I was in one job for over a year, at a startup. Eventually I was let go.
The founders were cousins from another country. There was always a separation beyond the fact that they were the co-founders and I was an employee.
The CTO, one of the cofounders, at one point told me that he hoped I would contribute to the design instead of just implement his vision. From what I remember, every time I would ask a question, the most common answer was “Don’t worry about it.” If you say that enough times, I am going to stop asking questions.
The app was written in Java, using a framework called Seam. Java has a LOT of web frameworks. I think Seam sucks. It was a beast to learn, awkward to work with and hard to write unit and integration tests for. At first I was enthusiastic about the job. After a while I hated it. Because I hated working with Seam. I even looked into whether or not it was possible to rewrite the app in Ruby on Rails or Groovy on Grails. Long story short, it was not. I got to a point where the only advice I could give was to stop using Seam. He wasn’t going to take that advice, so why give advice?
Plus at one point he wanted to do something in Scala (our main language was Java). After a while he gave up because Scala was too hard. If you insist on using Java and Seam for everything, don’t complain that I am not giving any more input.
One task that I got was to work with a third party API (TPAPI for short in this essay). The CEO gave me “the talk” that he was disappointed that I could not get it to work with our app. I saw him over a year later and asked him how things were going with TPAPI. He said it was too hard, so they changed the product. I wanted to ask: Did you give your cousin a lecture that you were disappointed with him and that he was on thin ice?
The CEO went through two salesmen. One was gone before I showed up. Another came and went while I was there. At one point, in December, the CEO said that if we did make a million in revenue by the end of next year, he would shut the company down. By February, it was a quarter million by the end of June. Or something like that. Whatever the numbers were, his targeted monthly revenue was going down. I thought then that I should get a Plan B. By this time the second salesman was out. I thought, “Selling is your job. If you can’t sell your product, don’t blame me.”
Towards the end of my tenure, they got into a tech incubator. It was the third one they applied to get into. They got some money, and the plan was to get a two bedroom apartment. They told me that they would be flying back, since they both had wives and one of them had kids, so they would trade the other room and the couch. Well, they flew down and I drove. They were both down there when I arrived. I got the couch. And the wireless did not seem to work for any of us in the other rooms. So I had to sit there while they watched Fox. They visited family one weekend, but for the most part I was with one or both of them nearly every waking moment. That was not what I signed up for, and it was not how they said it was going to be. If you want to boss someone around 24×7, get a dog. When the CEO told me it was over, I really did not object.
I ran into him on the street, and things were more civil that I expected. He told me that they did not really get anything out of being in the incubator.
They did promise we a whopping 1% equity if I was there longer than a year, and although we never signed anything they did give me a check. So they are not total jerks.
But I am now more leery/skeptical of startups in general. Just because you are a small company against the world, that does not mean you know what you are doing, or that what you are doing will ever matter to anybody but you.