> If the author's reading this, it sounds like you're fairly early in your career and learned a tough business lesson the hard way
Yeah. Second that. Experience is good. Knowing what it all actually looks like, the phrases, the mannerisms, is very valuable. You can take bigger risks when you know how the terrain rolls.
As an example of my senses getting more developed, recently I talked to a "CEO" of some startup I was interviewing and asked about someone else I liked who I knew at the company from earlier. Check this out:
"Oh, yeah [person] is really great...blah blah blah."
"So how is [person] doing?"
"Oh, well, they decided they wanted to do something else...blah blah blah."
Complete total waste of time was brewing if I didn't probe into the non-specific answer that artfully implied that [person] hadn't left the company and was soon part of my awesome team. I would have at the least researched them more. When you have to waste time on things like this, it makes getting where you want to be way harder and makes it harder to justify risks.
Learning to navigate human interaction in business (and make no mistake, a employee/employer relationship is a business transaction) is a skill needed in any industry. These kinds of things are not new, in this industry or any other.
The optics were horrible, it sounds like he had a fairly strong case, and for those of us who knew of him starting from his works like Scribe way way back when, well, we're inclined to believe his story.
All we know is that Google made an offer he and his lawyer chose not to refuse, but as long as they thought they were going to win in court before a jury and all that, it had to have been generous, although I'd imagine it wasn't as generous as his original ability to to participate in the IPO and beyond.
One reason I quit was that all of the mounting promises were predicated on me in the end. If that's true, go alone instead of giving yourself bread through a middle-man.
Some people will make it deliberately hard for you to get things in writing - these people are looking to screw you over.
If you are a nice guy it's sometimes hard to understand that other (usually more wealthy) people would exploit you. However, the sad fact is some people's default position is to try and exploit others.
On the plus side, sounds like you have some real skills, just needs to be more formal when selling them.
Always get your deals in paper, up front.
These guys will not succeed in the long run.
By the way, if you did not sign an employment agreement, you as the author own all the software. They don't. You can sue them for using your software. That's the case in the US.
Funny thing about that is it's true for the company too. Sounds like he took all the "tech" with him and now they don't have the code for their own platform.
Without this and other critical information in writing, there is a huge chance you have totally different understandings of what the other party had in mind. This isn't to say they are trying to screw you, simply that there are ranges of "normal" for all of the important bits usually governed by an employment contract. If you don't have it in writing, your best hope is that yet another party (a judge) will impose her understanding of the terms. Not what you want.
If you're joining as an employee, even more reason to have an agreement in place, for both parties protection. Otherwise the code you write doesn't even belong to the company, as shown in this case.
By the tone you take with your statement, you're saying it's okay to exploit people this way. It's not. Period.
Maybe that's a sign not to join though.
Unfortunately, when enough people wriggle, the founders get their act together and stop behaving that way when they really know they need someone and can't do it alone... by which time, they get someone else that didn't have to fight to get things done right and you missed out because the timing was wrong. So it's a bit of a double edged sword in that respect.
Further, if he was an employee, in many countries, it's illegal to work for free or "defer" pay until there's cash in hand. And it sounds unlikely he was a contractor as there is no mention of invoicing or similar.
Getting rights and responsibilities in writing protects everyone involved. And do it before cash and emotions are involved.
I understand why he chose to take his side public, too, and I think he's right to have done so. Maybe it'll help someone else avoid getting owned the same way. Maybe, too, it'll encourage the guys who dealt with him in bad faith to behave somewhat more circumspectly next time, lest they further impair their already blemished reputations.
When I read things like the TL;DR of that article I get the feeling the tech industry is full of entitled children who are playing imaginary. No product, no orders, no revenue, no resources... isn't that usually just called no company?
Why do tech "startups" delude themselves into thinking that a group of guys and/or gals is something other than a group of guys and/or gals?
Can you imagine going down to your local shopping plaza, and there is this guy standing outside of an empty building, holding a big cardboard sign that reads:
This behind me is supposed to
be my store. It's supposed to
have groceries and other stuff.
But, we don't have any money
or customers, or a store, or
any groceries. We have a name
though... and a logo :)
There's little harm in indulging people's fantasies a bit. Especially when some of those fantasies will turn into reality. One of the magical things about Silicon Valley is how open people are to this idea. In most other places in the world people's dreams get crushed by cynicism before they ever have a chance to take root.
Because they did have customers and revenue for the service that they offered. They had everything that is part of a business (albeit, a very slow and unprofitable one). They're missing the ability to scale since they had no tech stack to speak of, but their MVP did not really need one.
There are lessons there for other naive tech peeps to learn from so it seems a worthy read.
The bonus lesson for the same audience: if you "go public", focus on the general aspects of the events that others may encounter and anonymise/obfuscate the people and company involved so they're not the centrepiece of the story.
Having the company name, having the situation exactly as it unfolds from the perspective of the guy who got fucked (and I don't use that word lightly) gives this story incredible power in peoples minds. It's real. If you anonymize it, it's just another fluff piece about how to not get screwed in business that gets glossed over and nobody gives a shit about.
The very fact that the company is named is the reason this piece made it to the front page of Hacker News. Without it, it would've slid silently into the night without anyone giving it a second thought.
You can burn a bridge with individuals or you can nuke the whole area to the point where other people may not want to work with you in future.
This is not just about treating other people as you wish to be treated yourself, but also holding others accountable for their part in that.
Business is a two way street. Quid pro quo. If you have my back, I will have yours, until death do us part. But if you're willing to callously knife me in the back to get ahead, do I really care if I burn that bridge... or if the fire burns your entire business to the ground in the process?
There are lines that need to be drawn in the sand about how you treat people and treating others honorably as you would want them to treat you is where that line should be - at least, it is in my mind. Clearly this is not the case in some peoples minds.
Any time a head-to-desk, business-null developer gets exploited, they say "just desserts", not realizing it weakens the bargaining position of developers as a whole.
Really sad imo.
This behaviour from anyone is just a really big black stain on humanity. It's one thing to leverage someone else's work for the gain of all, it's entirely another to totally exploit their good nature and hang them out to dry while you take all the benefit. Business is supposed to be a win-win-win situation not a win-but-screw-everyone-else-over-in-the-process situation.
While I can see that the author was incredibly naive, I can totally understand his naivete, having been burned like this myself in my earlier years. Being burned like this obliterates any trust you have for working with founders on future startups and makes for a potentially toxic working relationship in any similar situation.
Also, I think people's opinions of situations like this really lets their true colors shine through. Those who are victim blaming and shaming the author by pointing out the lack of apparent contract or that he should have known better are really just justifying the abhorrent behavior of the founders who have totally exploited someone else for their own material gain. The personality trait that lets you treat other people like that is sociopathic. Shame on them.
Yeah the guy was naive, but also, he's not asking for anything! All these people saying "suck it up and move on"... that's exactly what he did! They seem to be upset that he didn't just go out quietly.
1. They've been burned like this before and didn't have the courage to stand up for what they believed in. The author's standing up for what they believe in throws this in their face.
2. They identify with those that exploit others and feel that their behavior is justifiable because the author "had it coming to him for being so naive."
3. They are happy to accept that this is just the way things are and deal with it rather than rock the boat for the benefit of everyone in it.
4. They perceive this as just another whiner that got screwed and they're sick of listening to it, but rather than do anything about it, they just tell the whiner to stop whining and suck it up.
5. They see this behavior works for co-founders because most victims slope silently away with their tails between their legs and hope that when they model this behavior, their victims will do the same.
I say kudos to the author for writing the piece. It sucks he had to learn that lesson the hard way. I hope things turn around for him going forward.
That's a false dichotomy. It's entirely possible to condemn the exploiter while also pointing out where the exploitee made bad decisions.
Analogy: Advice like "Don't insult random strangers" does not justify or excuse physical violence by people who have been insulted.
When people's default position is "you should have known better and done better" towards the "exploitee" as you put it without any blame portioned to the exploiter, you're victim blaming, in the exact same way as the girl who got raped "had it coming to her because she should've known better than to walk around downtown dressed that way."
I'd say the owners also learned a lesson - explain clearly what you mean! Don't leave an employee hanging, wondering if or assuming they will get more than you can give.
And the 'rape' metaphor is inappropriate. We're talking business, which has rules. Its not what you deserve in business, its what you negotiate. That's all.
Business is a human transaction. It's not about exploitation. It is this sentiment that allows people to justify exploitation of others for their own gain. It's unacceptable.
It's very rare (not 'never', there are sociopathic pricks everywhere), in my experience, for someone who's actually been successful to cop this particular 'tude. Probably because they've been there, they know it's difficult, they know it's worth pulling together.
This shouldn't be different. If you're getting into a role - especially as a shareholder/founder make sure things are well known and documented (term sheets) and well understood by everyone.
In technology terms what he did sounds like - "a friend told me of this great software and I put it into production w/o any testing and it crashed and burned my entire customer base"...
There's only so much you can learn -- so far out you can go. This guy built their platform and an app pretty much himself. Give him some credit. I can count on one-hand the number of web developers out there I know that know all of the surrounding technologies related to what they work on.
Talk to most "full stack" developers about Unix sockets and routing protocols and watch their eyes roll back into their heads.
I see it as constructive, all around.
He doesn't mention any contracts he saw, or signed
(At least this is the impression I get from the TL;DR, maybe the full article discusses contract more).
Always read the contract. Even with my standard large company job, with a perfectly normal benefits package I read the contract and took the time to understand it.
If you're doing something complex like becoming a shareholder in a private small business understand what you're getting it to (or in this case not getting it to at all).
Dude got screwed.
I was lucky to have several mentors who had started their own businesses and I also got to learn from my friends' mistakes.
"CTO quits startup, takes tech with him after team ‘screwed him over"
I saw the TechInAsia article with quite a contrasting headline (I'm pretty sure the TIA article was even posted here, but now I'm not seeing it appear in the search results anymore -- was it removed?).
What do you think? Was he "let go" or did he "quit" himself? Did others leave at the same time? Were they engineers? Any ideas?
You are not first tech guy who got screwed over. While you should have something more concrete before you worked for them, this doesn't excuse them. They scammed you.
For some reason, and we can discuss why this might be, tech work is treated as something we need to give away for free and after it, often we don't get a respect that we deserve. This happens in situations where tech guy is key to success, happens in companies where you are one of the employees and part of the team.
The more you charge or ask for your services, the better you will be treated. Let that be lesson to all.
But from what I've observed, the other side will usually tell you how they "got screwed" too. I'll bet the other perspective puts the blame on this article's writer.
Nevertheless, a very clear verbal agreement should have been made. I know this cant be enforced without proof, but it does mean than those involved know the counter-parties also know what they agreed to. it makes things harder to deny.
The reason being that, it would be madness to betray each other, just as things start to work. A thing started is far from finished, and they will need everyone and more.
Most important of all, it would seem the tech guy legally owns what he has built, in the absence of a proper agreement. Even with a backup copy of this tech, the remaining people aren't likely to be able to extend it easily.
The tech guy should consider forming his own startup with the tech he has made.
Unfortunately we don't live more in a society that keeps their promise, word and honor. So, having everything written is a great way to protect yourself and others.
But this is a good lesson to learn: what is not written, does not exist.
That said, I don't really understand people here that criticize him. Per the screenshot they called him a shareholder. That word has a clear meaning and they clearly screwed him over. I think he was right to walk away with his tech.
Even if there's responsibility to be shared and good lessons to be learned by new developers reading this, it doesn't stop the fact that he was not the dishonest party in this.
So, as long as we assume that the OP didn't falsify the Facebook screenshot, it's not small evidence.
I don't hold them harmless - it was not right to let the ambiguity go on so long. But s/he was complicit in that.
Live and learn.
Media doesn't care, because they get a nice story to print.