[This article is a part of our First Person series, in which entrepreneurs and professionals share their stories about their startups, lives and careers.]
I was fresh out of quitting my job at the oft-rated “ No 1. Employer” that is Google, and looking for something more challenging, more self-actualising, and some place I could create a bigger niche for myself. God I loved Google, but after a good four years there, things were stagnating. Google was getting bigger and as was my dissatisfaction with what I was personally able to accomplish there.
Soon a friend hit me up with an interesting role at a Hyderabad based startup, NowFloats- which helps small and medium business get online by creating quick websites for them. The role was exciting, the company seemed to have promise, and of course the startup wave was not lost on me.
So, the cofounder and I scheduled a meeting/interview at an incubator, which the way I looked at it, went great. To begin with, I was impressed with him, a Wharton alumnus, he was smart, chatty and funny (very unlikely for a person who’s considering you for a job!) and the nature of the interview itself- casual, no holds-barred, made me feel at home. Within a couple of hours of interaction with him, I was informally offered the job! “We’d like to have you on board”. Yes as simply as that!
He (the cofounder) asked me to consider it, but the caveat as he constantly repeated was the monies. Being a startup going through its second round of funding, they could not afford to pay me much and definitely not as much as my current. Fair enough. I had been prepared for that.
Consider the role I did and decided I wanted to take it up, a compromised pay, a job description that almost sounded like “You’ll be doing everything from digital strategy to content creation to photography”, and lack of any employee perks, notwithstanding. Being an Ex-googler, to be told that there would be no food, no transport, or even an AC in the office was still not a deterrent for me because I believed in the company’s business model and saw an opportunity for me to contribute and make it big in the digital marketing realm.
So, the next day, I sent him a long email, stating that I would take up the offer, and specified my expected minimum pay ( which was a sizeable step down from my current). A few days later, the cofounder invites me to an internal 3 day all-hands event in Hyderabad as an “induction into the company”. ( Considering that he did not comment on my email or the expected minimum pay I’d demanded, and still invited me to an internal company event set the stage for the assumption that basically he had agreed to it)
So I take a 3 days leave off my current job, travel to Hyderabad and attend the all hands. Everything’s nice, the sessions are informative and interesting and I’m being treated as I was already an employee- “So, this is what you’ll be doing” , “So, you’ll be working on this bit”. Alright, I was excited. To be amongst a small team of motivated individuals, looking to take an idea to the next level, was an exciting thought, coming from a company where it was a given that everything we did was already big.
Ending the all hands with a party, I traveled back to Bangalore the next day. And now I wait; for a word about taking it forward and making things formal. Nothing.
A week goes by and still nothing. Meanwhile I’m emailing interesting links to them for content ideas that I think would be useful, and also already promoting the website within my circle.
Couple of weeks go by and I still haven’t heard a word from the cofounder or anyone in the company. I finally decide to write to him and ask for an update.
I get a curt “call me at 7” and nothing else. Since I had lost a phone recently, I could not make that call at 7, and inform him accordingly asking to please reschedule. No reply.
It has been a couple of months since that interview and the all hands now, and forget being told that I did not make it or that they could not afford me- Which is completely fine and their prerogative- I have not heard anything from the company. Not a word. And all this after I took 3 days off my current job, spent a good amount for my travel and accommodation- Which I did not ask to be reimbursed for as is the norm for interviews that involve travelling- not to mention all the time and mental bandwidth that I dedicated to working on a job offer, that was fraught with compromises from the word go.
All that would’ve sufficed was one followup from the cofounder or the company about where I stood with the job. But nothing.
Am I bitter with the company? Yes and no. I was but I have moved on now. In fact if anything I appreciate my current job more, even if it’s not the technology mecca, it’s got its communication in place.
But the more overarching emotion I’ve been left with is a strong cynicism and disbelief in startups. I’m all for entrepreneurs and ideas that can potentially change the world, but with such an uncomfortable level of unprofessionalism, and lack of respect displayed by the only startup I ever considered a job at, it’s not hard to see why a lot of startups fail. Please do not get me wrong, I know that it could be any company, and it’s not every startup that is like the one I had the misfortune of dealing with. Even a Google or a facebook were startups before but the fact that they are where they are today is testimony to their great working ethics, among other things.
That said, my two cents to any startups looking to be the next big thing would be, to respect people’s time and the fact that you’re small and still grappling with the growing pains, is no ground for treating potential partners and employees like shit. It’s all about the details.
Make no mistakes, this rant is against their treatment of people, not the company itself. I still maintain it’s a great initiative. But if it were to grow and become a “great place to work at”, it really needs to step up its game in the HR dept.
An advice to people considering jobs at startups would be to make sure you have the job description, the clarity about the offer, and all the terms and conditions down pat before making a commitment. Lest you are in for a rude shock, like I was.