This was a great read. In my head it read like a podcast like Serial. I felt anxiety in anticipation, empathy for H1B kids, went through a variety of emotions. Thank you for telling your story like a bit of a crime drama almost. :)
I am sure with your literary skills finding a job in the Bay Area would not be very hard for you, if it wasn’t for the emotional blow you’ve taken, which I am truly sorry about.
I sincerely hope that you pursue further legal action and hold these people accountable for their criminal actions. Forging wire transfer receipts is one crime that popped out at me in your story. I am sure many more are sprinkled here and there in this startup’s journey, given the CEO’s shifty personality. I would also encourage you to disclose all information you have in order for to us to be able to protect ourselves from these people in the future and help restore the sense of trust in the community.
The startup world relies on reputation and history. We’re all betting on not only each other’s abilities but also sense of ethics and honesty when we choose to work with each other. I’ve worked with great founders who have carried and some currently carrying their companies through thick and thin and still trust them greatly. And in order for Silicon Valley to be the way it is, trust is the essential element. Without trust, stock options are worth nothing, regardless of whatever the fair market value is.
I’d also like to let you know that myself and all my friends who joined startups took the same leap of faith you have (didn’t even -think to- negotiate a contingency plan like your severance though!). And kudos to you for taking that leap! Don’t ever think it was a bad decision. The default is and should be to trust people, be open to new journeys and dance like no body is watching.
I hope you don’t stay away from startups for the rest of your career and have a better experience next time.