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Ask HN: I was hired and unhired in 2 weeks, for no reason
368 points by guybrushT on Aug 8, 2014 | hide | past | web | favorite | 281 comments
I was hired and unhired in 2 weeks, for no reason except being told that "our plans changed".

I joined as employee #1 of a YC startup. I spent a week working with them before joining. They liked me, and I liked them. I officially joined as the COO. Deal was to work remotely, till we all figured out the visa.

And then, suddenly I was told over a ‘catch-up call’, that they have to rethink the hiring decision because they really needed someone with a different skill set. The conversation was friendly and polite.

Now finger snap - just like that – I am out! Specifically, I was politely asked to leave. Its the strangest experience of my life. They keep reiterating that its not performance related. I believe it.

The problem is: - I let all job offers go (I had a few good ones) - Told my friends/family about the job, and that I will be moving to America - Reached out to all my contacts (including everyone who was trying to hire me) and attempted to sign them up for this YC service - I reached out to several people (e.g. at Google, FB, Partners at a management consultancy (i.e. my former employers)) asking them for a potential investment into this company ("Use our personal networks" was a key strategy), some of these helped me find a job that I turned down

I like the founders - they are good guys. I may even understand that they need someone else, but personally that has left me with few options and in a bit of a depressed state! For my wife, this was such a huge decision (to join a startup and move to another country), and it was just awkward to convince her first, and give her the news.

I am not being very articulate about why this sucks – but any help/advice would be awesome. I have a masters in CS, a failed startup and 6 yrs of management consulting behind me.

Edit: Thank you. Thank you for the wonderful support and advice. I called my wife and showed her this thread! We are going through every word. We are very touched by the amount of concern and positivity here! Thanks.

> I like the founders - they are good guys.

No. They're not. You don't get to screw around with other people's lives and continue to possess the title of "good guy". If they were good guys, you would be receiving tens of thousands of dollars for your difficulties, and such would have enough of a runway on that such that you wouldn't need to ask us for advice. Please do us all a favor and let us know who they are beyond "a YC startup" so that none of us find ourselves in your shoes.

As it stands, if you had one of the other offers you were interested in, let them know that the company that you had taken reneged, and that you would love to work with them. Hiring good engineers is hard (and expensive) enough that any decent company won't mind being your second choice.

> Please do us all a favor and let us know who they are beyond "a YC startup" so that none of us find ourselves in your shoes.

Two other reasons for considering revealing the name:

1) a casual bystander might see this and conclude that all YC companies behave in this way, which hurts the other companies.

2) PG and other partners at YC read HN, and there's a good chance that action can be taken if they know who is involved.

Even if you take these into consideration, a more appropriate reaction would be to say, "if you are currently in talks with a YC company for employment, or were hired in the last few weeks, drop me a line with the name of the company and I'll reply privately to you with a yes or no."

Same goes for PG or YC Partners, just say, "if you drop me a line saying you want to deal with this, contact me and we can discuss it and I'll see if it makes sense to disclose it."

This is often a good idea regardless. Several years ago, I was in talks with a YC startup to join as a technical cofounder early in the program. I reached out to about 4 other YC founders or early employees who had gone through similar situations - not being a member of the founding team, but joining as a cofounder or employee #1 while the startup was still going through YC. Eventually decided to pass, which turned out to be a good idea in hindsight since the startup imploded in a founder breakup soon after the program ended.

The people I reached out to didn't even know or speak directly about the founders or startup itself. But because they had been in similar situations before, they knew what to look for that might become issues in the future, and then I could cross-reference that with my own personal experience to make a judgment.

"if you are currently in talks with a YC company for employment, or were hired in the last few weeks, drop me a line with the name of the company and I'll reply privately to you with a yes or no."

Yes... and Yes.

This is absurd guys. We have one guy's story, from his perspective. For all we know, the OP sat around and did nothing productive. The founders had a reason to terminate him - be it what others would call a "good reason" or otherwise. Perhaps there were issues the OP is completely unaware of?

What will happen? Will YC yank funding over this? I hope not -- that would set a dangerous precedent and make me, for one, that much less willing to pursue YC funding.

If the founders didn't want the OP before -- they especially aren't going to want him now that all this has occurred and threats about getting YC involved etc.

The bottom line -- you can be terminated for any reason, even if it's the color of your shirt on that particular day. Does that make it "right"? Well, that's a perspective thing.

"For all we know, the OP sat around and did nothing productive."

Working his network to help get a startup's first few customers at large, brand name companies? I'd hardly call that unproductive. In fact, if they iterate product dev on one of these customers, find that perfect product market fit, and scale; well, I'd say he played a roll in their success.

"Perhaps there were issues the OP is completely unaware of?"

The issue is the manner in which the OP was terminated. The company could be totally justified letting him go, just not in the manner in which they did it.

"you can be terminated for any reason... Does that make it "right"? Well, that's a perspective thing."

One, you can't be terminated for any reason.

Two, we are seeing the perspective of public opinion and unfortunately it is reflecting negatively on YC since people don't have a more specific target. Everyone has a 'right' to choose who they work for.

Three, getting terminated is a little more than just perspective. It is an event which can have significant repercussions for a person: mortgage payments, kid's school costs, etc.

> The company could be totally justified letting him go, just not in the manner in which they did it.

How so? They decided he was not a good fit, by his own admission... so they cut him loose. Would you rather they hurt their business by keeping on employees who won't work out?

> One, you can't be terminated for any reason.

Yes you can. California has At-Will Employment. It means they can hire or fire for any reason, with or without notice, even if it's silly like they don't like where you eat lunch. On the same note, you can quit for any reason, without notice, even if it's silly like you don't like where the owners eat lunch.

> > One, you can't be terminated for any reason.

> Yes you can. California has At-Will Employment. It means they can hire or fire for any reason

No, it means that the initial burden is on the person alleging illegal firing or not-hiring to establish a prima facie case that the reason was a prohibited reason, rather than the burden being the hiring/firing party to establish that the reason was a permitted reason.

It does not mean that hiring/firing for any reason is allowed. In fact, there are lots of prohibited reasons for firing in California.

It's just "default allow" when it comes to hiring/firing decisions.

Terminating because the employee was not working out is not a prohibited reason.

Terminating based on say, race or sex, is however. That is very clearly not the case here.

> Terminating because the employee was not working out is not a prohibited reason.

Its not even a reason, its just a semantically empty phrase. But in any case, I didn't say there was a prohibited reason here, I said that the claim that "at-will employment" means you can hire or fire "for any reason" is false.

We're arguing over semantics now... you get the point I was making. The big picture is the founders felt the OP wasn't going to work out -- and made a very appropriate decision to cut him loose now instead of later.

Are you being deliberately obtuse? Read the chain. Nobody is arguing the company couldn't let him go. Rather, people are upset the founders didn't make it right for him. Frankly, they are assholes. Decent people would say something like, "Hey, this isn't going to work. We fucked up, and we're sorry. Here's two months of comp (or maybe six weeks) to find a new job, regain leases or find a new apartment, etc. And on the off chance you put this on your resume, we'll serve as a reference."

Make it right? Why do you feel they are obligated to pay him for work he did not do? Severance is optional, and a benefit of working at larger companies (of which a startup is not). Startups pivot quick and often (as it seems they did here), and usually don't have loads of extra cash laying around to do things like severance until they "make it".

Again, we have one side of the story here, and with only one side, people are jumping to conclusions. What if the founders came on and said the OP lied about his qualifications? Letting emotions get in the way of business is a fast way to fail.

Quite frankly, and in your words, the OP "fucked up" by committing to a startup before even having a Visa he pointed out is/was important, and from the sound of it, may not have even been an official hire with contracts signed. He did work, and if he was an official hire, he would have already been paid for said work.

Being told you will be a COO is not the same as actually being the COO. That would be as-if I told a gardener I thought I might hire him, then come home one day and he's cut my yard and demands payment. If i was hired on as a COO with a startup, you bet my contract would have specific terms for which I may be terminated. Why did the OP not have something similar?

The bottom line -- it's nothing personal, it's business.

Startups are not big corps. They aren't going to do big corp things like severance. If that's not acceptable to you -- do not sign on with a startup. In a few months the OP will be in a new job and will look back on this as a learning experience - one that he will be a stronger individual from and perhaps more cautious in the future.

> Why do you feel they are obligated to pay him for work he did not do?

From the account given, he did do work remotely.

> may not have even been an official hire with contracts signed.

A contract generally doesn't need to be signed to be valid (there are specific exceptions to this, but employment contracts generally aren't exceptions), it can be oral, and, accepting the account given by the OP, offer, acceptance, and performance under the contract are all evident.

If the OP did actual work, and was an official hire with either verbal or written contract, then he would have already been compensated for his time. (Otherwise that would be a violation of the law, and I seriously doubt a startup is trying to get away with not paying for work done "on the clock")

If the OP did actual work, and was not an official hire with either verbal or written contract, then he was an eager beaver and jumped-the-gun, which is understandable, but ultimately would be his mistake. (I refer back to my gardener example above).

People seem to be arguing the startup owes him some sort of severance -- which is ridiculous unless it was in his employment agreement.

The OP will look back on this and learn some valuable and long lasting lessons from this ordeal.

> If the OP did actual work, and was an official hire with either verbal or written contract, then he would have already been compensated for his time. (Otherwise that would be a violation of the law, and I seriously doubt a startup is trying to get away with not paying for work done "on the clock")

I think that we agree that the startup would be breaking the law. Where we disagree is that you seem to think that "It would be illegal, and therefore it didn't happen" is a valid line of reasoning.

Why on earth would you automatically assume violation of the law when the OP never even hinted at that. Seriously... enough with the witch hunt. You have no more valid reasons to be upset -- we have discussed and debunked them all.

"Would you rather they hurt their business by keeping on employees who won't work out?"

I don't disagree that letting him go might have been the right decision for both parties, but to not compensate him properly for working his network to help get them some of their first customers, turning down other job offers, and actively working for the company? That's not right. They might have made a mistake in hiring him, but they definitely made a mistake in not adequately compensating him for his effort and explaining to him the reasons for the abrupt termination.

"At-Will Employment"

It doesn't allow termination for 'any reason' as other commenters have pointed out. And if CEOs and founders rely too much on this clause and don't behave ethically we could find ourselves in a position like France, where you can't fire anybody, a situation I hope we can avoid by professional conduct and respecting that it isn't just business, but people's lives.

> It doesn't allow termination for 'any reason'

Actually, it does mean "for any reason" (well, within the law, which would exclude things such as race or gender, but that is clearly not the case here). Furthermore, a reason of "this employee is not a good fit for our company because of reason X" is absolutely allowed. (Unless the OP had signed a contract that had termination terms, etc... doesn't seem like it).

> we could find ourselves in a position like France, where you can't fire anybody

This is what employment contracts are for, some companies will have terms for when a termination is satisfactory, and other times you can negotiate terms as part of your employment agreement.

We only have one side of this story, and a lot of emotions have been stirred because of it. Was the OP actually officially hired (as in he had salary or hourly compensation was was logging hours)? If not, then why was he already performing "work" by hitting up companies and investing his time? (Seems like a "jump-the-gun" mistake).

I'm really sorry this happened to the OP -- but it's not abnormal, and certainly isn't the first time a YC funded startup has had to pivot and cut employees that won't fit.

poof131 - you are absolutely right on all counts.

...getting terminated is a little more than just perspective. It is an event which can have significant repercussions for a person: mortgage payments...

This is the key issue. To be honest, even I am realising the impact this can have, only after it happened to me.

Financial: all plans made carefully, thoughtfully and intentionally are suddenly meaningless.

Personal: lot of awkward discussions :) friends, relatives, business acquaintances (e.g. I did the mistake of updating my LinkedIn - COO one day, and 14 days later deleted the "employment status". As someone pointed out, this is a first world problem - there are much worse things that can happen. I agree. But still, it really annoys me to explain myself to everyone who asks. Some even wonder, if I was "fired" :))

Work: searching for a job is not fun (at least for me), and having found something I love, commit to it (after much consideration) and then being yanked out of it so soon, felt cruel.

"action can be taken"

Come on. They didn't do anything wrong. They withdrew an offer of employment.

1. It could be performance related, and they just don't want to tell OP, 2. They realised quickly -- shock horror, things change quickly in startups -- that actually they don't need X guy they need Y guy. These things happen.

In situations like this you can fire well: give explicit reasons, make sure the person knows you're going to give them a great reference, consider paying them a notice period in excess of what you're obligated to. But really they didn't do anything wrong, and I don't think naming and shaming them is going to solve anything.

> They withdrew an offer of employment.

Doing this without compensation is ABSOLUTELY doing something wrong. Maybe not necessarily tortious, but certainly unethical and indicative of someone who should not be trusted in a business relationship. The YC company made a mistake and is sticking someone else with the bill.

FWIW, There's a certain amount of "foreigners are expendable" mindset that seems to exist in the American tech sphere that might factor into this situation as well...

I had an offer withdrawn the day before I was supposed to get on a plane to move myself cross country. I had quit my job, broken my lease, etc.

The company paid me a 6 week severance, even though I never worked a minute for them, just to compensate me for what I had given up.

That was a very nice company. They were in no way obligated to do any of that. You chose to break your lease on a gamble that things would work out for you... obviously they didn't... that's just how it is.

I'm not a lawyer, but having quit a job, broken a lease, and literally packed up to move the next day, I think promissory estoppel might apply.


Yes, which is why they paid him 6 weeks. I am sure in the papers there there's a "no lawsuit" clause…

It appears to me you don't have a particularly good grasp of the laws and legal code surrounding these circumstances beyond cursory Wikipedia articles. Often the laws are much much more complex than they appear on the surface.

> certainly unethical and indicative of someone who should not be trusted in a business relationship

Not necessarily. What if a major investor pulled out and they aren't going to have the capital available to hire this guy? What if hiring him meant not paying people who had been promised salaries after working for free? What if they could have hired him but others would have had to be fired?

They certainly made a mistake, but we don't know why they did what they did. It's unlikely to be malicious "Let's just screw this guy", and far more likely to be for reasons that each one of us, if we were in their shoes, would consider to be very good.

They withdrew an offer of employment.

They didn't withdraw an offer, they terminated someone who had accepted and was actively working for the company.

They didn't do anything wrong.

Yes, they did. Is it okay to let the OP go quickly because they made a mistake: no resources to deal with visa issues, wrong domain expertise, etc? Yes. Is it okay to do this without compensation, especially after rescinding other offers, working his personal network, etc? No!

The OP din't just do some code, he worked his professional network and went out on a limb for this startup. They screwed him, probably for the right reasons, but they need to admit the mistake and make the OP right.

he worked his professional network and went out on a limb for this startup.

Some in my network (former consulting clients and business friends) ended up buying the service. So the company benefited in a tangible way (real $'s). I worked as if this was "my company". So yeah, I do feel screwed for the reasons you say and more...

So they got rid of you because you had an equity stake? And by giving up your equity they could keep the money for themselves... yea, you got screwed.

> They didn't withdraw an offer, they terminated someone who had accepted and was actively working for the company.

You're right. It's even worse for OP: he just got canned.

> Yes, they did. Is it okay to let the OP go quickly because they made a mistake: no resources to deal with visa issues, wrong domain expertise, etc? Yes.


> Is it okay to do this without compensation, especially after rescinding other offers, working his personal network, etc? No!

He took a job, and got fired. Every time you take a job you rescind other offers. Every time you get fired you probably look back and think "damn I wish I'd taken one of those other offers". The proximity is the issue here, and the insinuating that they could have known this earlier / not made the hire in the first place.

> The OP din't just do some code, he worked his professional network and went out on a limb for this startup.

He didn't go out on a limb, he had a job there as you point out. He was a salaried employee.

>They withdrew an offer of employment. //

I thought the OP said they hired him and then 1 week in to working he was told he should leave.

If there was any package, like taking on the position would accrue shares and such then he's due that at least along with his weeks pay and his agreed/statutory notice period pay. The rest is probably down to local laws (both localities potentially if the company is operation in both).

Possibility #3 - They took a first look in months at the finantials, and don't want to tell anybody what they saw. If that's the case, they wouldn't pay anything anyway.

It is pretty easy to find the YC company if you just look at his comment history and do a search or two. Which... is why you should aways use a throwaway account if you don't want people to figure this stuff out.

Actually he has no comments outside of this thread that is less than 91 days ago, so it's not so easy at all.

Look at his startup idea that's hosted on appspot.com - the route to the YC company is found easily from there, with a couple of creative web searches.

As justguessingbut suggested, you can find a domain name from project he worked on, and thus his real name, and from there a search will lead you to angel list which links everything together with dates that match with the op's story. I was able to do it all in less than 5 minutes without anything but a browser and I'm slow... so I would call that really easy.

Could he send a private email to PG and partners at YC? Not as a complaint but more like, "hey, just a heads up, this just happened at one of the companies you guys sponsored."

I don't know anything about investing in startups but common sense would suggest that this would raise some red flags.

I would talk to a lawyer before doing this... see: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tortious_interference

In what way would telling the truth in a private email constitute tortious interference?

Given the US, talking to a lawyer first is pretty much invariably the smarter thing to do. Even without going this far, you can make statements that then negatively impact your bargaining position later on.

The "truth" is only what can be proved in court. Lots of folks have been tripped up by that before... so be careful.

In this specific case the legal is likely very low. It's a startup and it's unlikely they have money to fund a lawsuit. Plus there's that whole "he's from another country" bit which would make collecting on a judgment pretty damn hard.

I'm not a lawyer, but my understanding is that the OP is in a foreign country and his work arrangement was one of remote work. So how would US tort law be enforced?

(That is not to suggest that talking to a lawyer first in these types of matters is a bad idea, of course.)

I don't see how this applies.

Assuming that the OP has a reasonably standard employment agreement, he may well be breaking it by contacting their investors (there is the tort). Assuming that he doesn't want the job back, why would he contact them other than to disrupt the relationship between YC and his former employer? IANAL, but the basic elements seem like they are there and I wouldn't even consider doing something like this without getting legal advice first.

"why would he contact them other than to disrupt the relationship between YC and his former employer"

He might want YC to instruct other YC-backed companies to avoid this behavior in future, sparing other people this problem.

I assume you are in California.

California has At-Will employment -- so they can hire and fire you for any reason whenever they want. "You weren't a good fit", "You didn't think Big enough", "You didn't produce enough", etc etc etc.

Coming on here and ranting and trying to bring some action against the startup is not a good way to handle this. You feel wronged -- I'm sure the founders feel it was a good business decision.

Sorry this happened to you... but Startups are very volatile. It could have been worse.

> they can hire and fire you for any reason whenever they want

Legally? Sure.

Ethically? No.

> I'm sure the founders feel it was a good business decision.

The next founders who contemplate pulling a cowardly stunt like this shouldn't feel it to be a good business decision.

As it stands, this reflects terribly YC and its startups as a whole.

What would reflect worse on YC is them compelling a startup to keep a bad hire who could ultimately cost the business dearly.

Hiring for first stage startups is critically important -- ie. it can make or break the company.

If the OP wasn't going to work out for any reason, then it was appropriate to cut him loose as soon as possible, instead of dragging it out.

None of this reflects on YC. People on HN have a weird understanding of how much control YC has over portfolio companies --- which, in reality, is practically none whatsoever. YC can't compel startups to do anything. Presumably if they could, they'd compel all the companies to ship earlier.

Control - obviously not. But presumably when they're teaching Business 101 to a bunch of 20-something engineers, "How not to ruin your reputation in ten minutes" should be in the curriculum.

Do many YC companies still fail to ship early?

CA's at-will is a little more complex than that, due to the implied good faith covenant.

One (not primary, but fairly clear) source:


Googling "california at-will good faith" will unearth much more.

Edit: more detail, including that this isn't specific to explicit employment contracts. Also, I'm in no way saying this case would fall under this, only that at-will isn't absolute in CA, even beyond the normal discrimination boundaries.


Why is this comment downvoted? It's the only one in the whole thread that has some proper information in it and not just emotional pitch fork grabbing.

Alupis is absolutely right, startups are volatile and it could have been worse. That this was legal means this was probably the only right option for the founders.

Making hires at an early stage is incredibly important, imagine this startup has only a few 100k in the bank. They can hire maybe two to three persons, and that's hoping they'll hit on more funding later in the year.

Imagine you were a founder of that company, and you had hire this COO, and then something changes, or a pivot comes through just when the COO is flown in. Your investors all say you should discharge him, so they can hire someone that might save the company.

How can you even suggest this is unethical? This guy goes work at a startup in a state where it is legal to fire someone at will.

Yup! And that's why we want to know the company's name (legal) and make everyone aware how they fucked someone's life up (legally).

All legal.

Doing so would reflect poorer on the OP actually.

Maybe this business succeeds, maybe they fail (they are a startup, and most startups don't succeed).

But, the OP will always need a job. And quite frankly, getting upset over a termination and coming online and bringing major flak to the business is a sure-fire way to get the OP rejected out of any HM's stack if they know what they are doing. Why would I want to hire someone who has a history of flaming previous employers? It doesn't matter the reason they flamed the previous employers, it's the fact that they did it at all. That goes double for anyone who is trying to get hired into top executive positions, such as COO.

It's not personal, it's business... and if the OP can't distinguish between the two, then he's not ready for top level executive positions.

I think the YC startup is almost certainly SketchDeck.

It's not too difficult to find the OP's real life identity based on his past work. From that, the information on http://angel.co/ pretty much gives it away.

So, the unfortunate thing now is that if it isn't SketchDeck, they're going to have some nasty PR shit to clean up that is totally undeserved.

If it is, well, they still need to do cleanup. OP, can you confirm/deny?

I think you overestimate the significance of this discussion.

Besides, there advertisement rarely have negative effect.

I wish my startup was mistakenly confused as a place that fired OP.

What's your startup? Might as well link it here. :)

At least the timing and job description sort of match, but it's far from definite so who knows [1,2]:

SketchDeck (YC W14) is hiring its first employee (sketch-deck.com) - 70 days ago

We're now looking for our first employee. (...) You are going to run SketchDeck day-to-day whilst masterminding our scale to become the biggest design agency in the world.

[1] https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=7819953

[2] http://blog.sketch-deck.com/sketchdeck-first-hire/

I had never heard of SketchDeck - I don't want to derail, but I'm genuinely interested in understanding their business model.

Specifically, it looks like a linearly scalable enterprise (consulting-like: they provide custom design on demand).

How is this appealing for an investor? I'm not deeply involved in the mechanics of looking for funding, but I thought investors kind of shunned consulting startups.

I'd say you did the right thing in not saying what the startup was — it isn't wise to look like a bridge-burner when you're looking for work.

> I'd say you did the right thing in not saying what the startup was — it isn't wise to look like a bridge-burner when you're looking for work.

Today I learned that its considered "bridge burning" to communicate a company's terrible ethics in public.

Of course it is, don't be naive. The people he's talking about are in a position to badmouth him right back, end even if they don't he can get a reputation for being a whiner who will turn on people who hire him the moment things don't work out. If you think that publicly criticizing your ex-employers isn't harmful to your future prospects then you're crazy. No one wants to hire someone who might turn around and complain about them to all and sundry if things go poorly.

@ davidw: oh yeah I don't mean that this guy actually is whining, or that he didn't get screwed by jerks. I'm just saying that you can get screwed even harder by handling things like this in the wrong way, no matter what the rights and wrongs of the situation actually are. Reputations are important.

At very conservative estimates for bay area salaries, 2 weeks is probably like $5000. Complaining about that is not "whining" in my book - that's quite a bit of money where I'm from.

That said, there are various things involved with the decision.

$5k for two weeks is a pretty princely sum for employees virtually anywhere but, crucially, employees (particularly professional employees) have the reasonable expectation that they will have longer than two weeks of tenure at a new employer. If you can only reasonably expect two weeks of tenure, then you're much closer to a consultant than an employee. Nothing wrong with being a consultant, but COO-caliber consultants charge a heck of a lot more than employees in SF and everywhere else on the planet. A company which extends people standard employment offers but treats them with the no-fault disposability that governs consulting relationships is doing something which is highly irregular.

Conversely, if you're a consultant, you can get constructively fired like this two weeks into an engagement. Happens all the time. It doesn't even require an awkward conversation where they say "Hey, startup life yo, plans have changed." They neglect to schedule you for more work, you follow up, they continue to neglect to schedule you for more work, you take the hint, and then you get paid $50k+ because that is what COO-level consultants cost for two weeks.

100% agree. I was a consultant for 6 years. The contract, terms of engagement, and expectations are vastly different as a consultant and as an employee. The sum of all different parts of the 'opportunity cost' are much higher as an employee, than as a consultant.

$5000 is peanuts to work two weeks, uproot your life and reject other, more valid job offers, only to get sand kicked in your face for no reason. in fact it's downright insulting, and most importantly, humiliating to an extreme degree. if there's anything in the world that could be classified as being a bitch, that's it.

stop short-changing yourself and technology professionals, you do us all a disservice and it's embarrassing. i am literally embarassed for you by this comment. it doesn't matter where you're from - we're talking about someone who was hired as a chief-level executive with a name brand startup in the first world, funded by billionaires or at least hundred-millionaires, or at the VERY least a bunch of millionaires that manage money for pension funds and endowments i.e. venture capitalists.

a shitty CPA (or lawyer) makes that in a few days of work. a good one can make that in literally 1 minute by signing a few documents. they can do that because they have professional respect, something technology workers sorely lack right now.

a CPA also could not get hired, and let go for no reason, within 2 weeks, without having several avenues of recourse through his professional governing body. a lawyer would file suit immediately, something i would do also even though i lack a law degree.

i would literally not stop reading/learning law except to eat, shit and piss until i learned how to get compensatory damages out of them. then again, i make it my mission in life to not be a bitch. but as it turns out, some people are fine with being a bitch, go figure.

> a CPA also could not get hired, and let go for no reason, within 2 weeks, without having several avenues of recourse through his professional governing body.

What's his professional governing body going to do?

if you can't figure out how a vast, organized dues-paying professional guild full of highly educated, intelligent, like-minded individuals can help you, i kindly suggest that you contemplate the possibilities a while before trying your hand at being a c-level executive because you'll probably be caught in the same position as the o.p.

a professional board is basically a labor union dressed up for white collar people. they'll argue until the end of the earth that they aren't, but let's be real, that's what it is.

also, if you're a vp-level or above, and not a significant owner, negotiate a severence package. ever wonder why they have severence packages? this is why. because if you don't, you're highly likely to become a bitch. in fact it's pretty much guaranteed because the cost of losing you is nothing.

I am going to agree with "JasonFruit" here.

The company has a much rosier picture of themselves than you do (and who is to say which one is right?). Think of possible mitigating circumstances, first duty to investors, what's right for the company, we made a mistake, etc etc and who knows what else.

You don't want to make enemies, have them hit back in public, etc. This is not about what is "just" but what is efficient to get on with finding a job, and telling everyone about it.

So I do think it would be a mistake to make it a public fight and bring up the name of the company.

Right now this company has set a standard such that I will refuse to work for any YC-backed startup without serious contractual protection.

My experience (and this discussion) tells me that you should refuse to work for any company without serious contractual protection. Startup or large. YC or non-YC. Its just sensible.

I have found a new appreciation for things I used to consider bureaucratic at a large company (I am looking at you - HR department at a large company).

In reality it isn't of course. But appearances do matter, and to many people it can look like it was bridge burning, sour grapes, or otherwise vindictive. So it's something that should be considered very cautiously.

I'll just point out the unspoken bias here - it's fine for powerful people to abuse their power, and less powerful people aren't allowed to complain because it might be seen as someone challenging the power balance at a level they shouldn't aspire to.

In other relationships, 'Shut up and know your place' is the textbook definition of victim shaming in abusive situations.

Of course it is. Are you perfect, 100% without any flaws? How certain then are you that the employee you hire isn't going to start airing your dirty laundry at the earliest convenience?

> Are you perfect, 100% without any flaws? How certain then are you that the employee you hire isn't going to start airing your dirty laundry at the earliest convenience?

Not at all. If I hire someone, I'm making a commitment. If I made a mistake, its out of my pocket to make them whole.

Disclaimer: I have made mistakes hiring people, and have paid them for their troubles, even going so far as to be a reference for the other opportunities they had available and telling them it was our mistake.

Disclaimer: I have made mistakes hiring people, and have paid them for their troubles, even going so far as to be a reference for the other opportunities they had available and telling them it was our mistake.

I really respect this.

Thank you, but you shouldn't respect me for doing the right thing. Its what people should do.

Most just don't bother, well done

If you treat employees with respect, you have little to fear.

If an employee makes a claim that puts you in a bad light, you can then honestly relate what happened. If there's nothing to be ashamed about, you'll come out of the experience fine.

Buffet has a fine definition of ethics:

   The priority is that all of us continue to zealously guard Berkshire's 
   reputation. We can’t be perfect but we can try to be. As I’ve said in these 
   memos for more than 25 years: We can afford to lose money – even a lot of 
   money. But we can’t afford to lose reputation – even a shred of reputation." 
   We must continue to measure every act against not only what is legal but 
   also what we would be happy to have written about on the front page of a 
   national newspaper in an article written by an unfriendly but intelligent 

Why is the burden always on the individual to not "burn the bridge"? I'd say that this startup has burnt this bridge pretty well. It would have been perfectly reasonable for him to tell us who they were and for us to avoid them like the plague.

>>Why is the burden always on the individual to not "burn the bridge"?

Because the individual has more to lose. Which is more likely, the public boycott the company or the companies boycott the individual? Especially in the world of tech, even if you're right about a company's bad practice just going off and posting a rant about them online reflects badly on you. It means you probably should have just left the company before you got so angry about them. I personally have some very deeply negative feelings about my time in at&t but now I realize it's my own fault for staying 6 years when I was already fed up in my first 18 months. It just made me bitter.

At the absolute minimum, when they see your name on a resume and immediately associate it with recent memory of a rant on HN or some complex ordeal described in a techcrunch article, they'll think twice about you. Maybe they'll still go forward with you; but their will be a double-think. If someone really wants to post something that's less than positive about a previous employer, that person should do it as objectively as possible. Remove all emotion, only state facts with no sensationalism or leading-questions or anything suggestive and be sure to state the whole thing as just "their very humble opinion". It would also show a sense of responsibility/maturity to state the issues that concerned in in a form of a question. "Who you the reader have done things this way?" And especially to suggest a solution. "The way I would have done it is..."

What happened to the OP here is regrettable and doesn't sound like it's his/her fault. This person handled it professionally by just asking for advice and not mentioning names.

It's on both sides not to "burn the bridge". The problem here is those of us observing from the sidelines have very little access to the facts, so we really have no idea what the truth of the matter is.

All we'll see is bickering and unverifiable (by us) claims, and without the ability to discover who is in the right, it just looks bad to observers.

It's like having a shouting match in the middle of the parking lot. One of you might be entirely in the right and completely justified, but to the rest of us it just looks like a situation to avoid.

Because the individual needs something, and the startup does not. what do they care if he is pissed? He's some unemployed dude they'll never have to deal with again. Meanwhile potentially having them as a resource who will say 'oh yeah Ex Employee was a really great guy, we regret losing him, definitely hire him if you can' is pretty much the only positive he's gonna get from this experience. Complain about them and you don't even get good word of mouth from the, just a ton of wasted time and an angry story to tell.

YCombinator people talk to one another. they go to meetups. San Francisco is an incestuous little town. It's hard to break into and having bad blood with people on the inside can make it harder.

YCombinator people talk to one another.

They should talk to each other about why this was bad behavior. If the OP mentions the name, the company can respond with their reasons in an adult and professional manner, explain why they needed someone else, and how they are going to make this right. Then they look like smart, grounded pros willing to admit a mistake and will get some free marketing.

The start up will need something if he actually says who it is, because they'd be hard press to hire anyone on here if this becomes public knowledge.

"Because the individual needs something, and the startup does not"

Sounds like they do, in fact, need something, and it's a different person.

"Meanwhile potentially having them as a resource who will say 'oh yeah Ex Employee was a really great guy, we regret losing him, definitely hire him if you can' "

He was there 2 weeks, if that. You can't tell if someone was good in that time period. If I got a reference like that about someone who worked at a place for a grab total of 6 days... I'd think something was fishy.

> Why is the burden always on the individual to not "burn the bridge"?

It has nothing to do with the rights and wrongs of the situation. It is about presenting yourself to the rest of the world. Being a bridge-burner doesn't look good to potential employers.

@angersock yeah, exactly like the next batch of shitbag YC kids hiring a COO. Because apparently that's who he's trying to get employed by. It's weird that you seem to think that this crowd are shallow children and yet somehow don't think that they will retaliate against public criticism.

You replied to the wrong comment.

HN has a time delay for nested comments. That's why angersock's comment didn't have a reply link.

There's a "reply" :/

Reply button is usually hidden for the first 2-5 minutes on deeply nested comments, to prevent angry back-and-forth with no thought. You can reply, but you have to know to click the permalink for the comment.

Oh, like the next round of shitbag YC kids hiring a COO?

C'mon, man.

Think about the next company who considers hiring this guy. Perhaps they'll think "hm, what if he doesn't like being with us - will he derail us in public, too? Perhaps we can find a less risky candidate".

Exactly. These things are ugly and this is a cautionary tale for anyone looking to work for a new startup but it's also really important to keep from looking like a bitter employee who will turn on you and make you look evil if things don't work out.

having been a bridge burner i can say that most employers are not competent enough to discover that you burned a bridge if they care... and if you volunteer the information its a great way to filter bad employers too.

Not ordinarily, no. But I can't think of a circumstance under which it benefits you to disclose your grievances with a former employer to a new or potential employer. There is nothing but downside in doing that.

Just as most companies are too incompetent or uninterested to search out your dirty laundry, most companies are too incompetent or uninterested to sort it. If they see it, they'll just acknowledge its existence, and probably think twice about you because of it. They won't dig deeper, or spend any effort sussing out who was right and who was wrong. They'll just note it as a red flag.

This is why people advise against "bridge burning," even when you have no reason to believe you'll ever cross that bridge again. It's all about perceptions. "Optics," as they say in corporate parlance. Being seen as a malcontent is never good for your employment prospects, even when you're completely justified.

But I can't think of a circumstance under which it benefits you to disclose your grievances with a former employer to a new or potential employer.

I think the circumstance is like @jheriko said, as a filter. If an employer sees treating employees bad as dirty laundry, well maybe it isn't the place you want to work, and you're better off not getting an offer.

I understand that objective in theory, but it seems impractical in the wild. Most employers won't look beyond the surface level of "This person had issues with a previous employer and feels the need to discuss them here." They won't bother to ferret out who was right, who was wrong, and whether your grievances are legitimate -- even if they are. So you're basically raising a flag, and a lot of interviers or hiring managers will treat it as such.

Think about it from their perspective. They don't know you too well. All they know, at a quick glance, is that you have had problems with a previous employer. They get your side of the story, perhaps, but how are they to know if you're telling the full story, or if you're just the kind of person who complains about things and causes morale issues? They don't have the time or the process to sort that out, so they'll default to the conservative position of assuming you are more trouble than you're worth.

I've seen this torpedo people in job interviews. I've seen it sink the candidacies of people who were otherwise in very strong contention. Is that fair? Of course not. But it's something to keep in mind.

In a perfect world, sure, this would serve as a nice filter to determine if employers are worth working for. In the world we actually live in, this filter will, more often than not, filter you out of a lot of job opportunities. Meanwhile, there are more effective and less risky filters you can apply when vetting an employer.

I agree that it may not work very well as a filter and that you have to be extremely cautious with any 'negative' statements when interviewing for a job.

the way to flag this to an employer is simply. not to air the grievance but to inform them of it if it is public knowledge... e.g you left as a result, it was your former employer who will be contacted for a reference, or there was some public exposure etc.

they might already know and its in your best interest to be honest. getting found out after the fact is bad, regardless as to your employer's intentions.

its really quite different from airing the concerns that led to the situation.

in this specific case the problem is that he worked for a short period and was let go very rapidly. having a 2 week blip as your last role on a CV is worth explaining - but not complaining about.

The burden is on the individual not to "burn the bridge" because it suits everyone (rightly or wrongly) to perpetuate the myth that companies cannot be held responsible for screwing up the lives of individuals.

Of course it doesn't suit everyone.

This is a very depressing attitude. A functioning market relies on information flow, and if this information flow is killed because people are scared, the market stops functioning.

You are right. The key is to find a structural solution to this, since this is a common occurrence (i.e. joining startups early stage) - and spread information about the "best practice" way of avoiding situations like the one I went through.

There probably is a business in this, but it looks like TheFunded and GlassDoor are already taking it on.

Anyway, there is a solution to this - it's to develop a personal set of red flags and heuristics that you use to weed out bad founders when you talk to them. I have one, and it disqualifies probably 95% of startups that I talk to. Unfortunately, I'm not sure there's any way to build this reliably short of bitter experience. The problem with a general "post your grievances" board is that you don't get both sides of the story. I know at least one person who has posted their grievances publicly on HN where I personally witnessed what actually went down, and their account is nowhere close to what I witnessed.

Companies are complex, they are going to have issues. They are going to make bad hires, have drama, bad product launches, and disfunction. Especially startups. But, when you leave or if you disagree with what happened at the company and you air that laundry. It looks bad on you.

Trust me, I am going to google you before I hire you and if I see you being a mess online that means you could be a huge mess in my company. As a startup, when every hiring decision matters, I am going to pass on you.

A growing number of users think HN is Wendy Williams for Startups. They love gossip, drama, and revenge. Don't bother trying to convert them, "name-and-shame" is a growing new attitude in Startups. Every problem and issue is now being aired out in public because it allows people (completely unrelated to the issue) to opinionate and play hero.

I'd say he'd be doing a public service to other people considering a job at that company. If I were a prospective employee I'd like to know more

Or a prospective customer or prospective investor.

Really? I certainly wouldn't hold it against him for burning a bridge that leads to people like that..

Was Edward Snowden a bridge burner for the NSA?

We need transparency both in government and the corporate world. If a company isn't willing to stand by their actions in public, they shouldn't be doing it. And paying the OP severance, admitting a mistake, and moving on is fine by me.

He probably didn't have the right domain expertise, and an advisor/investor told the founders to switch. As green young kid's they didn't do it properly. They need to learn that you can't fire the whole PM team because you want to. These are other people's lives, people who may have mortages, kids, etc.

>'I'd say you did the right thing in not saying what the startup was — it isn't wise to look like a bridge-burner when you're looking for work.'

So true.

I abhor this, but I certainly understand it.

I think the real danger in bridge burning isn't from the people you leave behind, it's everyone who might see the smoke and flames.

It's the label you'll get.

No matter the actual facts, moving forward in the back of many minds you're a liability, a vigilante arsonist ready to torch a company when things don't work out in your favor.

I'm completely with OP's decision here. You can't unring a bell, folks.

It is indeed in the best interests of nearly everyone to explicitly state the company that is acting in a undesirable manner.

Unfortunately it is not in that companies best interest for him to state it.

And because it is not in any companies best interest to have employees that when let go will put the common good above the good of the company, it is not in his best interest either to publicize the name of the company.

With that in mind, yes please do us the favor.

As someone engaging in a job search, I know it would be appreciated by the general population to receive this information.

Actually, severance is for keeping your mouth shut. If they were interested in op keeping his mouth shut, they would have offered a severance package. They did not so he can say what he will.


An employee who was acceptable to the company on X and unacceptable on X + 2 weeks is being asked to shoulder risks equivalent to that of an independent contractor or consultant. Many people enjoy shouldering the many risks associated with parachuting into foreign countries for two weeks to execute engagements with no guarantee that there will be work available on week three.

We are customarily compensated for shouldering these risks. It is one reason why consultants quote week rates like $10,000 as opposed to getting only $120k in yearly salary but very predictably actually getting that and its attendant benefits suite.

Half of the low-ball startup monthly salary offer plus no benefits plus no options doesn't even crater the approach to the bridge of the disruption this putative employee suffered to get him to the US.

While acknowledging that the US is largely an employment-at-will country and people can dissolve things for any reason or none at all at virtually any time, writing somebody a $4k check as sole payment for services rendered, after they've joined your company as an employee and been involuntarily terminated 2 weeks in, strikes me as deeply problematic.

+1 thanks,that is the best comment. I have worked as a consultant for about 15 years, and as a (mostly remote) consultant, being told to take a hike after two weeks would be acceptable (I think; it has not happened to me yet) and a minor inconvenience.

It is so very different however with a hired employee.

I agree that it is not in guybrushT's interests to name the company, but he should definitely send them an email referring him to this Ask HN discussion, just in case they have not seen it yet.

You articulated the situation (and my thinking) very well. Any thoughts on what future early employees could do to protect themselves?

If somebody for some reason managed to convince me to come onboard as an employee, and I was asked nicely to leave after two weeks, I would begin the conversation with "That is unfortunate and unexpected, as I was looking forward to working with you guys. We're all businessmen here, so we know that there are certain reasonable expectations which one has with regards to employment offers. I shouldn't be telling you anything you don't already know when I say that this is highly irregular. It would not be irregular if I were, say, a consultant. If you want to retroactively treat our arrangement as a consulting arrangement, I'm amenable to that reclassification, because I like you and wish you to succeed. I will send you a copy of my standard Master Services Agreement and a Statement of Work for two weeks work. You will sign them, as written. I will then invoice you for my standard consulting rate, which is $60,000 for two weeks. You will pay it and we will part ways as friends."

And then I'd see where it took me from there.

This is a reasonable approach. I will try this.

Sidenote: In my last discussion, some of the phrasing was eerily similar - "That is unfortunate and unexpected, as I was looking forward to working with you guys" - "we're businessmen here" - "part ways as friends".. etc. Just that I didn't push for what you are suggesting. Thanks again!

Good luck convincing them to shell out 60K for two weeks. If they could afford it, they'd probably could afford throwing 30K more and keeping him for a year.

In Japan we have a distinction between what we say on the outside and what we think on the inside.

Outside: "You can't afford $60k? Oh, you're smart guys, I'm sure you can figure it out if it is a priority for you."

Inside: "Horsepuckey, YC company, cry me more tears about your inability to find tens of thousands of dollars when you're a mortal lock on a seed round and presumably on the glide path to an A."

They don't have to pay it up front; they can draft an agreement to defer compensation to their next round of funding or to their first $N dollars of revenue, pay him the immediately owed "salary" number today, and pay the delta later.

It seems he was offered compensation for the two weeks he actually worked for them, which I'd take for granted. What the comment above is probably alluding to is termination of contract compensation.

It sounds like he was working for those two weeks he is receiving pay for. Not compensation for any troubles, but rather payment for work done.

"..so that none of us find ourselves in your shoes."

Thank you for this comment. This is a very important discussion to have. And I don't think naming the company is a good answer (it is a point solution - you may not want to join this company but thats it). With this thread getting some attention, I have higher hopes than that. I think we can come up with good strategies, resources, and an agreed upon code of conduct that future early employees can use to protect themselves.

It's a few things. Sure -- I don't want to join this company, or partake in business with them in the future.

But I also want to establish it as standard in this industry that doing what they did to you is unacceptable -- and that any company that contemplates such a thing in the future is going to pay a very heavy cost in future investment, customers, and recruiting.

> I like the founders - they are good guys.

They are very professional.

I've been a CTO/CEO and have hired many people over time. Some of this has already been said, but:

1. Those jobs may still be open, reasonable people wouldn't hold taking another job against you. Work is work, and those who step back into discussion with you will show you a reasonableness that you will value more than before.

2. Situations like this is why sign-ing bonuses were invented. If you're COO of anything, you should also be able to negotiate a proper separation agreement, something like 6 months severance after 6 months of service. The signing bonus covers the initial bump, and then everyone has a window to see if things are copacetic. After that, it's a real relationship with consequences for dissolution.

3. You should be interviewing and considering companies as much as they're evaluating you. There's gotta be more to this story, some of which may be evident as you ponder what really happened. You've gotta develop that antennae. Asking to speak to a company's founders or advisors is a reasonable thing to do, certainly for a COO role that involves international relocation.

4. The "best guys" I've ever worked for f*cked me or our companies over. It's an important qualification to an extent, but character and vision and stability are secondary factors that will wag the dog, so to speak. Especially in startups. Startups are risky, and not always due to market forces or the brilliance of the business idea. Give yourself a good long notch in your work belt.

    > Those jobs may still be open, reasonable people wouldn't 
    > hold taking another job against you
Also a CTO who has hired many people.

If I've made someone an offer, I want them. If they've had a better offer, that's ok. But if they've turned me down because it went nowhere, I still want them.

Agreed; a good company will stand behind a prior offer, within reason.

Twice I've gone back to someone who had given me an offer and said "I screwed up, would you still consider me?" a year later, and had an instant and very positive response. (I had to do a fake interview at one of those, but just to satisfy HR).

I don't know about standing behind an offer so much as simply wanting the best team I can hire...

Market signing bonus language rescinds the bonus if the employee is terminated within a year. A signing bonus does not, as a general rule, insure against early termination.

Obviously, everything's negotiable. It doesn't sound like an unreasonable strategy to demand an "insurance bonus" of some sort if you're a high-value employee and the company is pre-revenue, or if your role commits your network to the company, as this person's did when he used his network to sell the company's product.

This might be a derail, but what is the normal procedure by which one negotiates for a signing bonus or a severance package? Some sample verbiage would be nice.

Depends on the country (UK for example, severance is more or less required by law). In the US, I would suggest something along the lines of: (if it's in written form)

Signing bonus: [brackets is some notes]

"Dear CEO,

I appreciate the offer of COO for X amount. [be polite] I've taken some careful consideration over the role and what it entails for me personally. [remind them you're a human] I've reviewed not only this offer but many others that have come as a result of my merit, ambition, and drive to enable the success of any organization. [remind them why they hired you and why its gonna change their world] I am prepared to move forward with you and your team, however ask that a bonus upon signage be applied to my overall compensation package. [in general, I would suggest leaving out the "why" - let them ask you personally and then go into convo]"

Severance: [brackets is some notes]

"Dear CEO/HR person,

I appreciate that a decision was made regarding the future of my relationship with the business and you've done everything in your power to ensure that I walk away standing proud of my merits. [be polite and thank them for being nice people] Unfortunately, as demonstrated by your actions to let me go, I am not a match for the future success of XYZ company. I would, however appreciate some form of severance upon my departure. As you can imagine, having unexpected circumstances can lead to personal hardship. This situation is clearly not ideal in the short term for me and my family. [remind them you're human] Any appreciation and goodwill you may have towards my situation will go a long way. Thank you for your time"

Note - these are nowhere near perfect or will ever be contextually correct, but are a good starting point.

Employee #1 isn't going to get a signing bonus at a startup. What you should get is equity. Then, you need to negotiate an exceleration clause if you are dismissed without cause. Basically, you should vest a slug of stock immediately upon being fired.

But, the only real answer to this question is to talk to a lawyer. And, don't be afraid to negotiate aggressively. After all, this is your first chance to show your new bosses that you're a tough negotiator. Be fair but never be a pushover.

I'd get the salary etc sorted, then negotiate the secondary benefits: I'd bring up a sign-up bonus (and golden parachute) then. As compensation for the risk, and the rights that you've built up with your current employers.

At C levels I'd expect someone to bring it up in negotiations.

Great question; I'm following the responses you get.

Can you give some advice on how other positions can argue such risk mitigation? 6 months severance would get every Software dev/eng laughed out to the street. as far as my experience goes, signing bonuses are out too. Usually the company is eating a massive training cost for the first 6 months, saying to them "In addition to training cost, I want X risk mitigation" seems unlikely to be met with agreement.

Here's a fun fact for you. Under Canadian employment law/case histories if you as a senior management employee with many years of service are "romanced" away to a new company which then fires you... your years of service at your original company should be used to calculate your severance.

For management positions this means 1 month severance for every year of service.

So if you romanced an executive into joining your startup you and then fire them you could be on the hook for a very large severance package.

> 6 months severance would get every Software dev/eng laughed out to the street.

I believe the parent was talking about C-level positions. I don't know if that applies at a 2 person startup where everyone is a C-level but at larger companies you probably have lots of room to negotiate if you're taking that type of position.

I'm a bit surprised no one has suggested what I consider the most likely possibility: They had no idea what getting you a visa actually entailed and bailed once you started and they discovered how hard it would be. I'm leaning that way because most people don't understand how hard visas actually are, the way they were vague about their reasons and the timing. Of course, if that's what actually happened, not telling you the truth would immediately take them out of "good guy" bucket.

Other than that, I agree with everyone who is saying to get back in touch with the offers you turned down. Even if they've all hired someone else already, talking to people who wanted to hire you in the recent past is a great way to kick off a job search.

I also believe it is the visa issue. You're the COO and they are just going to figure out the visa situation, eventually? A small company doesn't have the money to get an E-visa and as COO you probably wouldn't qualify as H1B nor would you want to be when they start doing funding rounds.

What kind of visa could you qualify for as a COO?

It's not necessarily based on your title. When I went through the process, it boils down to:

- Do you have a degree, and experience? Great. Is someone willing to advertise the job to American citizens for a month or so, interview good potential candidates beforehand, and still want you? Even better. Now, just wait for next year's allocation of visa's and you might grab one on the day they're released. Then, wait between 1 and 8 years for your visa to be processed (while the job is still available) and you're allowed to work here.

- Are you an exceptional alien? Well, do you judge other's work, have papers written, have competed in a globally recognised event for your work, or some other proof of your excellence? Yes? Great, we can apply, but there's only a limited number of visas. Wait a year.

It's really, really tough. Not many of us make it. I had a few job offers moving over here but was only able to move here because my wife was American. And getting her back to the UK is also no easy feat.

Despite being globally connected the visa process still sucks.

> "Is someone willing to advertise the job to American citizens for a month or so, interview good potential candidates beforehand, and still want you?"

You're confusing H-1B visas with green card applications.

This isn't relevant to work visas, only relevant to permanent residency applications. The H-1B visa does not require exhausting locals before hiring foreigners, all it needs is to demonstrate competence and education.

Ditto the waiting years part, work visas do not take years, permanent residency permits do.

The H-1B visa is very, very easy to apply so long as the candidate has at least a recognized bachelor's degree. The real downside to H-1B is that it's subject to annual caps, and therefore timing is inconvenient. The visas are valid starting October of that year, but must be applied for before the quota is exhausted. This historically is somewhere between April and August of that year.

Not to mention once you have it the visa is portable between employers with none of the above restrictions. It's definitely not ideal, but working in the US is not nearly as hard as you're making it out to be.

Ah yeah. The advertising isn't, you're right. The wait is, though; visa allotments run out fast. Apologies for getting confused.

In some cases you're not applicable for a H1-B (I was a dropout) so my only route was another type which had a several year waiting list. Can't remember the visa name right now, I'll do some googling though.

Thats a good theory. I have considered it. The CEO and I did have a long conference call with a lawyer much before they offered me a position. So we were all informed about the steps procuring a visa would entail. However, the steps involved are painful (lots of boring admin work). But still, a very plausible theory.

Right. I have to imagine the visa was a VERY important factor. I am not a huge fan of this thread because it is a bunch of speculation with less than 1 side of a multi-faceted story. These guys are probably very early stage (hiring their first employee) and are figuring things out. The "just telecommute and we can sort out an international hiring visa" is pretty alarming. Maybe the company pivoted and his skill set wasn't a good fit for the new direction, buy they likely found someone local, or just got bound by an insane amount of red-tape. The ramifications for both parties lie in the initial agreement that we are not privvy to.

It would be weird to fire him for that reason without saying it. Maybe he can help, maybe he knows people who can, you never know, I don't think a sane person would just give up without even discussing it with all parties.

This is an interesting and plausible reason for why they let him go, but if it was the case, they should have came out and said exactly this. What's to lose by being honest about a visa situation?

Ignorance? Incompetence? Embarrassment?

I agree. The second the OP mentioned that he would need a visa and that this was a new startup, I assumed they let him go because they were naive about US visas at the beginning. They are not an easy process; typically a work visa will require a lot of money in filing fees and several months of paperwork, often including a labor survey to ensure that the position could not be filled with an American instead.

I want to add a clarification note that visa issues are harder to bring someone to US for the first time. Once someone is here, doing transfers from company to company is relatively easier. I say this because I know some companies that will outright stop talking to otherwise great candidates because someone told them dont get into visa stuff.

You are not fucked. Just breathe. Think about it this way, It's likely that this start up will not be around for long if they make such poor decisions with their most important asset. No matter how you think about it, a very poor decision was made.

You have a masters in CS and 6 years of management experience. You are so far from fucked.

This. You'll have another job sooner than you think. A lesson that I picked up from some people I respect is that they don't announce big life/job changes to non-family/extremely close friends until they've already been in that change for 1-3 months.

Also I wouldn't give the Founders the benefit of the doubt of being "good people." Even if they are a YC startup, morons come in all shapes and sizes so even YC isn't moron-free. And yes, only a moron makes decisions to hire people that will have to go through a lot of change to take the job without being absolutely positively sure that they are the right person.

This sounds like an episode of "Hire Slow, Fire Fast", which is a cool way of saying: "We fucked up. Abort! Abort! Abort!" Despite how nice they are being to your face, they've realized for some valid-to-them reason that they made a mistake in hiring you. Don't take it personally, just get back on the horse.

> You have a masters in CS and 6 years of management experience. You are so far from fucked.

Really. Employers everywhere are looking for people like you. Breathe, accept what happened, DO NOT BLAME YOURSELF FOR IT and move on to the next thing. Remember, if you are going through hell, keep going!

Yep, you'll be better off, but these people should have given you a severance package and if I were in their position, I would have offered to help you find a job.

(1) Be very happy that this happened before you actually uprooted your life and moved to a new country, only to find yourself jobless there!

(2) Reach out again to the managers behind some of your past job offers. We have hired people who previously passed on us then had the other gig fall through or run out of funding. Many of those old offers will reappear and you'll be fine.

I'll repeat (2). Assuming you politely declined, those bridges are still around. People get things yanked out from underneath them through no fault of their own. If they went through the hiring process enough to decide that you are a good candidate, the fact that they were your second choice shouldn't upset them.

2nd that ... it be miserable if you had actually moved :)

I am surprised nobody mentioned the YC Founder Code of Ethics from earlier this year.

I'd argue these four bullet points are relevant:

-- Treating co-founders and employees with fairness and respect.

-- Not behaving in a way that damages the reputation of his/her company or of YC.

-- Keeping your word, including honoring handshake deals.

-- Generally behaving in an upstanding way.

The OP made a serious accusation against a YC company. I assume YC can pretty easily figure out which company this is. I would expect that YC would investigate and take action if warranted.

I agree, especially based on pg's past comments on VCs and handshake deals.[1] This was a handshake deal for employee number 1 and they screwed him. Why it happened we don't know and it could be the right call for both parties. But the manner it happened in is not acceptable behavior. The OP should be compensated appropriately, money and equity.

[1] http://www.ycombinator.com/handshake/

Thanks for pointing me (and all of us) to this link.

A - I love that this exists!

B - This needs to be discussed with startups more often by co-founders, employees and investors.

I know this is idealistic, but then startups (and people associated with them) often are. Startups can aspire to things/goals that larger companies can't. This (discussion about ethics) is as important, if not more important, than the "How do we grow" discussion.

They are not good guys. They might be good guys in their personal life, but hiring someone from outside the country, letting them cut ties, and then laying them off immediately is not something a "good guy" does.

If this is how the company goes about employing their first employee, I don't think they will be around for long. You might have dodged a bullet.

If you got this job, it's extremely likely that you will get another. Don't get me wrong, it's going to suck to explain to people you promoted the startup to that you actually don't work there after all, but it's not the end of the world.

If this is how the company goes about employing their first employee, I don't think they will be around for long.

Yes, if he truly wasn't a good fit, it sounds like they hired too quickly.

This happens a lot.

Mentor whiplash gets the founders all frothy that they need to do X, Y, and Z _immediately_ or their company will fall apart. Unfortunately, it changes to A, B, and C a week later after meetings with another 30 people. These founders aren't bad people. They just have no idea what they're doing. They got shoved into this crazy new accelerator experience, and they're being told by their heroes that they need to XYZ and ABC immediately, and they freak out and they make decisions too quickly.

Founders joining accelerators, do yourself a favor: the minute you think you NEED to hire one of those first employees, wait a week. Wait 2. Chat with some people informally. Don't setup a coffee meeting and ambush them with your whole team. Just breathe and take your time. Building your team is the most important thing you are ever going to do. This is not cliche. The process of building one, especially that initial core team, should be respected. Talk to some people. Do some contracts with them. Take it slow.

guybrushT, this sucks for you more than most given that you (and your wife!) were moving from another country. The founders should have been more careful. If you still wanna move to the states, I'd more than happy to introduce you to a bunch of startups in Boulder. We're always looking for developers here. Shoot me an email: ryan at ramen dot is.

You absolutely need to go back through your contacts and explain exactly what happened. Especially to those who you advised to use this startup's service and those you asked about potential investments. After hearing this story, they may reconsider such involvement---I certainly would.

These are not "good guys". They are at best short-sighted, unprepared, and unprofessional. Hiring decisions are important and difficult; the best spin I can see is that they do not know who they need and are very unprepared for this step. (Want a worse spin? Someone they know has suddenly become available and they wish to give them the employee #1/Coo badge.) This behavior is a big red flag.

(I've been in similar situations before---I'm thinking of a research group at ORNL right now---but rescinding an offer is significantly worse.)

As other people have said, don't worry about your personal situation. Most of your contacts will likely have understood your original decision and find the thing offensive as well.

On the other hand, I don't think you'll be able to convince your wife to move to the US again. Tell her we're not all assholes, though.

Hypothetical to the larger HN community:

If you got accepted a job offer, and within 2 weeks got a job offer for more money, and at your dream company, would you feel obligated to stay with your initial decision?

If you made the rational (but arguably unethical choice), do you think your reputation should be tarnished, and future employers think hard before extending an offer?

I know it's not the exact situation as the OP, but situations are rarely so straight forward, and often have nuances that we aren't aware of.

To the OP, at the very least, you probably dodged a bullet. So blessing in disguise.

The answer is yes, you should absolutely switch to the dream job/company. Particularly if where you work is at will, like it is in much of the US. The same things that apply to an individual apply to a company: other candidates interviewed may still be available, you are leaving before becoming a valuable part of the company and are difficult to replace, not taking offer you prefer may leave sour grapes, etc. No one should be tarnished in such a situation. A worker has every right to the best deal and working environment possible, even if that environment is elsewhere.

I would even argue that any time your dream job makes an offer, you should feel free to leave your current job regardless of status, loyalty, and so on.

No the situation isn't analogous at all because unexpectedly losing a job has a much higher impact on a person than for a company to unexpectedly lose an employer. A person is made of flesh and blood and can have his or her life shattered. A company is an abstract entity defined by laws.

> losing a job has a much higher impact on a person than for a company to unexpectedly lose an employer

This is true, but not without context.

In my scenario above, the circumstances were similar. 2-3 weeks into a new job.

Excluding someone who has been unemployed for an extended period of time, it seems odd that in 2-3 weeks, losing your job would shatter their life.


And I wouldn't exclude companies for being "shattered" either. It's very possible for companies to be formed around the reputation of a single individual, and if that individual left, would be shattering. Especially in early stages of a financing round.

I would say yes. Even in Europe, companies usually have a probationary period (of 3->6 months) when it's much easier to fire the new hire. If companies get that kind of flexibility to drop the employee, then the employee should have as much flexibility to drop the company.

You should actually ask this question before making decision.. and if your take it is that you would renegade on the decision, than you should delay making that decision.. and wait to find out if that dream job with higher pay actually came around.

Your current best offer will be willing to stretch out their offer for a week. And the other company will be willing to accelerate their decision process, so as to bridge this two weeks gap.

But once you made your decision, you should stick with your decision... at least for a year, all things other than this 'dream job' being equal. The dream company and the dream job-- if you got in today, you are likely going to get that again in a year.

I officially joined as the COO.

So did you have an official contract, equity deal, etc? I doubt there's much you can do about these decision not to take you on after all, you probably need to grieve for the job and move on, but you should certainly hold them to their legal obligations, especially if they had to give you notice (which they should be paying you for).

Even with an official contract, unless he was explicitly promised certain things, he can still be let go.

American companies generally don't have any notice requirements. The fact that he's overseas may create a liability for the company in that country, but they probably don't care about that.

(edit: They must absolutely pay him for hours worked.)

Assuming his options had vesting (which 'tptacek will remind us to always have, so the YC company probably knows about that advice), he doesn't have any equity.

I've seen this problem from a few sides, so OP has my sympathy, for whatever it's worth. I've seen people laid off a week after joining when the adults suddenly realized they were bleeding money. I very very recently saw someone approved for a job and accept it, told to wait a few days while internal funding moved around, and then suddenly the entire project was cancelled.

While everyone understands there is an added level of uncertainty when taking a start up position, your situation sounds more unusual than most considering that it does little more than screws up your career and short term family plans. You can't really say you worked at this company, you've already gone through what sounds like a lengthy job search and turned down all positions that came up besides this one, made plans with your family to move to the States, and then a week after getting 'hired' you had to make other plans.

I'm not sure why you say you like the founders when they treat people like this. This is a serious blow to your life that they are responsible for.

hmm .. I don't know. I feel differently. They may be nice people. But hiring and firing is a purely business decision. It might be that they needed a different skill set. Or had another candidate who was a lot cheaper. Investor money drying up, lots of things. Its a job at the end of the day and he was let go.

> But hiring and firing is a purely business decision. ... Its a job at the end of the day and he was let go.

I have a serious beef with this mode of thinking. Nothing that you do to another human being is a "purely business decision." And from a practical perspective it's better, in the long run, for you too to be remembered as having owned your mistakes and done right by the people you wronged.

Of course, there is the line of thinking that, hey, this guy won't ever help me later, so I can screw him and skate. And that is entirely too common in startupland. But that speaks to the poor humanity of its thinker more than anything else.

agreed, "just business" is a horrible cop out, and it's sad that so many people buy into it even when they are on the getting screwed end of the equation.

> I let all job offers go (I had a few good ones)

Hopefully, when you turned down the job offer, you did so in a classy way. As a hiring manager, if a candidate I extended an offer to, reach back out to me after declining, and said their situation changed, I would consider making a new offer. True you lose negotiating leverage, but I would expect a percentage greater than 0 of companies that would re-engage with you.

> Told my friends/family about the job, and that I will be moving to America

This is a minor issue. Plans change. They'll get over it. Hopefully they didn't throw you a going-away party yet :)

> Reached out to all my contacts (including everyone who was trying to hire me) and attempted to sign them up for this YC service

No good deed goes unpunished. But seriously, you did the right thing by trying to help out this company. I don't see this as a problem.

> I reached out to several people (e.g. at Google, FB, Partners at a management consultancy (i.e. my former employers)) asking them for a potential investment into this company ("Use our personal networks" was a key strategy), some of these helped me find a job that I turned down

I'm sure those same potential investors will circle back around to you, and decline investing, given that you are no longer with the company.

Not to sound trite, but I wish I was in your shoes. You have a masters, 6 years of mgmt exp., and most importantly a wife that is _willing to pack up everything and move_. That's awesome man, best of luck to you, you will be on your feet soon.

Thanks! This is my wife's favourite comment. I wonder why. :)

Job offers don't disappear. Just go back to the other ones and see what is still open.

Yea, in most cases a recruiter would be VERY happy to not have to try and find someone else to fill the position. Granted, you're going not going to get the same salary as before, but it's a start.

You're not going to get the same salary? Really? has the amount of value he can provide decreased after his failed YC backed COO stint or is it just some petty 'loyalty' thing? That would be insulting, especially because the recruiter tends to get paid more if you do(so why would they do that?). I don't doubt that there are people who would do that, but idk how they can they get away with it in such a hot market for technical talent.

Not his objective value (if there is such thing), but his sense of self worth has. Recruiters are trained and drilled into exploit this kind of weaknesses.

Your sense of self-worth (or solvency) has to be pretty shattered to accept that you're worth less to a company than they offered you mere weeks ago.

If recruiters are trained to insult potential employees by making lower offers than they earlier rejected, they deserve all the unfilled vacancies they're going to get.

Yup! You might have to eat some humble pie, but if they were serious about you they'll easily have you back.

Besides all the nice advice that others have added, I'll give you mine: talk to a lawyer, and have him send physical letters to the company, and to YC.

The lawyer gives you two things:

1) He knows if you can be compensated for the damage;

2) It would give YC an opportunity to take care of this matter.

Oh, and by the way: I don't know their side of the story, therefore I don't want to judge; however, it is very likely that they lied to you - letting someone go after two weeks is weird, and I don't believe that "it's not about you".

Lots of back and forth about appearing like a bridge burner.

In truth though, regardless of the appearance, bridge burning is never a good idea. NEVER.

I personally know a nursing home company that fired an employee in an unprofessional way. 20 years later she became the person in charge of nursing home licensing in that state. Guess whose licenses got revoked?! 20 years later, millions of dollars in losses.

That story may be an outlier, I don't know... but a simple evaluation of the risks and benefits of burning this bridge indicate very strongly that you should not burn it.

The argument people make about "having the right to know." to be able to avoid that company is really just self-serving curiosity. I am curious too. But...it's really only appropriate to share that info. to an individual, in private, if you feel they are truly at risk of the same unfair treatment.

Just my two cents.

Hey Man, that short term action on a perceived long term decision is rough.


Know exactly what skill-set the founders were looking for; what lifestyle choices they were looking for is probably also related. You can turn this into a conversation that helps both parties ask better interview questions.

Ask that you stay on, making your salary for several weeks as a contractor. If this isn't possible ask that you get paid reasonable living expenses for a few weeks. This provides a little runway for your job search. (Be wary though that this might raise your hopes.)

Always ensure that you get paid. For that one week before they hired you, for the two weeks you were on.

For your network that you asked for investment from, you need to secure that a) you are no longer part of that company b) if an investment is made, you deserve an advisor's fee (5-10% pre round is typical)

Sorry to hear about your situation. Unfortunately, this likely happens more often than you'd like to think.

If I were in your shoes, I would immediately re-establish contact with the recruiters who previously made you offers, and let them know you were grievously misled by this other company, and you are interested to know if their offer is still available.

You may also consider engaging a lawyer. If it were me, I would demand payment for all time worked, plus additional monies to compensate you for your opportunity cost of turning down these other offers, especially if you left a previous job to work for these guys.

hi there. could you email me? maybe i can help. sam@ycombinator

well, at the very least, I think it isn't out of the question to be asked to be paid for those two weeks. If they made a mistake, shit happens, but they should still be on the hook for it. I'd even consider asking for severance of a couple weeks. They've hosed you, they should try to offset it a little bit. I understand that it probably isn't about the money, but I would hope they at least offered you that.

They have offered to pay me for the two weeks.

They owe you pay for the two weeks plus penalties (equal to one days pay for each day of delay) for not paying the final pay immediately at the time of termination, so they are "offering" for you to forgo pay to which you are legally entitled. See California Labor Code Secs. 201, 203.

EDIT: Though, the remote working arrangement and lack of US visa, even with what appears to be, from the given description, a valid employment contract (with offer, acceptance, and performance all having occurred) likely makes this less clear cut and, in any case, makes pursuing it more difficult, costly, and time consuming.

Fucking what? There is no "offer" to pay you for the two weeks. If you worked for them, they flat out owe you that money. That's an "offer" in the same way I "offer" to pay my landlord for not kicking me out.

You need a lawyer.

then take the cash, move on, and don't look back...in 6 months you will barely remember this whole event.

startups are risky...high risk high reward...it didn't work out but man, if you were good enough to be hired like that you can find 100's of opportunities.

Even here in America you are required to pay wages for time worked unless there are extreme other circumstances. Even if the company has gone bankrupt, he is first in line behind secured creditors for claims on wages.


If he was 1099 (not uncommon) then that changes the conversation. I know he had a title, but that often is little more than what goes on the business cards.

"I decided to not participate in the startup I mentioned longterm and instead reconsidered your offer from (a few weeks ago?). Coffee?"

What are your thoughts on not uprooting before you have a formal offer of employment, and a contract signed. Personally, I wouldn't put any wheels in motion until I had a contract in case something like this were to happen, and then if it did they'd be breaking it.

I'm not saying it's this persons fault, but I don't necessarily think saying the founders are not good guys (aka bad guys), I think it's more about being assertive and protecting yourself.

In my experience, I've never handed in notice without a formal offer and that's for local jobs. If you add moving abroad to that, then there are definitely some extra steps needed to protect yourself.

I sincerely wish you the best in finding somewhere else, and it's a horrible situation, but if you had a similar offer in a month, would you do it differently?

I sincerely wish you the best...

Thank you!

if you had a similar offer in a month, would you do it differently?

You know thats such a good question. There are many excellent suggestions in this discussion. I would definitely add a cost in the contract - a cost (e.g. severance etc.) in case I am asked to leave for reasons other than performance. This should mitigate the casualness which hurt me last time.

What won't change is that startups are looking for great people, and some people are looking for great startups :) But I would definitely structure the deal with a startup very differently, as a result of this discussion.

Sorry to hear that!

What the consensus on the best way for someone to avoid this? Immediate vesting if let go? Some predefined severance agreement? 6 mo/12 mo contract? I understand it's a big decision for a startup to hire employee #1, but how can I protect myself in such a future case?


Thank you

You can always ask (accelerated vesting, golden parachute, etc), but it's doubtful you'll get anything.

Joining a startup is a risk, period. Part of that risk is that the company (or your job) will be gone in weeks/months/years. However, the upside is usually there. So if you can tolerate the risk, go for it... but always have a plan B.

I'd seek compensation for whatever time you were formally employed by the startup. I'd also reach out to some of the other companies I'd passed up job opportunities with to see whether they're still willing to discuss working for them. Be open, and honest as to why you're getting back in-touch with them, and perhaps explain why you chose the US startup over their opportunity to completely clear that question-mark in their minds.

Your situation is frustrating, but there's plenty of opportunity for smart, motivated, talented people. To help with your frustration, try to flip the story in your mind. This company is going to have to find a way to succeed without your knowledge, experience, and help. That's their problem now.

Good luck to you.

Life sux. And being a nice person with good intentions does not mean you are unlikely to do no harm to anyone.

That is the major reason why I first learnt to avoid «charismatic/nice» employers; I was fed up of being f*cked in the ass nicely. Then I matured and learnt to trust but check.

A little humility and self-awareness should go a long way when talking to people about getting jobs. It seems form your post that you're worried that you may have "burned your bridges". But, really, so long as you weren't rude you should be okay.

Founders think they did nothing wrong or something to be hidden. So please share more details and save some of us from similar perspectives. Thanks!

Sorry to hear your story. IIRC the lean startup differentiates a "start-up" from a small new business by the idea that the former operates under gross uncertainty. Generally HN smoothes over this but stories like yours help keep things in perspective.

> I joined as employee #1 of a YC startup

Which one is it?

Since he was clearly avoiding saying who it was, I think he probably doesn't want to say who it was.

Just the fact that it was YC startup -- presumably YC S14 -- and that they've gone through a recent "change in leadership", specifically for the COO position -- should make it pretty easy to identify them, with a little bit of research.

We can be sure that anyone in the YC board reading this thread has a pretty good idea who they are by now, in any case.

Startups are dangerous business. As much as I understand why you'd be chasing the American dream (I too am an immigrant, first generation off the farm) I'm sure you understood the risks of leaping before you looked. Good luck.

I did plan for a lot of scenarios - except for the one that happened. For example, I planned running out of funding (in which case we discussed a viable bootstrapping strategy). All my planning assumed that I would be part of the team.

how fucked can you be really after only 2 weeks? You didn't move yet, you haven't burned any bridges in your network, you have skills that are in demand, you have not uprooted your life for them.

Well, I'll probably be hellbanned for this, but I don't blame the founders. it's a tiny company with probably a few thousand dollars between them. They made a bad decision, obviously. Does that mean they should go under with the weight of an employee they don't need?

You even said that you "found a job that you turned down" earlier. So it sounds like things worked out fine. Of course it was hard on you. But changing a job always is.

I don't know what your home country is, but I do know that there are millions of desperately poor unemployed people in India, 25% youth unemployment in Spain, and a pretty tough labor market here in the US for some low-skilled workers. We should be thankful for what we've got. And part of the reason we've got what we have in Sillicon Valley is a culture that allows experimentation. Quickly setting up a company is only possible if you can quickly tear it down or retarget it when things aren't working out.

You mentioned that you have a postgraduate degree in management. Well, you should know that what you're getting into when you join a startup is different than if you join a big, established company. Be a man (or woman) about this. Don't ask for special treatment.

And for the record, I had an employment offer yanked during the crash of 2001. Fun times.

You are not fucked. Do not say that again, do not repeat it, do you even think it! Pick yourself up as fast as you can and get going. Start hunting again, don't take too long and get back in the groove. The worse period of my life was the moment I made the mistake of thinking "I was fucked" took too long to come out of it, and all it took was starting to think, "I'm not fucked, I can do better, it's possible" Best of luck.

OP, I wanna give you some advice regarding this visa thing, for future reference. As a rule of thumb never resign from your previous position until your visa has been processed. You can always apply for premium processing which is guaranteed to give you results within 15 business days.

For example,if you are doing a h1b transfer, please wait for the h1b transfer to complete before you resign from your previous position.

I can't exactly feel what you feel but I share my story anyway as I think it's related albeit less cruel.

I was offered a job in Singapore by a start-up. I filled all the legal documents required including the employment pass application that I sent them back. Weeks later I got a standard email from HR saying they offered the job to another candidate. I was shocked they eventually withdrew their offer.

The problem was I talked about my friends, family, that I'm moving to Singapore (from Europe). My girlfriend who is living in Singapore was happy, along with me, till the point I told her the offer has been withdrawn.

It is interesting to mention that the CTO of the company is the one who had approached me first whether I'm interested in exploring positions with them. However when it comes to withdraw the offer he never turned up.

I'm happy I didn't make business with them. I found a much better company to work with and moving to Singapore next week.

I wish the best to you, it's for sure you'll overcome this with favorable outcome.

What kind of help or advice are you looking for specifically? Your post doesn't make it clear what you'd like help with. i.e. finding a new job, negotiating a severance package, revenge, moving on, how to best pick up the pieces with your professional network, etc. I'd like to help, but I'd be guessing if I offered any specific guidance.

Yeah it happens to me, and now i don't refuse other offer as long as i haven't signed anything.

In french we say "un tiens vaut mieux que deux tu l'auras". "One given is better than you'll get two."

Bref, you have opportunity and to your wife telle the things frankly and breath you'll find job soon.

I wish you well for the next things.


The equivalent saying is "A bird in the hand is worth two in the bush"

That does suck! I'm not familiar with the law in the USA but in the UK you can be let go for very little within the first 2 years of employment. You don't have a right for unfair dismissal for the first two years. The notice period is 1 week for anyone that has worked less than 2 years.

Only up to a point in the UK the race and gender discrimination laws still apply for unfair dismissal.

No extra advice here but didn't want to read and run, good luck to you on finding something new. Like others have said, I'm sure there are a few doors still open if you're willing to get back in contact

I'm going to tell you this. All those trying to scare you into being a good little child and not "burn" any bridge, I think are being very simplistic. It may show up as some "drama" or it may not but let's be honest people with much more drama in their past than exposing shady business practices are able to have functioning careers. It's your choice but I think the fear is just knee jerk reaction from simple minded thinking.

Some potential companies may look favorably on it. Companies are staffed by people, people are diverse in opinions.

It sounds like you're more embarrassed than anything else. Ask yourself what your life will look like in just 6 months from today. I suspect just fine. At worst you'll still go a bright red color when you think about this after a couple of drinks. Chalk it up and be glad you didn't make the move and then find this out. I have no idea about the circumstances but it's possible these guys need to be commended for moving very quickly to stop you in your tracks once they determined that for some reason the fit wasn't right.

Was in your shoes two years ago, coincidentally this exact month. https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=4567857 Since then, I've met several people who were in the same boat. This sort of stuff seems to happen with regular frequency but is swept up under the rug as if its no big deal. Props for being bold & writing about it. Good luck to you sir! More than the subsequent job-hunt, it was the memory of all those false promises that hurt the most.

[I've deleted the contents of this post. I apologize to readers for the inconvenience and confusion. I related a story similar to that of the OP but decided I shouldn't post about it here.]

Bloody hell, that is horrible, do you mind me asking, if there were performance issues bad enough to pick up on in the first few weeks how were they not picked up on in the interview?

That's sort of what I was trying to get across in my last paragraph. I consider it a failure of the interview process.

Granted, keep in mind that I'm not privy to all the details. He very well may have been granted a generous severance pay-out to ease the burden -- I honestly don't know.

Most companies are worse at interviewing than even they think.

I'm curious about what went wrong with the interview and what the performance problems were without being too specific.


There's 500+ other jobs available, you can just as readily find another one.

To me this is really simple. You should tell Hacker News who the company is. An employee has the right to leave whenever he wants and a company can terminate you whenever it wants.

Big companies usually do not fire for no good reason because of liability. Small companies don't have to worry as much because they don't have any money to sue for.

However these "good guys" are establishing their corporate culture now, and we hacker don't want to get dicked over too.

I think you are being too nice. They have served you very poorly and I don't know if it is helpful to make any excuses or tell everyone how you are. This should have been figured out before they hired. Now, maybe you should not have put all the eggs in this startup basket. I hope you are able to find another position in the area, do t stop trying. Next to e, give yourself time to be "excited" and tell everyone about a new thing.

If you are on good talking terms, and it seems like you are since you mentioned the word "polite" a few times in your post, I would politely ask them for a severance package, in case one is not included in your contract. They can of course politely not give you one. Depending on how the conversation goes, you will be able to recalibrate the "nice guy" stick you are using to measure the founders.

> I officially joined as the COO.

What precisely does that mean?

IANAL, but I know that if you and they signed on the dotted line, apart from the ethics, you have legal rights. Probably fewer in the US than other places, but some protection.

If nothing was signed, then I don't think you "officially joined" as COO. From their perspective, it might simply be more of an episode of serious miscommunication, than any untoward behavior on their part.

Hi Poster,

No you're not. There are no positive or negative events in life. All events are neutral. It is within your power to see them as positive. Reality doesn't care about your "destiny."

So besides my airy fairy comment above what I mean is when something bad happens you have to take massive action to get the result you want. So when young founders make DUMB decisions that screw you over you apply to 40-60 jobs a day and find a better job. You take MASSIVE action to make the situation a positive one.

You have NO time to waste complaining about what happened. Your time needs to be spent working your butt off finding new work. That means 40-60 jobs per day. That also means you should look at investing in assets so your income isn't reliant on an employer or anyone for that matter.

Life will always do this to you. Always. How you react to situations like this is what defines you. Nobody can escape this. Everyone will have ups and downs in life.

Now. Right now. Today is your time to take massive action. Not sit on hacker news or the internet all day. Not complaining to your wife. Now is your time to make this a positive situation.

If you don't believe me don't do what I say and see what happens.

Last comment: Right now it seems bad because you are all caught up in your emotions. When you start thinking logically you'll realize what I'm saying is true. Also with a masters in CS and 6 years of management experience you can earn more than $100k easily. How is that being fucked? Many people in the world would kill to be in your position, living in the silicon valley and being able to find jobs like you can. You are blessed with this education and probably a beautiful wife. Make the most of your time and be grateful.

I don't think he was looking for that kind of advice, Tony. But maybe it will help.

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