Startups say the darndest things - a translation cheat sheet

After seeing too many YC companies have recruiting ads that look something like the one below, I decided to provide a quick translation guide for those wanting to work at a startup.

Typical startup job posting: "We are a pre-revenue startup that got early traction with customers that love our product. Our viral product is highly disruptive and we’ve got a great team with a proven track record. Now we need your help to shape the product and make sure it scales to support millions of users. We work hard and play hard so you’ll have a great time. Equity available."

(One question you should ask yourself is why a company that seems to be doing so amazingly well is not recruiting experts in their area at above market rates instead of giving equity to new hires)


"Equity available"
We are not profitable by a long shot. By the time we get profitable and the VCs have taken their share your stake will be worth zero. 

"We’ve got early traction"
Our investors has made sure their other portfolio companies use our product. 

"We’ve got great backing"
We managed to convince VCs to give us money but we haven’t convinced any actual customers to do so. 

"We are in the pre-revenue stage" (my personal favourite)
Our product is far from ready and right now we are burning through VC capital like it’s 1996. 

"We’ve got a great team"
The founder has convinced some of his CS pals to join. 

"Our product is viral"
Our product spams Facebook users. Any change in the Facebook API can kill us.

"We are highly disruptive"
We don’t know the difference between sustained innovation and disruptive innovation. Furthermore, we are not knowledgable of the industry we are in. (You should also question why it is so important for them to be disruptive. The focus should be on creating revenue, not disrupting an industry just because you can).

"Early user feeback is that they love the product"
Our friends and family said that they think it’s a cool idea but haven’t actually tried the product themselves.

"We work hard and play hard"
Expect to work late nights without compensation.

"Our team has a proven track record"
One of the founders  had a successful exit in an industry completely unrelated to this one and will try to use that experience in this new startup even though his learnings are completely unrelated.

"You will get a chance to shape the product"
You will NEED to shape the product since we don’t know what we are doing.

"We need to scale to handle millions of users"
We’ve told out VC:s that we will have millions of users so we need you to build a platform that supports that today even though we have just a few customers right now.

(If you read this far you should follow me on Twitter!)

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