Smaller individual angel investors have more ad-hoc operations and haven't bothered with streamlining hiring for their investments. This may change.
It's a good time now if you are in the job market.
Working at someone else's startup is a recipe for getting exploited - overworked and underpaid. And the worst thing about it is that it's all couched in an atmosphere of guilt trips and taking-it-for-the-team.
I'm sure there are exceptions. I just haven't seen any.
I'd rather work for The Man in my day job in a cold corporate environment where everything is explicit from the get-go, get well paid for it and crank out code for my own startup in my free time.
Most of the people I have seen writing (and upvoting) these kinds of comments have never worked for a startup, and they are bitter (for one reason or another). Or they have worked for a startup and it's failed.
Are you really trying to look out for the best interests of all those poor, mis-guided people working for all those cruel and single-minded startups, or are you trying to convince yourself that your own life decision to work "for The Man in [your] day job in a cold corporate environment" was the right one.
I spend A LOT of time with former startup employees. They are happy with their decisions. I say former because many of them have been a part of an exit, and are now working on their own companies...with some cash in their pockets, an impressive rolodex (of investors), and a good reputation because they were part of a winning team.
Most of the employees of early stage and recently funded companies that I know are happy to be where they are. They work late because they are passionate and enthusiastic and they like to win.
Keep putting them (and the startups that employ them) down. You're cause is really noble.
I should have said: people who have never worked for a startup that has succeeded, or for a startup that has failed, but has provided a valuable enough experience to justify working there.
Our engineers are free to work however many hours they choose; all I care about is that we get stuff done. My co-founder and I certainly put in long weeks, but I would be deeply concerned in any of our engineers put in as many hours as we do. In fact, I am constantly reminding our engineers that they need to maintain work/life balance because I don't want them to burn out. To put in another way, they volunteer to work long hours and I tell them to work less.
It doesn't makes sense to overwork engineers. Talent is hard to acquire in Silicon Valley, so I (and most other startup founders I've met) put effort into retaining it.
(By the way, we're hiring Ruby hackers, learn more at http://seeinginteractive.com/company/jobs/software-engineers...)
One way to learn is to go off and do it. The other is to join an early-enough startup that is still learning all these things and learn with them without the risks. When you're ready, go off and do your own thing.
The people you want to surround yourself with are the ones more interested in helping each other than exploiting each other. I honestly don't have much belief in the taking-it-for-the-team guilt trip approach. If the job is not in everyone's interest then it's time to re-work the incentives (equity?).
Wether that is a good thing or not is largely a matter of taste, I suppose. But having worked for several startups now, I have to say I wouldn't do it again if I had a real choice