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Startups: Should it feel like working for free?

youhan profile image Alireza Jahandideh ・2 min read

Recently I have been asked to join an exciting startup as one of the core developers. I was thinking it is a good opportunity to stop working for other people and start my own. It is just a weekend project until we make an MVP so that they could present it and find investors.

They say we can't pay you for your work now because we don't have money but record your time and that will be your investment into the company. Later on, when we get to register our business, your share of business will be calculated based on the hours you spend.

A couple weeks are passed and I realized 10 other people are joined the project from developers to marketing advisors.

Despite what I hoped for, there has been no group meeting to talk about the progress, business plans, market research, strategies, etc. Maybe I am wrong, but I think at this early point everyone should be involved in planning.

I am a developer, but when I join as a core member it means I am a founder. The idea is not mine but the implementation will be mine. I expect to contribute to making decisions so to feel like this project is my own, but rather, I am receiving memo like updates about what has been done, who has joined, even a handout of my deliverables!

At this point I feel like I am being considered to work as a developer for new employers and for free!

Based on your experience, do you think this is normal? I suspect they just want someone to develop their ideas not a co-founder. What do you think?

Thanks

Discussion

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crimsonmed profile image
Médéric Burlet

This seems very fishy imo. Most of our clients are startups and well either they pay from their pocket the development either they do fundraising. Make sure you re-read the contract in details maybe have it checked by your lawyer that there is no hidden clause stipulating they can fire you without paying you.

We are a startup and we are all payed on a monthly basis.

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youhan profile image
Alireza Jahandideh Author

Thank you for your input.

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youhan profile image
Alireza Jahandideh Author

There is no contract yet but I'll make sure to get it checked when ready.

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crimsonmed profile image
Médéric Burlet

You shouldn't be working without a contract as the company can literally keep all your work and never pay you.

Now you are working for free

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youhan profile image
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crimsonmed profile image
Médéric Burlet

You should at least sign a contract for services rendered so they will pay you at later date.

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bdunn313 profile image
Brad Dunn

Its always hard to tell, but this has a lot of red flags attached to it. I say run for the hills.

It is not normal to not know what is going on or have status updates, and its not normal to work for free. You should at least be getting part of an interest in the company if you aren't being compensated monetarily.

Move on is my advice

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youhan profile image
Alireza Jahandideh Author

I appreciate your response.

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natriumdev profile image
NatriumDev

You work -> you get paid. It's as simple as that.

You can't pay rent with promises.