walks into VP of HR's office with someone and states that you're fired, and this is your replacement.

CEO constantly worrying about getting delisted from NASDAQ.

CEO and VP Engineering "chum" thinking they know the price of components and stating that that should cost $5, when everyone supplying stated item is asking $15.

I've worked for startups as a full-stack dev for about 5 years, and spent the last year trying to land a position in as a technical manager. This specific pursuit has lead to some of the most bullshit encounters I've had with startups. What are some of your bullshit experiences?

My best one to date: In early 2002 we got an offer of a well-funded start-up to take over our company. We had the technology, they had the sales, the marketing and the $.

The CEO met me in an office in SV so lavish it would not have been out of place as a Ferrari showroom. Halfway during the meeting - we didn't hit it off all that well - he made the momentous announcement that if we did not accept his offer we'd be going on a head-on collision course for a game of chicken and he had just thrown away his steering wheel.

I just laughed, bade my farewells. They failed spectacularly (not a bankruptcy but the service was shut down) several months later after burning through a very large fraction of $30M.

What puzzles me to this date is what he thought he was trying to accomplish by showing me that he was a reckless cowboy with very little sense for business relations but it certainly wasn't going to end in a partnership with him 'at the wheel' (since he'd just thrown that out).

He's still around, selling toothpaste.

Maybe he knew that he was going to get bankrupt soon and tried to bluff and scare you into accepting his acquisition offer, so he would get your technology on favorable terms and look good to his investors.

They were not about to go bankrupt at that point (they never did, they blew through a very large amount of money in no time flat, then this guy got thrown out, a more seasoned CEO was attracted who concluded after a serious rescue attempt that it was pointless). So any kind of existential threat probably was still over the horizon at that point, they never actually went bust they simply shut down.

In the phrase "technical manager", technical is an adjective; the noun is manager.

What would lead you to expect a smooth path to being hired as a tech manager without tech management experience?

It's a different job and the skills required to succeed have less overlap than many devs think.

I've been "Lead Dev" for 6 years, and had the responsibility of an actual manager without any of the budget/resourcing ability that's necessary to manage well. I've successfully launched lots of products and platforms with teams of 5-7 people, and had a good tenure earlier this year as a CTO with a team of 5. I would have stayed in that position if the founders hadn't closed it down.

Every single manager I have had in the SF Bay Area is at least one position up from where they would be anywhere else in the country. This area has a reputation for being the best place to start a career. Well it also should have the reputation for being the best place to jump into management.

Unfortunately, all of these managers also got in through networking not demonstrated ability. So to the person that wants to jump into management, you need to focus much more on networking and less on applying to open positions.

If you can't get in through networking, you need to put in the long slog to get in through working at the same employer (and likely suffering on the pay front until you make it into management and have enough experience there to jump).

Good advice. Thanks :)

By your logic it is hard to see how anyone technically competent could be promoted into management. Good luck with that.

"hired as" was intentionally chosen wording.

IME, the easiest path is within a company, not in a new hire situation. You take someone with demonstrated technical skill/credibility, a track record of success, and a desire to lead and you give them progressively more management tasks, culminating in a formal role change to manager. They already know the company, the team, the codebase, the business, etc. and it's much easier for them to step back into a pure technical role if it doesn't work out or if they hate it.

I've had extremely "good luck with that".

It's much riskier to take a fresh new hire with no management experience into a tech manager role at a new-to-them company.

The funny thing is, founders in many cases are exactly that Straight into those positions

One that I saw on a startup founders mailing list several years back:


founder: I have a modest, growing business, but the marketing costs are rather high. What can to do to bring that cost down?

wannabe-founder: whoa, you really failed to validate the core concept and establish your basic value prop. You're going to see an astronomical CAC until you ultimately pivot and achieve LGTM or BBQ. I'd recommend you shut down and find another vertical.

This really resonates with me. Without ranting, I kind of think a lot of wannabe's have been sold a dream and a formula, and when it doesn't work, they blame the dream (it's always been 1 in 1,000,000 odds!), or the formula (as per above), rather than the fact they don't have any business or technical savvy.

I had to look up the alphabet soup, but couldn't find everything.

CAC : Cost to Aquire a Customer

LGTM : Looks Good To Me?

BBQ : ? Not a clue other than a delicious way to prepare meat. Maybe something Quality?

Heh yeah I was trying to convey the gist rather than the actual conversation. He threw a bunch of acronyms at the guy, quoted him the lean startup recipe and with a straight face, told a guy with a viable, profitable business to fold and start over.

I would like to make up an businessy acronym for BBQ.

BBQ : Business to Business Quotient (or Quantity). A measure of how much of your income comes from B2B transactions as opposed to direct to consumer transactions.

I feel the real WTF is that here this guy was making money and had actual customers, but he's being told to shut it down bc he didn't follow a formula.

Well although I'm not dismissing that the guy was talking out of his ass and giving bad advice, sometimes when you don't properly validate your concept or value proposition and the CAC really is too high, you can't reach a good BBQ and you have to look to exploit another vertical. Just that he uses 'hip' words or whatever doesn't mean he could be telling a harsh truth.

Hah! Thank you. I'm sure the actual barrage of acronyms were just as relevant!

If you're still looking, send me a note and we'll talk. I'm currently looking for a full-stack dev who's comfortable leading projects & interacting with both customers & biz execs.

How do I contact you? My email address is marshall.ent@gmail.com

I had this:

young male intern: talks a lot but is not working young female intern: does all the work of the male intern, gets half the pay

me: why? ceo: because the male intern is from some important school!

Not trying to start a flame, but what difference does it make that they're male or female? The difference is as you said "some important school".

Okay, I actually consider that a valid question. The thing was: all the female employees in that team got half (!) the pay of the guys. The guys of that team didn't work, but the women were much more productive.

The fact that he's "from some important school" wich in this case didn't provide any value at all, was just a lame excuse for "he has a p*nis".

Another excuse I heard from that CEO, when one of the underpaid team members asked him about the difference in pay, was this: "It's your market value!" which reads quite clearly as "You earn less because you're a woman"

PS: Had a lot of these cases in that company and the gender was the only common denominator. I'm glad I left. Meanwhile they have a new CEO, and things have improved.

And this right here is one of the biggest reasons why I decided to go back to college.

The "less than half for cash" one is something I used to see from customers all the time when working in a bar. You'd say "£10.50, please" and they'd reply "£10 for cash?" as if I'd happily chip in 50p myself (till shortages need covered somehow) instead of having to accept a card payment. I never understood the mentality - it costs £x, so pay £x or go away

Many owners of bars (and similar cash businesses) skim some part of the business's cash for themselves. This has two effects: first, it provides them personally with undocumented and tax-free income; second, it greatly reduces the business's profits (because you're not just keeping the profit, you're also keeping the cost), in turn reducing or even eliminating its own tax burden. As far as I know, this is illegal in every jurisdiction that has an income tax, but it's still a very common practice. If you were the owner, rather than an employee, of such a bar, that would make this an attractive proposition, even ignoring the cost of the card processing.

As an employee, it might still be attractive if you're in the habit of stealing from the owner. Obviously if there's any documentation that the drink was served, it won't work as the contents of the till will be wrong and usually that comes straight out of your pay. That in turn takes us into all the various ways the help can steal from owners, which is another topic altogether.

If one assumes that everyone involved in the operation of the bar is law-abiding, then your point stands. But that's less common than you probably imagine.

They assumed that you'd simply pocket the 10 quid rather than book it officially so 'everybody would come out ahead'. Never mind that you'd be committing fraud.

On a recent trip to Greece, I found this being asked by businesses, especially restaurants and bars, but down to my hotel that I reserved with a CC: "Could you please pay in cash instead?"

It's not unheard of in Europe to get 2-3% discounts if paying by cash (particularly in computer stores). The reason is that in some countries, merchants pay that percentage of Visa/MC commission (and in case of Amex even more) plus a fixed fee per transaction. For that same reason bars usually accept cards only over a threshold of 5-10€ or so. Though if that happens in hotels indeed it is strange then.

Within the last year in Greece, the banks and ATMs all shut down for a few days. I can see why people would be keen to have cash (and specificaly, euros).

Thats kind of a different situation, isn't it? The Greeks are probably abandoning banks altogether and going to an under-the-table cash economy, given what happened this past summer.

This sounds like a stereotype, but tax evasion is done on a really wide scale in Greece: https://finance.yahoo.com/news/greece-pledges-rid-tax-evasio...

It actually has an incredible impact on the greek economy and the state's coffers.

It might be because banks were forced to place a limit on withdrawals.

Ahh I never considered that option

Cash is so that neither you nor him needs to pay tax on those $10 which makes up for the lost 50c.

I have and do this fairly often but then I work on a market stall at weekends. Often you need the change there more than you want to deal with the hassle of having to fish out 17p or whatever.

your bar has free card payment processing? nice

This was a while ago, but card payments were still relatively low cost and low friction (except AmEx for some reason)

Because amex has higher fees to compensate for thier more generous rewards program.

It's probably unfair to pin all the sexism stuff on startups. If you've ever been to a big company, you'd know that the pink collar workforce idea is way worse. There are a lot of women in junior or administrative positions who can only really interact with their bosses and immediate peers professionally but whom the entire organization, from CEO to lowly PA, tries to hit on.

Three of mine:

Recruiting company: Someone needs a php developer for work in X industry.

I work on the industry, take the test they give me, get a perfect score, never hear a word, no interview.

Big company : I travel across the mountains to an interview, 15 minutes before arriving I get a call, "we can't meet you today, we will come back with another time".

Startup: we need someone with strong cognitive skills and php and javascript experience (8 y ago, before everyone had 10 y javascript experience). In interview: you are one of two qualified, the otherone is from <other country, more than two hours away, by plane>, -goes on to advertise the position again, then after realizing there are no other goes on to offer me below market rates. I go on to learn Java in a better paid job with better well - everything.

Here's one (not solely experienced in startups, however):

manager: "Since you're single, can you work through the holidays and cover the systems/push this feature/go the extra mile so that the people with families can spend time with them?"

Being that guy before, and with family an 8-hour drive away, I've volunteered to do that more than once.

Earns goodwill from the people with families, the boss has one less thing to worry about at end of year, and the holidays are usually "dead time" so I got a lot of slack time in.

Volunteering is one thing, and very cool to do to take some of the stress off of people with children. But asking an employee is quite another (IMO). It's a form of soft discrimination, though not intended as such I'm sure.

(Though, thinking about it, I was told once "Yeah, well, you don't have kids, so this [the holiday] isn't that important for you." that wasn't a startup, however, that was a F100)

After a round of interviews/ in person with a public software company in Boston (who just acquired last pass):

Company recruiting lead: The team enjoyed meeting you. They felt you are very smart and personable. [VP of engineering] liked your work with machine learning. At this time, they feel you are a bit junior for the team.

I had to laugh, glad I dogged a bullet.

CEO: We gonna need to do some crunch time the next 2/3 weeks. Unfortunately, we fell behind schedule and we can't let this next delivery be late. We can't pay any of you overtime because we are already on a tight budget, as you know, but to raise moral after we deliver the company is going to take everyone out to this great restaurant + drinks to raise our morale and toast of the future of this great and promising business!

The team: Ok. Not what we expected, but we have some equity, its a tough market, and we have been working on this for a while. Let's hope it pays off in the future.

Three weeks - working from Sunday to Sunday - later...

The Team: Yes! I can't believe we delivered! We are more motivated than ever! Now let's celebrate!

CEO: Yeah, sorry, no time for that. Here's a $40 dollar check for each of you to go out and grab a bite. Oh, and by the look of our roadmap we might need to crunch some more next month.

The Team: [starts quitting one by one]

Am I the only one who would have really appreciated a trigger warning?

YC helps young founders because of stereotypes against them. I wouldn't imply that someone lacks merit because she is 18 and attractive. There needs to be more context for that post.

I'm not implying that the intern lacks merit. She was brilliant. The thing is, this was a company of 5 very busy people working round-the-clock in a startup house while going through YC. We didn't have the bandwidth to offer a proper internship; one where we teach relevant skills at a beginner's pace. I intended for the readers to draw their own conclusions from my note of the founders' gender, orientation and marital status.

The implication is that they didn't need or even have the budget for an intern. And they hired an intern anyway, which just happened to be young and attractive.

This should be enough as an illustration of "bullshit experiences".

Who says this has anything to do with YC?

Hi. Thank you for asking. I should have clarified. The tumblr post is not related to YC. I cited YC's philosophy as an example of why we shouldn't judge people by their age.

Funny thing is, this happened at a YC company.

My first startup's CEO practiced "The Game" and used to bring the dev team out in SF to practice peacocking, negging and other ridiculous seduction techniques on unsuspecting women. I'm in an ltr and dreaded having to go, but didn't want to be left out so I would tag along. It was horrible.

How many sexual harassment lawsuits were there? Why would anyone think this is OK?

Ugh I don't know. I've since gotten a new job but he's still there as a figurehead CEO... the COO makes all the decisions/runs the show from what I've heard. Glad I got out. It was just one of many many juvenile actions from that boss.

That is absolutely horrifying.

How could someone like that possibly make sound business decisions?

Yeah. It was kinda a joke-ish type thing but then it started being totally not a joke because he and his buddies were really taking it very seriously. He had a bunch of fratstar intern types and they just encouraged the behavior even more. I'm so glad I got out of there and went to a real company.

happened to be recently:

Manager: Hey you're here for the xx position right? You know, you sound like you'd be a really good fit for this new job that opened up, I just fired this guy, millennials amirite, so let's talk about that for the next hour.

me: I'm here for the engineering manager position

them: great, can you come in for a front-end developer interview at 2?

me: I'm here for the engineering manager position

them: here's an offer for a front-end position making below-average $

me: thanks for your time

them: ???????

CEO: Why won't anyone work for us?

them: we offered them a job!


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