The Feeling of Betrayal — A story of a Startup failure
I want to preface by saying when I feel that I, or someone else, has been wronged a fire gets lit within me. I can’t control it, nor do I care to. I want to be a voice for the voiceless, all who have been fired or been part of a company who did not value them for the person they were nor the effort they displayed. Keep your head up and remember…
It stings. Being fired for no reason. I write this now with anger, sadness, determination, and shock coursing through my veins.
No one imagines being the “Eduardo Saverin” in the Facebook saga (if you haven’t seen the Social Network or don’t know the story, look him up). Mark Zuckerburg had a hand in screwing him over as Facebook was beginning to gain notoriety around the country. But, it happens.
Welcome to the Underground Story of the Startup Journey.
Not everyone wins, remember that.
The company I worked for, Cellbreaker, was not at all what I thought it would be. Over the past few months I had devoted myself completely to this “just” cause that they promoted. They wanted their customers to believe that they were fighting for the little guy while, internally, a different tune was playing.
Promises unkept, bureaucracy, and lack of communication hampered much. Those cancerous traits were running around long before I joined but I played it cool. I went along with the “plan,” naive and young, wanting so much to prove myself to a startup that no longer valued my worth. Strung along like a lamb to the slaughter, I was.
It hurts to hear the words you are fired, especially when the criticism of work had never been brought up before that moment. What were the reasons? What happened?
“You don’t pay attention to detail…You require too much oversight. We have been trying to fit a square peg into a round hole.” All, interesting points if they happened to be true. I studied engineering in college and attention to detail was hammered into our heads like a nail into a coffin. So, attention to detail would be the last thing I would say I struggled at.
By nature, I am independent and get work done on my own without parading around all the great things I have done. How then, can I require too much oversight if most of the work I do is independent from my peers? Not to mention, that very little direction or guidance was provided by those who were “overseeing,” which created a round hole that just as easily could have been square, or triangle or whatever it needed to be.
I will also note that if you are doing a task for the first time or with little direction/guidance you will require at least a minimal amount of oversight, right?
I am rambling now and I am sure you have no idea what is happening so, please stand back as I paint a gory picture of betrayal. I feel like I know what Caesar must have felt like when he was betrayed by Brutus — how quaint.
I graduated in December of last year and decided, naively, to work for a company called CB, who I had interned with the previous summer. They brought me in to be a sales + marketing (really the ideas) guy because I showed promise. By that I mean the ceo (who I lost all respect for the moment I heard the words fired come from his mouth on a Skype call at 10:30PM), a maestro with words, thought I was cool, much like him. Over the course of a few months I never made it to my sales role as a multitude of things happened in the company that cost important people their jobs and set us back financially. We, or I can say they now, lost funding and began scrapping for their next piece of bread.
Instead of doing what I believed I would, I began being asked to patch holes here and there, thereby stunting my growth. I was never given the proper tools or direction necessary to give the best effort I could. I never grew within the company even as new hires were being made left and right, only to grow like a well watered field of crops. Five months later I was no better off than when I had started.
It was like this (and I told them this), I was too often given a dull sword or spear and placed in the middle of Los Angeles, with no map, and told to go hunt for food. Does that make sense? No (I would have to agree), and when things didn’t get done quite right or I asked “too” many questions it was my fault for just not knowing. Like what? To be disrespected in a manner like this has been quite humiliating and frustrating, but I digress.
Leaders take responsibility for the actions of others even if it is not their fault. That’s the mark of a good one, but I will leave it at that.
During the month of April and May I was payed an amount so low it was laughable, not to even mention livable, as a “Thanks for sticking around stipend,” during some of our hardest times. I should have left then but my naive self wanted to see how far I could go.
In May, Cellbreaker made it into the prestigious 500 startups incubator in Mountain View, California, to which I was promised (a few times) an opportunity to be a part of. This incubator invested between 75k-100k in accepted companies.
I never made it there. The funny thing is that once the “founders” left for California they never returned home the same. The way they interacted and saw the world was forever changed and in a lot of ways made me a target.
A week ago (6/25) I met with the ceo to discuss my issues/future with the company. A lot of “interview” style questions were asked by him (far too many for my liking) but in conclusion he noted that I would be getting a raise. Now, I was long overdue for one noting that my earnings had dropped significantly since I first joined. He also mentioned, I would have an opportunity to join the team out in California on company dime to see what it was like.
I shake my head now, talk about blindsided. Going from getting a raise + being shipped out to Cali to being fired in less than a week. Now, all of a sudden I am not a good fit anymore?
That Saturday (my only day to sleep in) the 27th, I was stirred awake by a text from my boss saying that he needed my help ASAP. That I was late (it was not even 10:30AM yet). This was news to me as no official work hours had ever been discussed for weekend work. He mentioned Saturday was still a workday — I knew that, but I had my own schedule (classic example of the lack of communication between the head of the company all the way down to the bottom, guess that was me). I rushed out and met him at a coffee shop and began working, no questions asked. That just who I am. When something needs to get done, don’t ask question just figure out a way to do it.
In all, my word of advice is to pay attention to who you put your trust in, especially startups/businesses without a plan or vision for you. Make sure you know what is happening, be aware of your surroundings, and don’t blindly follow because you believe you have something to prove.
Being in a startup is difficult. It isn’t what the movies dress them up to be. You get muddy, bruised, beat up pretty bad. I really felt the need to say that to all who are thinking about entering the startup world. It isn’t all it’s cracked up to be and it, for sure, ain’t for everyone, but I love it. I don’t plan on quitting anytime soon either.
A mistake was made, but I don’t believe it was on my end and in a different world I would have loved to see what kind of asset I could have been, if only given the proper guidance. Determination and drive have always been two of my biggest assets and now they have been rekindled. I will make it somewhere and when I do, I know I’ll look back or down at CellBreaker, if only for a moment, and acknowledge the blessing they gave me. Grit.