Non-sustainable start-up jobs

posted by Jeff | Sunday, December 27, 2009, 12:27 PM | comments: 3

Calacanis is looking for developers, where he describes how awesome working for him is even though he won't be compensating you for it:

Seriously, I don't care if you wrote the book on Python or MySQL… if you're not a hardworking maniac who is hungry as hell you're of no use to us. We need killers. So, if you're a killer who wants crush it with a bunch of killer who already crushing it send me your resume.
1. We pay about 15% less than the best programming gig, but we give stock options and the ability to learn a lot. If you're driven by cash comp this isn't the gig for you.
2. We have a full-time chef that serves health breakfast, lunch and snacks daily. No one else n Los Angeles does this.
3. We'll clean your car for you and do your laundry–literally. Seriously, we don't want you thinking about doing your laundry, cleaning your car or what you're doing to eat–let alone spending time on that non-sense.

I thought that this dotcom approach to building a new company was history, but I guess not. Basically what he's suggesting is that you work for less than you're worth because he'll give you food and stock in a company that isn't public, and giving up life balance is totally worth it because you get to work for him and that's super awesome.

I don't get it at all. What entices people about this? From the individual end, I've worked in this environment, and it's not sustainable or fun. The start-up I worked like this was awful, and everyone was burned out and unhappy. Not to mention, one hiccup in the business and people start losing their jobs. You can't sustain that.

From the company end, why is it a good idea? There's no end point other than selling the company. Calacanis has done this exactly once and has been riding that wave ever since. Weblogs, Inc. and its properties have been completely turned over and none of the original folks are involved. The people have nothing to do with the company anymore. What is the fate of the people working for Mahalo?

A start-up doesn't have to be that. I've since worked for a few others, and ICOM in particular was one of the most sane environments I ever worked in. The smart people were there because they enjoyed the business, they were taken care of and were able to maintain a real life. The suggestion that you have to be uncomfortable to succeed and innovate is ridiculous. Just look at Google... those folks are made extremely comfortable, and even given a day a week to mess with whatever they want (and that's why we have Gmail).

I just really hate seeing job ads like this. It's one step away from those you see for graphic designers, wanting something for free because it will "add to your portfolio." Maybe that's the case, but it'll also subtract from your soul in the long run.



December 28, 2009, 8:10 AM #

What's sad is when start-ups begin life with the mentality like you described, and a few years later they haven't changed at all.


December 28, 2009, 5:54 PM #

Some folks like to work hard, get more responsibility and experience then they would at a BDC (big dumb company), and potentially get a big reward in stock options.

Some folks want to cruise and make max money.

I can understand either one honestly. When you're young you might be more interested in crushing it and taking five years out of your career path.... when you're old and tired you might want to put it on cruise control, get max money and spend as much time with your kids as possible.

... both are valid, both can be virtuous.

Everyone here is very happy and no one is burned out. Not sure where you worked or why it was like that, but Mahalo has 15M uniqes, is 140th largest site in the USA and has a mountain of cash in the bank (90 months worth if you must know!).

In terms of Weblogs, Inc. you don't have your facts exactly correct. Many people still work at Weblogs, Inc. and in fact AOL's IPO strategy is based on Weblogs, Inc. Also, I created the Silicon Alley Reporter which was sold to Dow Jones (did ok on that one, not amazing), and i created the Techcrunch50 conference which is a significant business. Mahalo raised money from Sequoia Capital... the best VC in the business according to most.

The jobs that pay 15% more, the max money jobs, are the soul crushers in my mind. Working at a big company and being pigeon holded is the horrible thing in my mind.

Also, the dotcom world had some good ideas, like stock options and free food. The bad ideas weren't the washing your clothes part, it was the "we don't care about revenue part." Mahalo makes millions every year and is about to breakeven/turn a profit..... so, sleep well knowing we'll be around a long time and a lot of folks are going to get rich (or die trying!).

best, j


December 28, 2009, 6:21 PM #

But by barring anyone who doesn't fit your standard, don't you think that you're overlooking very talented and smart people?

You still associate sacrifice with success, and I think you ask people to give up too much to gamble on success that may or may not ever come.

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