> Successful "techies" never work at companies they don't believe in.
1) This is from 2011, it was slightly less of a seller's market for engineers back then. It was still a seller's market, but not as crazy as it is now.
2) The author is one of the top 10 all time contributors to HN. #3 in fact. And I don't think he deserves the snark from the last line of your comment. He's done some pretty cool things and I'd definitely count him as a successful techie.
That said your lackadaisical use of infinity is worrying. You shouldn't just throw it around like that. Most things have nuances. Life in particular.
I'm sure he's a very prolific Hacker News contributor. My point is that people who optimize for short-term financial compensation ahead of employment with a company they believe in which is generous with its stock are the least successful in this industry—particularly financially, ironically.
Citation needed for the statistics you're drawing from. Obviously if you want to make millions you need to get that from stock, but that comes from taking risk. How many people ended up with way below market compensation by working for peanuts + stock for a company that went nowhere (or just went somewhere just for the preferred shareholders) compared to those that made had a legitimate payout that put them above market salaries?
Despite what TechCrunch and the VC industry would have us believe, it's nowhere near as clear cut as you make out.
Eoghan McCabe here, CEO of Intercom. Happy to answer any questions you might have. We're really excited to see what people do with this integration. It's already quite deep, but we've got a few more interesting features on the way.
Intercom is a simple, personal messaging service for businesses and their customers.
Our mission is to make web business personal. We believe that the future of customer communication requires not increasingly complex, impersonal point solutions, but rather a simple, seamless platform that feels a lot more like Facebook than Salesforce.
I don't generally disagree that first-time founders should think carefully before raising venture capital, but the example used to back up this statement is misguided on two counts.
1. It implies that your VC partner(s) can decide to sell your company without your wish. For the size of business mentioned here, this is unlikely. E.g. Even after we raise our next round (Series B), an acquisition can't happen without the founders' concent.
2. 2x liquidation preferences are not standard these days. I don't know anyone who's raised on more than 1x.
I think the author has a relatively refreshingly fair view on raising capital vs. bootstrapping, but the misunderstandings I've highlighted are typical. For any aspiring entrepreneur, I can't more strongly recommend you do your homework before deciding that raising venture capital is not for you.
IMHO, even the 1x liquidation preference is a clause that screws up the entrepreneur and the company. If I raise $5m in year 1 and end up creating a company after 6 years worth $5m in equity value, the VC should take the -50% hit, but they should not be allowed to screwup the entire cap table, exit/liquidity options simply because the VC went in at a high price.
This 1x-2x liquidation preference clause is unheard of in any other asset class, be it debt, mezzanine, etc.; and it's not even used by investment funds, private equity, and other professional investors.
Then don't take money with preferences attached. Good luck, though, because preferences correct an incentive imbalance that is extremely concerning to venture capitalists (that you'll happily accept an outcome that will lose money for the investor).
What do you mean with "preferences correct an incentive imbalance that is extremely concerning to venture capitalists"? and why don't other investors in other asset classes experience this "incentive imbalance"?
Because investors in other asset classes aren't investing in individual entrepreneurs with barely-established businesses whose lives could be substantially improved with low single digit millions of dollars, where the returns implied by such a reward would also imply a total failure for the investors themselves.
It's a principal/agent problem. In taking investor money, operators assume some responsibility for generating returns for them. Nobody would invest without the promise of those potential returns. But operators incentives are, absent preferences, actually not aligned with their investors: they would be better off not trying to generate the returns they promised to try to generate, but rather to hew to a conservative strategy that is almost certain not to generate returns but will ensure a golden parachute for the operators.
Preferences correct for this problem, sometimes elegantly: they say "you can take this money to try to generate the returns you promised, but it would be irrational for you to use it to build the small exit you promised us you wouldn't be aiming for."
The other way to correct for this problem is founder cash-outs, which require some negotiating leverage but solve it even more elegantly. Rather than saying "We're worried that you'll take a small exit that would be great for you but a disaster for us", they say "we'll pay out that small exit we're worried you'll take, because you're being offered it anyway, and now you have the same incentives we do to shoot for the fences because you're already independently wealthy." It aligns incentives almost totally, and is viewed as a benefit rather than a restriction by everyone involved.
"principal/agent" dynamics are no different for other asset classes, and a liquidation preferences is by no means the best way to align interests. liquidation preference clauses assume investors have invested at a price where they see considerable upside in a business/market. Unfortunately, investors, like all other humans make bad judgement calls, it can certainly be the case where an (price-wise) aggressive investor prices out an entrepreneur/company, whatever the funding round, be it seed or Z round. Having said that, it's the entrepreneurs call to learn and know when to avoid these risks. In the startup world, caveat emptor applies to both entrepreneur and investor.
This comment isn't responsive. What is the other asset class in which investors sink large amounts of money into 2-4 individual people with no established business and nothing to lose? That's where the principal/agent problem comes from. PE funds do not have the same problem.
"2-4 individual people with no established business and nothing to lose" is quite a broad-brush to define how startups and entrepreneurs are. I don't think that $200k qualifies as "sink large amounts of money". My point regarding liquidation preference is that this clause is prevalent across all funding stages, even when the company has an established management team, considerable cash flow, etc. "PE funds do not have the same problem." I have disagree with that statement, private equity funds do have big principal-agent problems (family owned businesses, first time CEOs, strategy, capital structure, etc), and every time we come across these they are solved with veto rights over capex, acquisitions and capital structure, but definitely not pricing other shareholders/management out of the cap table.
If you take a number which is for argument sake and call it "silly", that is fine by me. To argue that liquidity preference clauses are the ONLY method to avoid the principal-agent problem (and that's not the only reason it's there in the first place), both you and I know that there are other, more entrepreneur friendly, methods to go around this issue.
Intercom helps internet businesses communicate with their customers. Our mission is to make web business personal. We believe that the future of customer communication requires not increasingly complex, impersonal point solutions, but rather a simple, seamless platform that feels a lot more like Facebook than Salesforce. People love the product:
The company is just over 2 years old. It has raised $7.75MM to-date from Social+Capital Partnership—their LPs include Facebook, Reid Hoffman, Sean Parker, Peter Thiel. Managing partner Mamoon Hamid was on the board of and early investor in Box and Yammer. The team is currently 36, comprising people from Apple, Google, Facebook, Amazon, Yammer, PayPal.
Intercom is installed in thousands of web products and is connected with many millions of end-users. The company has been experiencing double-digit monthly revenue growth from the start.
We've turned down four acquisition offers to date—the founders intend to make this a uniquely impactful, long-lasting tech company. We intend to fundamentally change how internet businesses and their customers interact.
We've been using Intercom for several months now. As a startup with a heavy demand for customer service and excellent communications we definitely recommend Intercom! They've given us the reputation of having full-time customer service reps despite the fact of only having a team of 3 (none of which are customer service positions). If you're not on them yet, it's highly recommended. If you need a job and looking to change the world of communication, apply yesterday.