As someone whos spent ~12 years in the startup space... when you take a job expect only the money guarnteed to you. If your not happy with that move on... Equity? That is a windfall.
In fact the 90 days window is what made me quit before completely 1 year. Quiting sooner is better than wasting 5 years.
A good adult like thing to start with is not literally say "fuck you" when leaving.
you usually don’t want to burn bridges, true. However don’t ever let anyone treat you like shit. Walk away. Burn that bridge to the ground.
Like the time where one of the seniors was clearly an asshole and was right on the border of racism. My manager wouldn’t do anything to jeopardize his promotion. He was clearly a bully.
Fuck that bullshit. I walked away as soon as I got my green card.
"Don't burn your bridges" is a good advice only when ghosts of your past are not going to cross the bridge and attack you in future. In many cases you should set the bridge on fire and destroy it till the last brick.
What if you want to provide a closure for yourself, and don't care about them?
On a related note, I'd much rather be told an honest "fuck you" than a dishonest "it was good working with you". The former is an opportunity for me to reflect.
If they are shoving you in a loud sardine can for 12-16 hours per day while paying you way below market despite VC funding, no match on the 401(k), telling you to “wear many hats” instead of taking your career goals seriously, scamming you with “unlimited vacation” and probably not even bothering to give you decent health insurance, then a “fuck you” on the way out is frankly better than they deserve.
The moral here is not to endure abuse politely but to remain civil when possible. Leave before you get to "fuck you" territory. (Bonus moral: you think the startup world is crazy now? You should have seen it then.)
If some shitheads get rich, who cares? I certainly don’t want to help them get rich. If I get rich doing that, I’ve failed.
And of course this is all to say nothing of the extreme selection bias inherent to your perspective. For every story like yours (essentially winning the lottery) there are ten thousand people who swallowed their pride, ate shit at work with a smile, did whatever was asked of them, and got absolutely no financial reward for it at all.
My point stands, regardless of the outcome, though I can see how focusing on the money skewed the story for you.
If you find yourself later in life needing a professional assistance from that person who utterly does not value you, this is representing some much more gigantic failure and a worry about having burned a bridge is too insignificant by comparison to care.
Having said that, I don’t care so much about the “fuck you” aspect as much as, say, writing an honest Glassdoor review so that job applicants may avoid falling into their trap, or giving them exactly two weeks’ notice and no more despite whatever circumstances the project is in, and simply not staying in touch with them.
A totally reasonable heuristic if you’re looking for a job that won’t make you miserable is to just wholly avoid start-ups. To be clear, this is a heuristic even for people who are looking to work with modern tool stacks, be given responsibility they might not be given at traditional companies, gain exposure to business or VC insight or networking, etc.
Start-up jobs don’t offer those types of things.
Anger is a form of communication. If anything, OP would be helping to send a message that if you push people far enough they will act out, maybe they shouldn’t be pushing other people quite that hard in the future. Boundaries are being crossed, and badly.
It signals it in such a way that the employer will attribute your decision to your lack of professionalism and not to their own actions.
> I was leaving at a critical juncture and the company begged for me to stay at least for 3 months to complete an important project. I said "fuck you" and left.
Does the "fuck you" here signal unambiguously that this person is outraged at the way they've been treated? It could just as easily signal that this is an asshole who will screw you over when the opportunity arises.
Something along the lines of "I'm sorry but I can't continue to work under the conditions you've put me through the last 9 months" would be a much clearer signal. Maybe throwing in some swear words would improve the message, but a "fuck you" on its own leaves unnecessary ambiguity as to who the asshole is. Perhaps I'm overly concerned about my reputation, but I'd rather not add room for people to side with the person who mistreated me.
If you set your end of our bridge on fire, I'm nuking my end from orbit. Why? Because screw you. If you don't need me, I sure as heck don't need you.
Acting on feelings is usually good for the mental health, even if it seems irrational or inefficient.
Don't knock it until you try it.
I'm still not sure what your point is. Are you saying that the "fuck you" is the best long-term solution once you factor in your mental health? Or are you saying that the short-term mental health benefits of the "fuck you" are enough to justify the long-term detriments?
There is a need to normalize startup employee comp, in a similar manner founders package was normalized about two decades back. It was YC that did it, AFAIK.
Also it is about optics. Many employers blatantly engage in exploitative behavior with a straight face and talk about "how we are like a family". Similarly I too can make a beautiful farewell speech that how I learned so much at the job and how thankful I am for such wonderful co-workers working towards a noble goal of changing the world with a straight face. Everyone knows it is fake, everyone knows the facts and yet everyone is forced to smile
The above employer faked the valuation data to make his company look far more valued than what it actually was. So I have no idea what those $300K convert into in case of a real acquisition. But I have to pay thousands of dollars to the employer and IRS to exercise them. They did tamper with some of my key immigration status, filed patents without including my name in it and also coerced me into signing a "bond" (though it is illegal if you are on h1b). Of course it took lot of patient negotiations and "difficult conversations" to resolve every single issue and throughout I felt humiliated (my current visa status is tied to the employment and hence I could not quit on the spot.) People say why don't you go back to your country then but when you have 2 US citizen kids in school and wife whose work authorization is linked to your visa status you have to patiently drink all the insults and quietly suffer the humiliation for the sake of family.
The issues with an exercise window should be discussed on the way in, not the way out.
My employer acquired another startup where I worked and hence I ended up with the new employer. As said above it was immigration status that gave mess less negotiating power because my status in the country is dependent on the employer.
I have found employees & employers tend to do more favorable in a number of ways:
* All levels of employees get to participate in compensation
* do in part to that, participants (in my albeit subjective look at things) tend to work equally as hard
* there seems to be a natural tendency to reduce waste of resources everyone gets some of the revenue slice
The only real down side I can think of is the same ones stock options have (except for the vesting period, to be frank): the longer you have been with the company and or the higher you climb the ranks usually the more you get.
Also it is true that in profit sharing a lot of times a buyout may not always be spread around, unlike with options (though it happens with options too)
To me at least with straightforward profit sharing the gains are realizable In a consistent and judicious manner
While that is indeed the mechanics, really what you get is exposure to upside without exposure to downside. The fact that it's options is a (probably outdated) structure that is beneficial from a tax perspective.
Being given an option grant does not expose you to downside. Exercising the grant can result in a loss, sure, but exercising is not necessary to have exposure to upside.
As the OP points out though, 90 day windows force you to exercise (and be exposed to downside) or forfeit your upside.
There's a tax law reason why this isn't a trivial change. Best reference I could find is here:
In short, to be treated as an Incentive Stock Option - which comes with benefits for you (taxed as capital gains, not as income, if you hold 1 year from exercise and 2 years from grant) and for the company (different accounting treatment and they don't have to withhold taxes at exercise time) - the option must expire within 90 days after your employment.
Some companies are now moving toward treating options as NSOs if you keep them after your employment, and ISOs if you exercise them during this period - but this kind of change comes with lawyers and accountants (and maybe even a change to the stock option plan approved by the board of directors) attached, so it's not easily negotiated for a single employee.
One of the former companies I worked at never allowed early exercise and issued standard ISO with 90 day expiration upon leaving, which is unfortunately essentially the analogue of "standard and clean" when it comes to employee compensation. By the time I was ready to leave (4+ years, I was very early) all my equity was vested, and buying it required spending ~250k (USD!) between cost of exercising and AMT taxes, all while the company shares were illiquid as ever. The company had no interest in helping me, despite me asking for an extension to the option expiration, they were too bitter that I was leaving and creating significant "damage" to the business.
It was incredibly painful and I felt very cheated and stupid for agreeing to those terms in the first place (actually faced some deep depression and anger against the world for a few months because of this, and thought about going to therapy), but what did I do in the end? I paid out the money. Yes, I wrote a check to my employer for 60k, and another check to the IRS for 190k, depleting my non-emergency savings (and this is from a very frugal person, who never even spent more than 8k on a car, car being my biggest expense ever). There were funds who would lend me the money, but wanted 50%+ of the proceeds, and if the company goes under you're still on the hook for a taxable event when the loan is forgiven.
Luckily AMT for ISO exercise can be slowly (very slowly) recouped in future tax years (and the new tax law made it a bit easier by increasing the deduction and the phaseout limits), but I still had to waste so much of my after tax money just to leave with what I matured over the years. And that money is now sitting in the government pockets for years, producing me no interest and losing value with inflation until I recoup all of it.
Fortunately, a year after I bought those shares one of the investors contacted me and bought some of my equity, so I was able to recoup all what I originally put in (and then some). But it's simply insane, and I am still in the hole for all that AMT that I will recoup in ~10 years, no less.
Other coworkers who left and didn't have the money to come up with the exercise and tax liability, simply lost them, justifying to themselves "well, they're probably not going to be worth anything anyway" (which could be totally true even after paying thousands to exercise them!).
It's a plain insult to startup employees. I wish all startup employees would rebel against this and refused to accept any startup offer unless there was early exercise paid by the company upon joining, or option expiration window of 10+ years.
I, for one, know that will never __ever__ join another startup again for this reason.
I'll tell you a worse story: your company does allow early vesting so people exercise their options at grant time, long before the vest. This way you avoid the whole taxation problem were the exercising to be happening later.
But guess what? The company does a down round and lays off people, effectively 'buying back' the stock that laid off employees had paid for by 'early exercising' (i.e. the unvested remainder). Since the company buys back the shares at the same price employees bought it at, you think, hey - 'even stevens'? No! Because it's a down round, you're selling something 'above fair market value' (even though it's the price you paid) - and you have to pay taxes!
So consider that: you have to pay taxes on stock that you never properly owned, and never made a dime on!
Ex: you have 10K shares with strike price of 50 cents, vest over 4 years. You exercise them all right away (before vesting) at 50 cents. After 2 years, you get laid off, the company buys back 5K shares at 50 cents. Same price. But since there's a 'down round' the shares are only worth 20 cents each. You now owe taxes for selling 5K of something you bought at 50 cents, sold at 50 cents, but are only worth 20 cents, ergo 30 cents a share 'profit' - that you never realized on shares you never actually owned!
The company in the meantime, bought something at 50 cents only worth 20 cents and gets a tax write off.
The IRS is ballpark neutral, so it's really like the company taking money from employees they just laid off.
Now, the company can issue a ton more shares and wipe out the value of laid off employees equity, and issue new equity to the staff that stayed on to keep the current staff happy.
In terms of % ownership, this has the effect of simply transferring ownership from laid off staff to the current staff + owners.
This happened to me, I'm not sure how common it is, but surely it's not that rare.
It's easy for someone to say "oh yeah, just convert the ISOs to non-quals and give me my 10 year exercise window". What does it actually mean for the companies (and yourself on the other side) to support this?
The downside to an employer is: first, you know that in a 90-day exercise or lose them world, lots of ex-employees don't exercise. That's great for your options pool. Second, our employees seem not to care. Third, anything nonstandard raises questions in future rounds. Fourth, there's apparently some more complex tax accounting according to our cfo.