It's exciting to work for a startup. You can become part of a team that disrupts the market — be true pioneers in a particular industry. But not all startups are created equal and there will be misguided entrepreneurs who you definitely want to avoid because they're either up to no good or are just bad at what they do. But how do you identify them? One ex-employee of a dodgy startup shared her experience and red flags to watch out for.
Over at Medium, Penny Kim, a digital marketer who ended up working for an unnamed startup for the past four months, recounted her dreadful experience. Her job as a marketing director at this startup sounded too good to be true — and it was. After a whirlwind experience at the head of the business, she realised the startup was taking her for a ride and she has since resigned.
During her tenure, she witnessed a number of warning signs that told her that she was being taken advantage of. She realised her and her fellow workers were being scammed by the co-founder of the company, who had beguiled them with his charisma, ambition and false promises. Here are the 12 red flags she listed, which she hopes would benefit others who are seeking a role at a startup:
- Red flag #1: When someone says they “hire fast and fire fast” believe them and walk away.
- Red flag #2: If it is too good to be true, it probably is.
- Red flag #3: Give some people an inch and they’ll take a mile. They’ll constantly test boundaries and see what they can ask of you or get away with.
- Red flag #4: If you’re a manager and your direct report is hired before you without your engagement, they may not be a good fit and compete for your job.
- Red flag #5: When your leader hires people for reasons other than their professional experience or qualifications, you may have a bad leader.
- Red flag #6: Your product isn’t ready if you can’t tell a compelling story.
- Red flag #7: If your founders focus on name dropping and self-aggrandisement, they’re probably compensating for something lacking.
- Red flag #8: It’s a very bad sign if your founder or co-founder is borrowing money from team members.
- Red flag #9: If your founder or co-founder has history with the law, you may want to consider working somewhere else.
- Red flag #10: There’s a huge moral and legal difference between buying time with lies versus calculated fraud.
- Red flag #11: You shouldn’t be going to work if they’re not paying you anyway.
- Red flag #12: When your CEO doesn’t want any pictures of himself online and outsources an agency to scrub his history from the internet, he’s hiding something.
The startup Kim worked for is still in operation today and has changed its name. You can read her full story over at Medium.