Startup Employees Deserve More
I’ve felt for a long time that early employees at startups deserve more.
More acknowledgment, more equity, more transparency…more support.
And I know I’m not the only one.
But good intentions & acknowledging the problem notwithstanding, it doesn’t seem like anyone is terribly committed to solving these realities…or even improving them. I continually receive emails and requests for advice from friends and former colleagues confused about what to do with their employee options & conflicted over whether they’ve been treated well or fooled by their CEO. And I don’t blame them. We inundate ourselves with advice for/from founders and interviews with investors, but there’s little help out there for early (often foundational) employees. And even less encouragement/acknowledgement. Excess capital at the seed stage aside, why exactly do we think there are so many people starting new companies instead of helping to build, improve & scale existing ones?
Similar to how Y Combinator helped eliminate the problem of bankers-in-suits screwing over engineer-founders-in-tee-shirts, this problem may require a solution that’s bottoms-up and not top-down. It’ll probably be highly incremental & take a lot of time. And it might even piss some people off. But I’m starting to think I might like to try.
See, I’m lucky to be an investor in several startups I’m awfully proud of. But I’ve unquestionably added more value to the ones where I’ve worked side-by-side (and gotten my hands brutally dirty) with both founders and other early employees. You know — the people who actually build product, run tests, talk to customers, operate companies & sacrifice not only stability but optionality as well. On a weekly, daily, hourly basis. Not just at bi-monthly board meetings or when there’s something to brag about on Twitter.
So if you work at a startup or know people who do, please take a moment to take and/or share this survey. It’s not much, but it’s a start. Maybe it leads me to a product or service that helps a bunch of folks or just starts one conversation at one startup. Either way, I think it’s worth a shot.
To paraphrase my all-time favorite startup employee (and arguably the most important person in tech right now — Chamath), ‘maybe it’s time to start f*cking some sh*t up’.