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I feel for you too. It wasn't a startup and the job was local, but I took a salary drop and swapped a cosy-but-unrewarding role with a global corporate to join a 40-strong SaaS development company that wanted someone to come in and sort out their internal and customer support infrastructure - they had no strategy, procedures or hierarchy and were constantly firefighting - shuffling resources between projects according to which customer complained the loudest.

It became clear very quickly that the two founders who brought me in wouldn't embrace any change that didn't come from them, and they had a total fear of empowering anyone else to make executive decisions - even about their own team members; I constantly found my guys being assigned to firefighting for other teams without my knowledge, so workload planning and scheduling knowledge sharing periods was impossible - we had information silos all over the place and if someone went on vacation they would often be called or emailed frequently because they were the only ones who knew about a specific part of a project or system. I wasn't allowed to attend support review meetings with the customers - the Directors went alone and told me what had been agreed, and they constantly dealt directly with one of my guys (the company 'guru'), assigning him work and making it impossible for me to grab his time so he could share his skills with the rest of the team - I highlighted it as a serious business risk that this guy was the only person who knew some of the tricks with some of our internal and customer infrastructures, and that he wasn't encouraged to document or share his knowledge, but they dismissed my concerns.

When we had that Friday afternoon talk after 9 months of trying to bring in some best practices and semblance of organisation, I left the office for the last time with a sense of great relief that I was out of the clusterfuck.

It only took me a few weeks to find a much better role and I hope things work out for you too.

Edit: Looking back at what I wrote, it might be that the OPs circumstances just offered the opportunity for a bit of a personal rant, which was not the intention. My main point was based on the fact (not explained at all by me in my post) that when I met the two Directors (twice), prior to joining, the setup and opportunity for me looked very positive, and I was convinced I was going to be empowered to fulfil the role. Things turned out very differently, and I clearly did not fit in with the company culture the founders wanted to both leave and stick with simultaneously (it was their comfort zone, and although they knew is was not the best was to run a business, they ultimately couldn't leave it). Moral: Shit happens, despite due dilligence, but that doesn't make it right.




Stories like this (and my own experience) kind of sum up why I don't intend to work for another startup unless it's one I've founded. Too many people out there are taking roles with <= 1% of equity and thinking that they're going to be part of something big. Instead, they have no power to make decisions and make less money than they should. Working for a startup because it's a startup is always a bad idea.


I can say you also see the "perpetual clusterfuck" antipattern in organizations that don't fit the traditional "startup" mold.

You can definitely see it in government, non-profits as well as existing businesses. It's the end result of a culture that values "getting shit done" and ends up with nothing but "shit".


Here are some sources of potential clusterfucks I've seen firsthand:

* Paying a contact manufacturer to design and build electronic hardware, then not getting any sources for the software.

* Selling R&D prototypes.

* Mistaking being customer-driven for waiting for customer orders before developing a product.

* Promising customers 3 month lead times on products that exist only as R&D prototypes.

* Not documenting what was built until product is shipping.

* Not documenting design decisions.

These are all real things that happened at a 20 year old company that I used to work for. This is also a short list of the many reasons I left.


That doesn't excuse certain behaviors like breaking a contract early (we haven't seen the contract, but it's reasonable to assume there's some provision)

After seeing this and similar situations like https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=8152933 involving YC companies, it's hard not to conclude that there may be something culturally broken at the accelerator level.


It might not be broken, but definitely overlooked. YC is supposed to provide the experience part of the business for these companies, and they are obviously not doing it if there are so many cases like this one.

But to be fair, I don't think any other accelerator focuses on this part. Most, if not all, accelerator only focus on growth and momentum, because that is what ultimately that is what gives the best ROI.

But in most cases, problems like in this particular case become obstacles for growth. I think YC should add provision of experience to the YC formula. What is the point of having so many experienced investors and founders in the accelerator if their companies are so bad at doing real business not only growth.

This is obviously all speculation, since I am not part of the program. Just commenting on the fact there are so many cases like this one in YC companies. So take my comments with a grain of salt.


It's called inexperience and immaturity - people seriously expect a bunch of twenty something's who've never operated a business to get things right in 3 months? Or better yet, can you imagine the abuse if you worked for a startup led by 28 year old Steve Jobs today?


Absolutely, but that doesn't excuse the behavior, and that's an important thing to keep in mind. If anything, it needs to be emphasized. If we, as an industry, truly believe that talent is our best competitive advantage, then we should act accordingly.

My biggest concern about Steve Jobs's legacy is that people can all too easily draw the wrong lessons from it, or use it to justify bad managerial practices. Steve Jobs's managerial style was as much of a hindrance as it was a benefit.

Obviously I'm not saying you're one of those "Steve Jobs was an asshole, so I can be" types of people, or that you're condoning them as such. But a lot of people do think that way, and a lot of people condone thinking that way. On the whole, it's an influential and problematic narrative.


There's good people and bad, regardless of how old they are. YC seems like they don't know how to tell which is which though.


Yikes most all of that applies to my current role... But at the end of the day, a chaotic process IS a process. And if the company is pulling in money the process is successful by at least one measure.

I think the trick is to grow past the 'whatever it takes' phase and get to the long term, steady, maturation phase. Which is what we are trying to do.


That was my stance at that final meeting (which was very matter of fact and calm): "I feel you could run this business in a way that's much better organised to grow further, but at the end of the day it's your business, not mine..."




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