High demand and scarce resources are the inevitable consequence of success. The internet is its own worse enemy when it comes to running a business. It has a huge customer base that is very fickle. It has unlimited access to every commodity and service available and I can shop 24/7. There is no reason why I should pick your company over the rest unless you can prove to me that yours is the best choice. And the second I find a better choice I am gone; that’s the last you hear from me.
Whether investors and founders want to screw their employees is none of my concern. They will only hurt themselves in the long run. Business is business. Just make sure I am not screwed with broken promises and inferior product. I am not a very forgiving soul.
Strange how history keeps repeating itself. If you think employees got screwed today, go back 200 years when slaves were all the rage. Back then, women and children were the property of the man. And there were no labor laws.
You can decry this attitude that startups don’t properly compensate their initial employees all you want, but it behooves the candidate to inquire as to what the compensation amounts to over time; and to get it in writing. The candidate can request that it be a consultant position; or simply walk away if s/he is not satisfied. If the qualified people are so hard to find, there should be lots of wiggle room during the interview.