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How to hack your way into a hot startup with no experience (vidyard.com)
95 points by michaelrlitt on Nov 29, 2012 | hide | past | web | favorite | 79 comments



Is this the end of the current startup era? How did we get from "Make stuff people want" to the current obsession with funding, SEO and "Growth Hackers" (!). This sounds like the same sort of nonsense I was reading in January 2000. Just like the 90's tech boom, the community has become inward-looking, stale, and it's feeding on itself (c.f. this article, which isn't about how to start a company but to be hired by a "startup"). The most exiting new stuff seems to be stuff that just feeds more startups.

None of this is about the practical details of the article. If that's the job you want then this sounds like a great way to get it. But like I said, if this is the kind of thing that's interesting to "startups", then I think the end is near.


I'd agree that while I really dont have a full picture of the economics of the current startup atmosphere (does anyone?), the culture right now is a pretty strong indicator to me that things are going to stagnate or trend down. IMHO there is a pretty toxic layer of culture that has built up from all the hype that for the most part is adding negative value. I dont really give a crap if people think it fits their definition of a "bubble" or not - if the focus is not on providing tangible value to others, the market will eventually figure it out and value it appropriately. I think there is a large and growing segment of startups that view their business as existing to just bring value to themselves (although will obviously never be admitted) - business plans that stop at getting funding, comfy office suites, parties, etc. Part of this is getting driven by a segment of newly inspired newcomers that view startups as essentially just a cool atmosphere where they could get rich rather than what startups really should be to be successful ... a slog through utter absolute shit to try to do something that really matters to the people involved.


I agree with many of the points being made but I don't believe that we're actually in a bubble. Speaking to serial founders and investors it's actually a much tougher time to raise money right now than six months ago. There was no pop, just a decrease in the market. In fact overall venture capital investments didn't rise significantly over the supposed 2010 - 2011 bubble. It also costs less today so it's tough to compare with the millions being raised by most startups in 1999. Which leads one to believe that many are talking but few are executing on this talk.

If you actually want to build something valuable for the long term. Now is the perfect time to start a company. If you want to raise a seed round and sell fast then you're probably too late or will be shortly.


Not sure whether I've noticed this or not, but recently I've become strongly focused on startups that align value with their users. Traditional consumer startups are crap, get eyeballs, sell to advertisers "or something".

Screw that. If you aren't making something your users want to pay for, start making something else.

That said, I think SEO and "growth hacking" can be very useful AFTER you get the basic "We provide value to our users" thing solved.


Welcome to enterprise


Not quite, I really like the idea of selling to consumers :)

As a consumer I pay for a bunch of (online) services that I use. There's bound to be others out there ...


Here's what I like about this story: Amar tried everything he could to "hack" his way into the position. In the end, he made a lot of noise but it wasn't until he sat down and spent hours learning to code that he got the job. To most people, getting a job after 5.5 months is not "hacking", but it's more admirable. That's the moral I got from the story, whether it was intended or not.


  Michael was speaking at the KWB2B Marketers Meet Up
  I hopped in my dad’s car and drove to Waterloo.
Do founders usually prefer hiring someone who stalks them? Even if they quote: "lacked any and all experience we were looking for."

Don't get me wrong, I think what Amar did shows a lot of hustle, and his case on them showed that he was willing to learn and is passionate. But still, I think ajross hit the nail on the end with saying "I think the end is near." And I think that end will be when Pinterest has their IPO.


While I agree that the end is near, I don't think Pintrest will be the harbinger of the fall. I actually think that they are going to rake in money on the scale of Google. They have intent (from the pins) and targeted advertising, and Google have proved that the model works. Additionally, Pintrest is about stuff, and if you think something is cool and want to do it yourself, you're far more likely to actually click and convert.

Personally, I think the end will come when the free money the Fed are handing out at the moment stops, and not a moment before.


>Do founders usually prefer hiring someone who stalks them? Even if they quote: "lacked any and all experience we were looking for."

I imagine it's an ego thing. First-time founders are probably just pretty excited that someone's noticing what they're doing.


You know it's going downhill when you have 'reality' shows about start-ups (Bravo TV).


Wow, some really big mistakes... Explains why it took 5 months to get the final interview.

>but I will put in 12 hours a day, 7 days a week until I get there.

>Vidyard being one of them, even if I work for free.

>I'm even willing to work for free for a period of time.

Never, ever, ever do this stuff

- Free

If you say you're willing to work for free, that tells me one thing: You think your work is of no value to me. And so if you think that, I will also think that your work is worthless to me. Instant turn-off.

- I will work 24/7

You're coming off as desperate if you put it like that. I've similarly been on the job hunt for my first job recently and out of all the phone screens I had, every single one led to an on-site interview (21 on-site interviews in the next 3 weeks). I attribute my success in part to a similar snipped that I would make sure to drop into every interview:

"I'm not a 100% subscriber of Malcolm Gladwell's 10,000 hour rule, but I do believe that in order to become good at something you have to spend a lot of time and focus on it. I want to become the best software developer I can be.

I'm not looking for just a 9 to 5, and especially interested in startups because I want to join a great team that I can intensely work with and learn from"

That was roughly part of my pitch. I also researched _every_ person who I'd be talking to. Has a lot of PostgreSQL related posts on their blog? "Oh yeah I hate MySQL". Re-tweeted a tweet about a MongoDB bug report? "I prefer traditional databases for serious apps". Has a blog post about Go? "I think the speed advantage that Go can offer is really interesting" And so on and so forth. People like people who are like them, with pretty much everyone exposing their lives and opinions, stuff like this is up for easy pickings.

Respect to the guy's persistence. I'm similarly in a position where I can't immigrate to the US (but at least I'm a EU citizen so I can move to London) so I can see why OP really wanted to join a famous startup when there's already so few available to him.


So you're coming off as someone who will say anything to get the job. Not my preferred candidate....

On the other hand, these threads provide me with signals to watch out for. :-)


No. I will never lie or say something that I do not believe myself. The research above just tells me WHAT to say, if someone has a viewpoint on a certain topic that is 100% opposite from mine, I will simply not bring it up and look for other commonalities.

>Not my preferred candidate....

Well the good thing is if I do my job right, you'll never know :)


If I do my job right in an interview, I corner you into something we disagree on, and you tell me why you think I'm wrong. We get to learn how we handle conflict, and if we can have a reasonable disagreement. ;)


OK. Now I'm curious. What would be the sort of things you would try to corner me into?


I am fond of design questions, both on the receiving and asking end. I drill down until you take a branch that I would distinctly choose not to. Then I press you for reasons. E.g., why would you write your web app in C++?

edit: Note that someone who is genuinely very close to me in opinions won't challenge me in ways that really produce a useful diversity of opinion. They would, however, likely agree with my sense of strategy and tactics; this might lead to a collective blindspot where a deeper problem is overlooked. Being able to professionally disagree and then work together to form a final result is very important.


>this might lead to a collective blindspot where a deeper problem is overlooked. Being able to professionally disagree and then work together to form a final result is very important.

I agree with you. I just don't think phone screens are a good place for these discussions. I used the tactic above just to get through the initial phone conversation where I had a high degree of uncertainty of who I'm talking to. :)


Haha! I had a great interview recently where we sketched out a design for an online game on the whiteboard. Got to explore lots of interesting questions like API versioning, REST vs sessions, and basic security problems. The good natured discussion of the various options was a big part of why I decided to join the company.


I also researched _every_ person who I'd be talking to. Has a lot of PostgreSQL related posts on their blog? "Oh yeah I hate MySQL". Re-tweeted a tweet about a MongoDB bug report? "I prefer traditional databases for serious apps". Has a blog post about Go? "I think the speed advantage that Go can offer is really interesting" And so on and so forth. People like people who are like them, with pretty much everyone exposing their lives and opinions, stuff like this is up for easy pickings.

That doesn't sound very sincere.


I'm already pretty handicapped by being an introvert and not having English as my first language, so I'll try and make up for the difficulty of holding a conversation by other means. I'd love to not have to rely on these things, but right now I'm not confident enough in my conversation skills to forego these "conversation hacks". At least during the initial conversation.


Wow, some really big mistakes... I've similarly been on the job hunt for my first job recently You sound a little over confident of 'the right way to look for a job' for someone who's only just getting your first job now.


Thank you. I've been researching job search related stuff for the past ~4 months (still stuck in a limbo during that time) and so I would say I know more about the job search than most people :) Especially those that have been able to just get a job out of university (I don't have a degree) or who are already so wanted that they don't really have to worry about these things.

What I pointed out are mistakes whether you know job search best practices or not (as most people will agree).

Finally I would like to submit that your post is a form of DH1 (http://www.paulgraham.com/disagree.html)


Let's take this sentence: If you say you're willing to work for free, that tells me one thing: You think your work is of no value to me. And so if you think that, I will also think that your work is worthless to me. Instant turn-off.

As someone who has never even held a job, apparently, let alone hired another person, why would anyone believe that what you would think in this situation is in any way similar to what an actual employer would think? (Have you ever done or used any open source work? If so, how does that reconcile with your apparent theory that work done for free is valueless?)

Yes, my post is saying 'you do not have enough experience to make the statements you just made'. Ad Hominem is a logical fallacy because theoretically, 100 monkeys typing could have come up with the world's greatest business plan. However in practice, that does not make it worth people's time to read everything typed by monkeys.

I see from your other replies that you are using HN to practice sounding confident. Consider this as feedback that while it is sometimes valuable to sound confident even when you are ignorant, it is more often valuable to be able to understand when you actually don't know and what the limits of your understanding are, and on many occasions it is even more valuable to be able to communicate your own knowledge of these limits. Learning to use simple qualifiers like 'in my experience' will help you avoid sounding like an idiot and being easily tripped up by someone who hears your foolish generalization and says 'actually if you want to work in x, you pretty much always have to start by working for free'. Then you will say 'obviously I meant this advice only for y' and they will ask why you didn't say that?', and you will think 'because I made a bunch of stupid assumptions!' but feel too ashamed to say that and start blustering. You might as well say 'database x is always the best choice'. Of course, that is only my experience (from both sides) of how those conversations often turn out, you might go through something different ;)

PS: I am a 'she'.


>PS: I am a 'she'.

Oo, soory about that.

>why would anyone believe

I'm not asking anyone to believe. I'm asking to have a discussion on the points I bring forward.

>how does that reconcile with your apparent theory that work done for free is valueless

Work done for free has value. I was discussing the psychology & relationship between employer and employee when all employees at the company are already salaried and "new person" comes in and offers to work for free.

>you are using HN to practice sounding confident

That's not the way I would put it. I think (similarly to pg) that points are best expressed tersely, and so I try to keep my writings very brief and to the point.

>sounding like an idiot

Why, thank you.

>Learning to use simple qualifiers like 'in my experience'

Not necessary. This follows from the context.

>being easily tripped up

I don't see where I've been easily tripped up. Though I do enjoy that so many people jumped to respond. Even though almost no one managed or even really tried to refute my points and rather took issue with other things (boohoo you don't have enough experience to be talking about this kind of stuff, etc.)

>Then you will say 'obviously I meant this advice only for y'

This is Hacker News. We're talking tech startups here. Yeah I won't add another paragraph to talk about other industries because it's _obvious_ to everyone what I'm talking about and "Don't work for free" is an oft repeated advice on here anyways.

>'because I made a bunch of stupid assumptions!' but feel too ashamed to say that and start blustering.

I think that none of the assumptions I made are stupid. Though I am starting to notice that if I don't carefully package my opinions I will get a bunch of people in the comments who APPEAR to talk about the points I made, when really they're just annoyed at my attitude. This leads to the kind of circulatory arguing we see here, when my advice is sound but people still feel I should be less confident about my position.

>You might as well say 'database x is always the best choice'.

I would only say something like that if the purpose of the database was very clear from the context. I would never randomly drop such a statement onto HN, because everyone here uses all kinds of different databases. Your analogy is invalid.

>100 monkeys typing could have come up with the world's greatest business plan. However in practice, that does not make it worth people's time to read everything typed by monkeys.

Again an analogy that does not work. However much time however many monkeys spend on trying to understand human psychology they will not make much headway. Though if _I_ as a fellow human, take some time to try and understand human psychology, I do think it is worth the time to hear my points and argue on their merits, no matter if I had 0 or 100 jobs before. If I'm indeed talking gibberish, you're free to try and argue against my points, but since I see you talking about everything BUT my points, I'm assuming that you don't really take issue with them, but rather with me.


If I leave some of the thorns on, I tend to get more replies

I take issue with both your points and with you. I had written up a fairly thorough response, but I'm not interested in talking to someone who is basically trolling for attention. If you don't think your points are interesting enough to discuss on their merits, I guess it's a valid strategy to inject a bunch of extraneous flamebait, but you can hardly expect to be taken seriously for complaining that people address your flamebait presentation instead of your weak argument.


I think what you're trying to say to me has merit, but you keep overreaching in your choice of words to a point that makes it extremely difficult for me to respond positively. If you say that I

- sound like an idiot

- am blustering because I'm ashamed I'm in the wrong

- think open source is valueless

- am ignorant

These are only some of the excerpts but I keep noticing that you read what I say and then concoct some grand scheme in your head instead of taking the precise wording I used to closer heart. Disagree? Then please point me to the "extraneous flamebait" I injected into my very terse OP. Maybe it's extraneous flamebait to you that I don't preface my thoughts with "In my experience ..." ?

>I had written up a fairly thorough response

I appreciate hearing your thoughts - after all that's the reason I'm on here writing these replies. Though I do feel that you take the gist of what I'm saying, creating another standpoint adding some of your own summaries of what what you believe I'm talking about to that and then arguing against that.

Again. In my OP I told OP not to say he wants to work for free and not to say out right that he's willing to work 12/7 if he wants to maximize his chances of landing a job. Do you disagree with that? If you do, I would be happy to hear your thoughts.


I think what you're trying to say to me has merit, but you keep overreaching in your choice of words to a point that makes it extremely difficult for me to respond positively

You could call them thorns, and see if you can draw any parallels to your own communication style, like the way you constantly overreach the actual points you're able to make. If your OP was so terse, how were you able to boil down your points from three paragraphs originally to a single sentence here? (Hint: you left out all the extraneous flamebait in this version).


4 whole months? You definitely just doubled down on overconfidence. It's only one job search, you have no idea which lessons apply generally and which are only true for the current ecosystem. Read about the Dunning-Kruger effect and avoid coming off as overconfident at all costs, when interviewing young developers/technical people that is a giant red flag in my experience. It's almost a deal breaker for me.

Also: No, that's not an Ad Hominem (which is the term you want to use rather than DH1 if you want to sound like you know what you are talking about by the way, it's a classic logical fallacy)


> 4 whole months?

I didn't state 4 full months. It was however something that I spent my free time researching over the course of 4 months. I also did a lot of other things though :)

>Read about the Dunning-Kruger effect and avoid coming off as overconfident at all costs, when interviewing young developers/technical people that is a giant red flag in my experience.

Don't worry, when doing interviews a bigger risk for me is coming off as too unsure of myself. I like to state my opinion as directly and confidently as I can on HN. Mainly because it's good writing practice and because there's nothing at stake (I care very little if some of the readers on HN get a bad opinion of me because they don't agree with what I'm saying).

> No, that's not an Ad Hominem

It very clearly is an Ad Hominem. He's trying to refute my point by arguing against my person (You don't have the right kind of experience to be talking about this) instead of refuting my arguments on their own merit. This happens often as I'm not shy about what I've done in the past and enjoy saying things that I believe in but that I feel many others don't like to hear (makes for good discussions ... well at least if they try to refute my points)


This is clearly in the fuzzy definition area since your argument is that you have gained enough experience in this area to give subjective life advice, the argument against simply has to involve a judgment of your level of experience.

In the same way that I can't meaningfully ask "am I attractive enough to professionally model?" and respond to every "No" with "ad hominem!", when you bring your person into the argument as support, either implicitly or explicitly, the scope of things classed as ad hominem fallacy is constrained. Ad Hominem's are also in the class of fallacies that can still inform a decision even if, like all logical fallacies, they cannot prove anything.

To exit the pedantic logic argument for a second: That confidence and directness is a good practice, and writing practice and avoiding seeming unsure are great reasons to do it. In my experience if you also use that confidence and directness to preemptively address potential weaknesses in your argument (as in "I know I'm new at this but here is exactly why, in this case, I am right anyway") you are even more convincing.


>your argument is that you have gained enough experience in this area to give subjective life advice

Nowhere do I use my "authority" to try and support any of my statements. I give a list of what I thought are his mistakes and then I go off into giving some advice (the snippet) based on my own (successful) experience doing phone screens.

> In my experience if you also use that confidence and directness to preemptively address potential weaknesses in your argument

I think that is very sound advice. But one my motivating factors is to stir up a conversation. If I leave some of the thorns on, I tend to get more replies as people inevitably find themselves caught up in them and feeling the need to reply :)


haha, well that's definitely true isn't it!


>I'm even willing to work for free for a period of time.

I've done that. For a week, after that I pretty much could dictate terms. It's a lot harder to argue someone isn't worth what they're asking for as long as you haven't seen them work or worked with them. And one of my terms was that if they kept me on after the week they had to pay for the week as well.

Giving free samples works very well for drugs, it works just as well if you're good at what you do but are not so good in communicating that as you are in showing it.

There is nothing desperate about it, just limit your exposure by limiting the time you'll do that and if you're as good as you think you are you even get the risk paid off.


>And one of my terms was that if they kept me on after the week they had to pay for the week as well.

There are different ways of negotiating here. I think what you did is sensible. Sending in a cover letter where you immediately proclaim that you'll work for free when the position and every other employee at the company is salaried, though I feel is not. (Note he added the temporary status to his working for free in a later email)

>There is nothing desperate about it, just limit your exposure by limiting the time you'll do that and if you're as good as you think you are you even get the risk paid off.

I didn't say it WAS desperate, but that indeed I believe it COMES OFF as desperate. And mainly because mentally you'll get thrown into the pool with all the other losers who can't get hired on their own merit and thus try to get an in another way. Yeah, I guess there are a few edge cases out there where really they have all the skills but they just need some time to show them off. As the employer is busy with wading through the sea of applicants he is (imo) doing nothing more than pattern matching - if you're too strongly deviating from the norm that sets off some red flags in the employer's head.


I definitely agree that working for free is a bad idea. But in the software industry we're currently enjoying a shortage of talent (well, that's either positive or negative depending on whether you're employee or employer) I kinda have one foot in the video/film production industry and it is so radically different to see people begging to work for free, having a food service job on the side, etc. While other graduates come out of the same 4-year education with a software degree and they're able to demand high salaries, signing bonuses, stock options, etc.


Working for free does not mean the work is worthless. This is just an insane idea. Let's say I volunteer building houses for people in the 3rd world, or I give free talks at my daughter's school, or I help some friends get their startup off the ground, none of these means they are worthless. This must be a cultural difference thing, but giving freely of your time for endeavors you believe in should not make you think my work is worthless to you. Compensation comes in many forms. Money is just one of them.


> Let's say I volunteer building houses for people in the 3rd world, or I give free talks at my daughter's school, or I help some friends get their startup off the ground, none of these means they are worthless.

You're right, but the difference is perspective. In those situations, the "employers" expect the work to be free, because they are "paying" you in non-monetary ways (such as, continued or closer friendship). So someone offering to do work for free is meeting their expectations.

In the case of a stranger approaching a company...An employer is expecting such work to cost money...and if someone unknown offers to do that work for free...then there are multiple ways to interpret that offer, many of them detrimental to the candidate:

1) The candidate is actually not very good or is inexperienced, or else he would know that he could be getting paid good money to do what he is offering to do.

2) The candidate sees the proposed work as trivial. See 1)

3) The candidate is desperate, leading the employer to wonder if either #1 or #2 have something to do with that.

4) The candidate sees the employer as desperate.

5) The candidate is actually very good and is fully confident that his work will knock the employers' socks off.

Sure, #5 is possible. But likely?...


He was clearly #1, inexperienced. Which the job application said was OK as long as you were willing and able to learn as you go, so there is a clear narrative he's following: "let me prove that I can work myself into this role."

The side benefit is that even if he fails or works for free for a month or two he will have gained valuable experience that could get him a job elsewhere.


Yeah I agree. But they were trying to hire somebody for a salaried position and in an age where 100k salaries for newgrads are a commodity offering to do that job for 0k really does say a lot about you. I'm not saying OP shouldn't work for free, just that he should try to sound less desperate. The job search is like dating. If I tell my partner on the first or second date that I love them and would do everything for them, that sends the worst signals.


> I also researched _every_ person who I'd be talking to. Has a lot of PostgreSQL related posts on their blog? "Oh yeah I hate MySQL". Re-tweeted a tweet about a MongoDB bug report? "I prefer traditional databases for serious apps". Has a blog post about Go? "I think the speed advantage that Go can offer is really interesting" And so on and so forth. People like people who are like them, with pretty much everyone exposing their lives and opinions, stuff like this is up for easy pickings.

So, you play the pandering sycophant ? I _can't tell_ from here because you don't include any examples where you disagree with the interviewer's worldview.

If one of your examples had been e.g. "I've used Go quite a bit and it's bitten me in a number of ways, here's a couple: ...", it might look less like you're just researching exactly what you think people will want to hear.


I have no problems disagreeing with someone, but the phone chat has exactly one and only one purpose: Get the on-site. Then once I have the full spectrum of communication available to me (mostly worried about body language and facial expressions), I will gauge how open-minded they are and adjust. I've told people before that I think their $FAVORITELANG is bullshit, but I won't risk a job interview just to score an A+ on the "utmost honesty" scale. I'm happy with a preliminary B- while I'm temporarily unable get a solid grasp of what they're like.


> If you say you're willing to work for free, that tells me one thing: You think your work is of no value to me. And so if you think that, I will also think that your work is worthless to me. Instant turn-off.

That's not how I read it. Supposedly a work sample is the best predictor of making a good hire (I think maybe tokenadult posted something on that once?). The fact that he's willing to do it for free (assuming he actually does it) shows that he's very committed to the company. In my opinion, it's a positive -- not a negative.


It's an interesting story and really shows an unusual level of determination, but I'm stuck on this part:

> So, just to recap, that’s about 5 months and 9 interviews/meetings and countless hours spent working on projects/reports/presentations.

> by proving himself capable for the role, he hacked the process.

I don't see a hack so much as I see a broken process that made a single task monumentally difficult and time consuming. Employers everywhere have a problem with relying on credentials or experience rather than recognizing ability and potential, which is understandable given time and budget constraints. If someone could figure out a way to help companies quickly pick talented but inexperienced individuals out of a pool of applicants, THAT would be a hack. A pretty amazing one for employees and employers, too.


I think it would probably be better to just make "temp to hire" the norm and start lot's of people, keep those who seem to excel.

Don't get me wrong, I'm not talking about cut-throat competition and giant classes feeding into one position.

I'm just thinking you can't tell how someone's going to do until they're in, and you should be able to get them in quicker and easier to find out. Finally, a lot of good people can learn quickly.

I suppose what I suggest is real hands-on mentorship which is not the norm in American management today...


I agree. The previous startup I used to work at had a horrible candidate selection process. Amar's case is too one-off for it to be a hack but at least it was possible.


"hot startup" is empty and salesy, IMO. after reading this, i kind of wish i hadn't. none of the parties mentioned came off in a positive way.


Wow. I don't know if I should be impressed or pity the guy. Mike says, "Everyone who wants to work in a startup should do this," which I don't agree with. But I think every job-seeker should read this piece and pay attention to 2 key points:

1. Amar leveraged his own internet real estate by publishing blog posts about Vidyard's marketing and then tweeting at the founders to let them know about his work. He essentially provided some flattering, well-written, and useful consulting work to Vidyard.

2. He was honest about his desires, expectations, and willingness to work. When his initial email was written off as just another form letter, he went above and beyond to ensure his real feelings were heard.

These tactics are within the reach of every reasonably intelligent person. Good read.


While this had a happy ending, can you imagine an alternate universe where the founders for whatever reason decided not to hire the guy? Leading him on for several months, making him jump through hoops and then not hiring him would have been a huge waste of time and energy, esp considering they seem pretty disinterested through most of the process. People sometimes greatly undervalue the value of a polite 'no'.


I think you mean 'uninterested'. Pet peeve, sorry.

But I wholly agree with the substance. This article feels like a justification for an unnecessarily long process that was a poor use of everybody's time. It reflects badly on a person if they're sufficiently desperate to expend so much time on the whims of a particular company, and it reflects badly on a company that would expect and encourage it.

To be clear - if you don't get a response, reaching out again to follow up is a really good thing. Being persistent is a good thing. But I think you really need to have a stronger sense of your own value than Amar displayed. When a company is that cool on you, it's probably better to move on.

But the bigger problem, really, is just that it all seems so inefficient. With all due respect, Amar sold himself really badly in the emails shown. That puts you on the back foot from the outset, and it bodes especially badly for a marketing oriented role.


"Launch something"

That's all you need to get a startup to pay for your time. Honest. Every time I launch something, emails start pouring in from people who are interested.

Forget everything else anyone says, just launch something.


I don't think you can make such a broad claim. I've been working at startups for a few years and I don't lack job offers, but they come mostly from my past experience and industry ties. I've "launched" (as in created) two small web apps in the last 6 months and even though one has a few hundred users I still only got a 15$ donation and some interesting conversations, but no job offers.

Not to mention I have tens of github repos and even though the link is on my CV I was never asked anything about any of them in my last job search.

I live in Tel-Aviv, a city only second to SV in startup mania, yet I still feel very alien reading a lot HN articles and comments.

Edit: Thought I should add: in the Israeli startup scene ties, not launching are your best bet at getting a good job.


"in the Israeli startup scene ties, not launching are your best bet at getting a good job."

Could you explain why?


I'll try. First I want to make sure that this is from my personal, but vast experience. I'm not saying it is the only way to get a good job, but it is the best bet.

I think the most important reason is that Israel is a small and a tight knit country, and so is the startup scene. It helps that the huge majority of talented developers served at very specific army units (the most famous is 8200). This leads to a simple truth - when I interview someone he was probably referred to me through friends or at least I know someone who worked/served with him.

When I read the article I found it funny that Amar was OK with working for free for a few months. Me and almost everyone I know served at least 3 years in the IDF which is pretty much working for free.


Ahh, I see. Thanks.


It depends on what you launch and where you get exposure.

Obviously whatever you launch is going to have to get exposure with the people you are interested in getting interviews/offers from.

But most of my Random Offers (tm) have included some variation of "So I've been reading your blog" or "So I liked that cool thing X you had on HN frontpage last week"

To the point that one such Thing X was mentioned by half the people I interviewed with that time I was going through onsite interviews at Google.


That is indeed some of my point - exposure is what you really need, not launching. I can launch stuff all day and never get on the front page of anything. I think it's important to be accurate about the real causes and in this case it is not "launching" but marketing and exposure (which are important skills to have).


Exactly. You don't need anyone's permission to make something. If you hire someone who's launched something you know you won't have to do a lot of handholding, versus someone who's going to "work for free".


Wow, can't believe all the negative talk, perhaps I read it in a different tone, but the story delivers what the headline says, unless you want to be really critical on the word hack. If you are persistent and prove yourself, you can go anywhere. It didn't sound to me like they treated him like crap, yeah sure they told him No, they brushed him off, and they did what any other person running a start up or even what any other HR person would do. If a guy continues to practically stalk you, you either ignore him or are forced to deal with him, and when you are 'awkwarded' into a situation or you see someone trying hard, what are you gonna do, tell him to fuck off or throw him a bone? Dude kept coming back and incrementally proving himself, asking for what he could do, and what do you say? "Sorry you'll never be good enough?", you don't know that, you just know he is currently right for that role, but he still might be able to prove he's a valuable person to hire. The stories of 7-year over night successes are because of persistence, dude had that and those are the people you want along with you on the ride.


"yeah sure they told him No"

Where in the article did you find that information? I think the problem is that they never did tell him 'no', stringing him along while they had absolutely no intention in hiring him.

IMO, Amar should've moved on to a company that would appreciate him. The Vidyard guys seem like major assholes.


My bad, maybe they didn't specifically say No, but if you apply for a job and don't get a response, I'm pretty sure that is universally recognized as a No in the job seeking world, and I think it's clear from the article that he realized that, he just didn't care because he really wanted a job with them.

"However, I was too frustrated after being turned down everywhere else (for one reason or another) and realized that on paper, I didn’t look too great (Bachelors Degree in Science and a bunch of failed business ideas)."

Guy recognizes that he doesn't look good enough which is why he is getting No's or no responses, but he believes that he is good enough so he decides to get creative to prove it.

If you are trying hard and they aren't responding, I think you know it's because you aren't making the cut, Vidyard was sending subtle, but very well understood signals that anyone else might do, you try, no response, obviously no clicking with them, so you keep trying, because you still think you can prove something.

It sounds like people want to say either Amar is stupid or Vidyard are dicks, both had their own agenda and clearly sent each other messages about how they felt without necessarily directly saying it. How many "No's" does it take to get to a Yes in sales? Dude is a good salesman.


All right, most of these comments seem to be about how he went the completely wrong direction looking to get hired and how each of us would have done it completely differently. There's more than one way to skin a cat.

Would he have done better if he had just "launched something himself"? Perhaps. How about being a fantastic coder and orator too? Certainly. That's not the point. He had persistence. When it comes to running a company and trying to be successful, there are few traits more valuable than persistence -- and he has more of it than the majority of extremely smart people I know.

I know a lot of absolutely fantastic coders. Many of them are very creative too. But the lack of persistence and drive is what will prevent them from dealing with the emotional rollercoaster and disappointment that is running a company.

Somebody with persistence and intelligence can learn any skill. And most importantly, they can keep performing their skills when everybody else -- even those 50 times better at it than they -- have quit.

EDIT: And I should have included: Amar, hats off to you. You're going to go far.


Does anyone actually read and care about this inane bullshit?


Amazing how much free consulting work companies are getting through job interviews these days... It almost makes you think a lot of companies now have an incentive to pretend to be hiring just to get this input.

By the way, if anyone's interested, I posted a cpl days ago to no avail the following breakdown of job openings results in select cities by select keywords via Indeed.com's API (I'm new to python and having some fun): http://i.imgur.com/hGlSb.png


The article makes Vidyard and particularly "Mike" look pretty bad and lacks perspective and empathy. The fact that he's OK with ignoring personal communications just because they look like a "cover letter" speaks volumes. I don't buy the "I'm busy" argument. I've emailed people like Mark Cuban and received prompt replies in the past.

Worse, he interviewed the guy and made him do free, unpaid work to further prove himself, and then ignored him for four weeks after he did the task! Absolutely pathetic. I can only think about my friend's startup cleaning company: he has prospective cleaners clean an apartment as part of their interview to see their cleaning skills, but he pays them the standard hourly rate ($20/hr+) for their time. And he follows up. And he doesn't have any funding himself yet.

Posts like this one just reinforce and validate this kind of behavior in the startup community. Just because you're a "busy startup guy" doesn't mean you get to ignore labor laws and have free reign to be a prick. Just FYI, having people work for free is almost always illegal if they're not receiving academic credit.

All people deserve to be treated with common decency. It doesn't matter how bad the economy is, how new the employer is, and how inexperienced the applicant is. As soon as we deem it acceptable and in fact encourage the abandonment of these principles and laws, we descend into a third world black market business culture. I wouldn't be surprised if the next boulder we crash into on this slippery slope involves applicants bribing their way into jobs: "In exchange for letting me work for you for free, I'm willing to "fund the overhead" of my training by providing you with a monthly stipend of $500/month during my free labor period!"


I'm also troubled by the expansion of the New York finance style intern culture.

We find that having someone do real work for a decent length of time is a great way to evaluate them when they are inexperienced or otherwise hard to evaluate in an interview format.

Internships have their place, but not when it's taking advantage of the applicant. That's when we hire them for short term contracts, we pay them contractor rates (so slightly more hourly than the paycheque would be) to compensate for the lack of security.

We're finding that we end up with people who can treat the business seriously and professionally when that's needed as well as the normal stuff everyone wants like enthusiasm, intelligence and work ethic. Someone willing to run on a treadmill because I'm dangling a carrot in front of them like a jerk is not someone I want on my team, I want someone who will spend their time wisely when I'm paying them for it.

Who would have guessed that treating applicants with respect would pay off, even for a small startup? Oh yeah, we did. And we were right.


You're right - I did lack perspective and empathy.

I never thought I'd be the busy guy without time or energy to filter through and respond to every application we get.

The problem that I've encountered is that at < 15 employees, the best hires are generally people we pursue. Literally 90% of people we've spoken to who apply through standard means are ill-fitted for the role.

This post is designed to open the perspective of myself, the "busy startup guy" as well as Amar, the "I want to be a part of a startup guy".

The idea is that everyone should go above and beyond to get noticed. Most people don't. If you don't really really really think you can make an impact in my business (and haven't shown me so via initiative) how can I really know that you're not just another tire-kicker?

Remember, a seed-stage startup is on an egg-timer. Every minute needs to be productive and every conversation needs to create value. We need to pick and choose our battles wisely.


I don't mean to be hard on you, I was really just ranting against this pervasive behavior, not specifically just you. I can see how this could happen. I just think we should all try to proactively hold ourselves to higher standards of doing business and employing people.


You know its funny, most of the talented engineers here in Miami are working at big corps and could care less about the startup echo-chamber and jobs at these startups. Could be that our startups here don't get enough press to seem cool?


Well, look at the article. It's written by a young guy who essentially consulted for this company for free for 5 months. I'd argue South Florida has it right: startups are absurdly glamorized right now, and in a region where everyone (everyone!) hustles to get by, the engineers know fronting when they see it.

Why do engineers go to startups? Cool technology, interesting problems, more autonomy, and the slim chance of a big payoff. Startups in South Florida apparently have none of these. I've told Mike Greenberg (and you too, I think?) as much about the tech meetup culture down there: you won't have strong technology culture without strong technology. RefreshMiami and a Rails meetup won't cut it.

Besides, why quit your corporate engineering job for a startup when you're making $80k+ in a city where money is everything?


this is depressing. cheers to the guy for his persistence and interest - but seriously - why would you still want to work for a company after being literally treated like crap like that? also - what bargaining value do you have at all w.r.t. salaries or equity if you go in seeming like the most desperate person alive? It should be the other way around - if you´re good and talented - which the author of the article obviously is - then companies should court you to be come a part of their business. Case in point - the 42floors guys - who were awesome enough to really try to woo Dan Shipper publicly - http://42floors.com/blog/consider-this-a-job-offer-to-work-a... - at the end of the day - you want to be valuable to a company - and you want them to want you - telling them that they can use you isnt that.


this article was terribad internet 2.0 stuffed shirt middle management corporate hot garbage.

i wiped my ass with everything that ceo had to say. join our moustache hipster 'hot startup', it'll take you 9 interviews but we're worth it. really? it's 2012 how about f you and your viral marketing video cloud service startup. you are parasites upon humanity making video spam and viewing metrics stats for car companies, penis pills and gambling. just admit you are shameless hucksters that are one peg above a spammer, ditch the synergies and ridiculous pretense.

if this guy enjoys the starbucks latte macfag synergies promoting corporate work environment that's great but this isn't 'hacking' this is pleading and begging to get a shitty job in yet another corporation that's just pretending to be super kawaii cool and awesome but when it comes down to it they'll lay this guy off in a heartbeat, sell the company to some megacorp and screw every employee royally. all startups do this. the guy who owns it buys back all your shares before he lays you off as a favour then keeps the money and sells out faster than Jay Leno in front of a bowl full of Doritos.

I bet they do excrement inducing "team building exercizes" at this way super coo startup. No matter what hipster clothes and mac products you put in front of the CEO he's Bill Lumberg from Office Space demanding TPS reports.

Finally the worst of this entire article was the buzzword 'growth hacker' which is newspeak for a spammer. Look at the definition article they link, some guy who basically manipulates CL ads to punt his junk, a marketer with coding experience, in other words, a fcking spammer. Protip: all of India and Pakistan are chock full of marketers who can code. This is not a revolutionary concept.

I would've shown up and given this guy a USB drive with 3 OSx exploits on it to corrupt client side memory and my "resume", then sold myself to him in person using balls not limp social media or stalking around linkedin and twitter. If they didn't hire me I'd have their source code to sell on blackhat SEO forums anyways so who cares.


I have read almost to the end and I still have no idea what a "growth hacker" does. Is this SEO (another blurry, but less blurry term) or content generation or scaling?


Very few will be this tenacious, so if you have a startup, don't get your hopes up unless the pool of workers is really desperate.


It very funny to see Vidyard erasing ALL comments on their post that are negative, constructive or not LOL...


Kuddos to the persistence and doing a great job maintaining your tone in your communications.


Thanks! Glad you enjoyed the read.


Can't imagine how frustrating something like this can be. Have many friends with similar visa issues. Hope you'll enjoy Vidyard.


Great job! Hope vidyard is everything you want it to be.




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