I am stuck in between a rock and hard place. Any advice

Hey guys. I am kind of in a bit of a pickle. As with everyone else on the forum, I am looking to obtain full time employment as a developer. This last week I’ve sent out around 30 maybe 40 resume’s. So far I’ve only gotten one response. That response is from a start up, which is “non-funded” And it seems like the product is good, (or maybe I am just bias’ed because I would be an end user of this software). The company is small and there are 17 employee’s. Here’s the curve ball. They are all working for equity share’s in the company. Depending on situation earning said shares between 1-4 years, 75% of the team has been there for 2+ years. So… While they only devote 5-10 hours a week, because they are able to financially survive. I dont know if i should accept or if not…

I slept on it. And then this morning had an idea, What if I worked on the project 2-4 hours a week, and what if they were okay with me using the work I do on said app, in my portfolio to show potential employers that I really do have professional experience, and that I can collaborate with a team remotely.

What would you guys do?
You need to leave current job. It is unhealthy in every way. so working for free is not a viable option. You have a child you have to provide for. But you also got an idea, that this could be a way in to the industry.

Yeah, I’m sending out resumes now - I feel your pain. That is just part of the process. You keep beating your head against the wall until it opens up.

As you the start-up, the “sweat equity” offer, that is not uncommon in start-ups. The things I would consider are:

  1. Is anyone else getting paid? I wouldn’t want to do it if I’m the only one not getting paid.
  2. Do you believe in the product? Could this be a big thing?
  3. Is you stake clearly outlined? Have they clearly defined what your share in the company is? It’s easy to take these things on faith, but you can get screwed in the long run.
  4. Though you may not be earning money, will you at least be learning/gaining experience?

Assuming the first three are kosher, that last one is a biggie. How many hours a week to you spend coding? Could you apply some of those to this real life learning situation? You would be getting some real world experience and building up the resume, even just a little.

You mention, “You need to leave current job.” Are you saying that you would have to quit your current job to do this? If you have to quit your job and take care of a kid, then I’d definitely think twice about it, though. But you also might want to look closely at your schedule and ask if you can’t carve out an hour a day. First of all, this can count as your coding time. How much TV do you watch? How much time do you spend on social media? Etc.

If you were single, and only to take care of yourself, I’d say go for the startup. Even if that means eating Maruchan Ramen noodles for every dinner. Crash at a friend’s place, or sleep at the office, or sleep in your car.

But the child changes the equation big time (at least for me, if I was in that situation.). You can’t buy groceries and pay bills with “equities.” – not unless you have savings that will last for months.

I’d say keep the current job, and keep looking… but that’s my personal opinion.

The equity promise can bring $$$ in your eyes… but only if the company becomes successful, profitable AND got acquired/sold. And you’re the 18th person to join, and you weren’t there on day 1, so your equity will probably be smaller than 5%. 5% of 1M is not much. 5% of 10M is a good payday. But 5% of 0 is also nothing.


Hey guys, the online employment apps use a program to scan your resume and see if you meet the criteria. The more “phrases” in your resume and cover letter that match the job description exactly, the more likely it is your resume will get in front of the reviewer. I tested this theory by applying for a job I wasn’t qualified for once. I copied the job description than re-wrote it to say things like "I am a ‘people-oriented person’ or I do not have ‘language/skill’ but I am a ‘hard-working’, ‘team focused’ individual.

I got a call a few days later. I kinda felt bad for wasting his time…

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Sit down meeting booked.
I am single in a sense… I could be just smoking a pipe dream but it feels too good to be true in a sense…
But I guess… Even if It means top ramen for weeks, just having code from an actual company in my portfolio as professional experience is better than nothing, and will be a great step in obtaining more employment, Right guys/gals?

Thank you Ks, This is great.

  1. I am under the impression no one else is being paid, how ever they are all at the point to be obtaining their equity in terms of time put in, It sounds.
  2. After looking further into it, I kind of do… I could be just having Confirmation bias’ because It would serve me directly in a very serious avenue. it is an ios/android app (already on Gstore.) to enable separated parent easier manage aspects of co-parenting resources.
  3. No steak outlined clearly yet, how ever it seems as if an on-faith type deal, earn equity between 1-4 years, probably to be fleshed out if there is actual fit and plans to on-board?
  4. Thats the primary driver for my decision here… I would potentially, If I’m able to share code I work on with the company, assuming theres no NDA or something… I would have “professional” experience to show. Working with a company, and potentially meeting people I could use as a reference to other employers.

I want to leave my current job because of the way it is on me, its not a good job, mentally, or physically. Also the wage is slim to none… So the option of quiting out right is not on the table, not without having pay resume immediately. Hence why I’m iffy about working for equity, But if like you said, I could put some of the time I spend learning coding, into working on a real world project with a company, and team, that shows potential employers how valuable I could be… or thats what I would assume… Hence why I feel like im stuck…

Exactly thats counting on the future, and I dont like to do that.

If and thats a big IF, the company even makes it to a point where there is interest to buy the company… And the points you mention are EXACTLY why im so hesitant on doing it, But again what about if i were to only devote 2-4 hours to work on their project, Would the ability to show it on my portfolio be worth it in obtaining other full time employment?
If that makes sense…

Yea, youre so correct. I always go through and re-word my resume/CV to hit hot keywords they mention in the ad, hoping to jump. like you mentioned. Thanks for that tip!

“I could be just having Confirmation bias’ because It would serve me directly in a very serious avenue.”

But the old adage is to invest in what you know. You know this market. Is there a big enough market? Seems to me there is? Is this app doing something that no other app does as well and can’t be easily done without the app? Does it add value? You are better judge of that than I am.

“No steak outlined clearly yet, how ever it seems as if an on-faith type deal, earn equity between 1-4 years, probably to be fleshed out if there is actual fit and plans to on-board?”

I would want something in writing, or even just an email exchange. They can always structure it as “5% to start and then 1% added per year for the next five years” or something. But I find it hard to believe that these guys are all working on this for years with no agreement. That’s how startups end up in major lawsuits.

“I would potentially, If I’m able to share code I work on with the company, assuming theres no NDA or something… I would have “professional” experience to show.”

Even if you can’t share the code, it still shows as experience.

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Thank you so much for your insight! You’ve helped bring up very valuable points I was not looking at or thinking about.

Where should I begin learning about what to ask for in terms of the structure your talking about? like you said in your earlier post, I would potentially be the 18th man, I want to know what I’m talking about when it comes to negotiating the equity, it seems you have a good idea about how that goes. Any more tips or things I need to think about and ask them about when it comes to any further communications with my contact?

To add to KS’s point, I’d try to get a commitment that is stronger than “earn equity between 1-4 years” - You need to know when you will next see a paycheck! It doesn’t sound like you are in a position to basically be a volunteer for up to 4 years.

If you are working towards being a partner in this thing, you should have access to their financials and business plan. You need to be able to assess their capability to deliver in order to determine whether these guys are worth investing so much risk in.


Okay, so I need to figure out a list of things so far.

  1. What would my potential stake be and how will i obtain that offer, If they dont want to give me anything in writing about the equity should i refuse? (assuming i get an offer.)
  2. I need to validate that, out of other “employees” or 75% of volunteers have been there for 3+ years, does that mean they have began getting equity already? or had they arranged payment in terms of an hourly pay instead of equity?
    3 - albeit more raising personal questions… is it common for your contact to mention hes flying back and fourth having “board meetings” what is the point of sending that to a potential developer… selling me my own pipe dream?One, what would my potential stake be? or does that conversation come once there is an offer on the table?
  3. What exactly would the JavaScript work on the mobile application entail, am I writing code that I can share, even if i cant share it, I would be working with a “real” company working on a “real” project (that is on app stores), Potentially gaining the most valuable part of the equation, Experience in real application…

5+6 I am not going to lie. It seems too good to be true… My contact works in one of the top 2 big names companies…

I’ve set a date to meet with founder/invester/operations?, co-founder, & lead developer, in November.

#1. No signed contract is as good as nothing, it didn’t happen, they didn’t promise anything to you.

#2. It could also be pro-rated, and/or have vesting time frame.

#3. trying to impress you?

#4. Employers may ask what exactly did you work on, on this project. It’s not like you published/made the app as a solo project. In that regards, I think having a bunch of your own personal projects/apps posted on the App store under your own name will (to me) be more impressive… than say a developer that says he works for Zynga and he worked on WWF on the App Store. But he probably just created the graphics badge for the game, who knows? :slight_smile:

#5/6. You know what they say “if it’s too good to be true…” Welp, trust your gut instincts.

Good luck!

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Also KS I forgot about the time aspect you mentioned. Ive taken extreme measures this last year, in terms of imparting self discipline and self motivation unto myself. I watch 0 TV, I spend 0 time on social media like twitter. I dont have facebook/insta/pin/any other attention consuming apps. But as with everyone I do find myself wandering down the LearnProgramming reddit, or Freecodecamp medium for a few minutes every now and again. But I have also taken major steps at managing my time like you bring up here. Its a complicated scenario I am in to say the least.

Well, if you are maxed out on time, then the choice seems clear. You can offer what you can offer and either they accept it or they don’t. You have to take care of your family and you only have so many hours. You can’t take every opportunity. Maybe this one slides by.

Some of the things you are saying make me question how strong this opportunity is.

out of other “employees” or 75% of volunteers have been there for 3+ years,

What, what? This is a startup that’s been going for 3+ years and they aren’t generating any revenue? How many people are working there? That seems like a very long time. Maybe I’m jaded by my proximity so Silicon Valley, but that seems like a long time to be developing without hitting the market.

is it common for your contact to mention hes flying back and fourth having “board meetings” what is the point of sending that to a potential developer… selling me my own pipe dream?

Yeah, that would make me worry, too. I’ve known too many guys with “big ideas” and lots of flash that like to sweep up talent in their tornado of histrionic enthusiasm. These guys can be quite seductive. And some of these guys go on to do amazing things. But a lot of them just burn out the people around them before they move on to the next batch of dupes. To me, the impression I get is that these people are like the magician waving their silk scarf to dazzle you and distract you. They are pied pipers. Maybe that is a little unfair (I’m sure most of them believe their BS) but I would be wary.

As others have commented, I’d definitely want an agreement. Would you accept a job where they didn’t tell you what the salary is? “Sure, we’ll pay you something. Just start working, we’ll figure it out later.” When you accept a “sweat equity” job, you are accepting equity in exchange for work. You are gambling. To put it another way, would you make a bet if you didn’t know what the payoff is? Sure, give us $100 for 1/100 odds. What is the payout? $.01? $1,000,000?

That is what you are doing here, you are making a bet with tough odds. But the potential payout is big. But what percentage of that payout will be yours?

I would be very wary of a company that’s been running for 3+ years with no formal equity agreement. They don’t even seem to be able to answer the question. It should have been automatically part of the offer. If it were a regular job, it would not be inappropriate to ask what the salary is before accepting (if the company were incompetent enough not to have included it in the offer) and I don’t think it would be inappropriate for you to ask here. Frankly it seems a little unprofessional them not to have mentioned it.

For example I was recently forming a company with a couple friends. At the first meeting we outlined exactly what was expected from each person, what the areas of responsibilities were, what kind of time commitment was expected of each, and how equity would be divided. This should be automatic.

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Thank you! So There is alot more I need to think over. So much of this I have absolutely no exp with like negotiating for equity that I wont earn for X amount of time. that is foreign to me entirely.

It sounds like the company working on said product has been going for 3 years atleast according to his comment of “75%of the current staff has been working 3 years.” and the application is in beta on app stores. Mind you they are “pre-funding” and it seems as if my contact works at microsoft as a day job, he mentioned another thing that is really striking me odd. the other developer is a pilot @ insert airline here… again why do I need to know this… Where is the catch, something smells fishy but I cant tell if its genuine interest to give a newbie a shot or if there is ulterior motives to get a newbie to work for free for a few years…

No definitely wouldn’t except a job with out any previous discussion of salary. Also I am just un-trusting of pipe dreams to begin with… Thank you so much for much of the wisdom here Ks. Truly needed.

as a side note had a phone interview i completely bombed today too. Lol. Good timing too caught me completely off guard.

I think it is his way of telling you “we don’t make a living off of this and neither will you”.

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I think you’re absolutely right.

But again I cant help but circle back to, would the “professional experience” be worth any time investment?
That is the major thing I heard from previous interviews last year, “get professional experience” then I’d be a better suited candidate.

“Professional experience” can be a lot of things. This could be it. (But if they’re in beta test, there may not be much to do).

I’m sure there are lots of nonprofits that would love to have a web developer, too.

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You are right, and I’m sure finding one will only be a matter of time.

I think it would be best maybe to not get wrapped up in a start up that has been bootstrapping for 3 years… maybe I should send them a message saying I need to respectfully decline the face to face.