I am a mediocre engineer at a startup. Last week every engineer more senior than I handed in their two weeks notice. This included one executive level engineer. Only a few junior engineers and the CTO remain as of Friday. The longest any of us remaining have been with the company is less than 6 months.
What should I do?
A) Sign another offer for 10% increase in salary and quit?
B) Ask for better compensation?
C) ??? Something else?
For better compensation, what kinds of things do you think extremely cheap founders would agree to?
1) Title increase.
2) Paid oncall. Flat $500 for being on rotation for a week + time and half for time responding to incident outside work hours of 9am-6pm.
3) Increase salary from below market to at least market.
4) Cash retention bonus vesting linearly every pay period for several months. This is compensate for the lack of career advancement opportunities during the time period where I anticipate having to spend 100% of my time responding to production incidents. Currently all engineers spend ~50% of time fixing production incidents. I have heard no one hiring gives a shit about maintaining the status quo, they want to see "increased business metric X by Y% resulting in $Z,000,000 of incremental revenue". I think I would lose 6 months of resume driven development if I stay and man the pumps.
5) I no longer give a shit about more equity. Not interested in a large "fake money" equity offer.
I see multiple red flags:
- I heard the executive decided to leave first, told one very senior engineer, and then the quitting cascaded all the way down through the entire old guard. Only the new guys lacking strong social ties to the old guard are left. The executive had access to detailed financial projects, strategic plans for the next year. I see his departure as a vote of no confidence in expected value of working at the company for non investors or founders. Why would a made man decide to bail? Why did everyone else immediately decide to quit despite allegedly not everyone has a new job lined up?
- Why is the company unable to retain these engineers who originally wrote the product with cash bonuses? The CEO showed us a flash of a slide of 2019 financials that allegedly are from the board meeting. The raw numbers say the company has >$20 million in cash and is making single digit millions in pure profit per year. If they have so much cash, why can't they take these guys into a conference room, put ~$100k in cash on the table (in 20s so the pile looks larger) to get these guys to stay for 3-6 months to buy time to hire replacements?
- Failure to hire a single engineer in last 6 months. If the revenue is growing like a rocket, the company is pulling in millions of accounting profits, then why can they not compete on comp to hire talent? The company makes ~2 offers per week, with zero takers for 6 months.
- I no longer trust the founders to not screw over employee equity ownership. The founders already pulled a squirrely move by attempting to start equity vesting schedule on the day the board approved it rather than my start date (delta of 5 months time because they "forgot" to do it the first board meeting after I was hired).
I had also been interviewing because I get the impression from talking to others the pay is below market for the work I am doing and working conditions were poor. However, everyone leaving was a total surprise because they have higher titles, started years earlier with what I assume is much better compensation and equity ownership.
That’s tricky. I don’t have great advice, but I can hypothesize what I might do in your shoes. If I enjoyed working on the product and wanted to continue working on it with (probably) a larger sphere of influence than before, I’d likely start by negotiating a higher salary after the initial storm blew over but before new engineers are hired, and make it clear that I would like to take more ownership of development. If successful, it would be a better situation should the need to find a new job suddenly arise. If unsuccessful, I’d start interviewing elsewhere like crazy.
Feel free to debate my point of view, but I'd argue that staying would be essentially "re-founding" the company. Because senior engineering experience is gone and in it's place, a team composed of only people with <6 month experience with the codebase.
If I found a company, I'd like to be able to choose the product concept, choose who I work with, and start with a fresh cap table / debt load, etc.
Is this a product you believe in enough to (re)-"start" a company for? Are these the people you'd pick for starting a company? What's the financial situation?