Men Behaving Badly: The Startup Edition
March 9, 2015 Updated: Ellen Pao gets her day in court
July 5, 2014
Bloodhound and Grooveshark now added to the ever growing list of startups behaving badly; and, Tinder sued by their former female VP of Marketing for sex discrimination & retaliation is what’s needed to keep drilling home how much sexism is part of the startup business model. Startups are about profitability at all costs-sustainability, ethics and laws be damned with founder’s egos eclipsing the sun; but, were really just puppets for the VCs. And it’s not surprising that Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers Silicon Valley’s most fabled venture capital firm was also accused of sex discrimination and retaliation by former employee Ellen Pao.
I worked for a medical device startup based in Menlo Park, CA (not tech-but very similiar) and my territory was originally all of AZ and I’d travel back to Menlo for meetings and trainings) but one pattern that’s very similar between tech and med device startup was sex discrimination followed by retaliation. Reported and ignored by HR. It wasn’t until I realized that my career was the “Prince” in life and once I put workplace abuse into terms of relationship abuse-things became much clearer for me.
I developed this list after I was wrongfully terminated
Huge money on the line in startups, investors want their ROI, and there’s a common theory that startups are under-regulated and don’t have to follow HR rules as a result. The carrot at the end of the tunnel was to power through the abuse because we were all part of something bigger than ourselves and the company would file for an IPO or sell to a conglomerate. While I tried to be a I was too green at the time to understand why we would never be able to obtain an IPO and it was nothing more than a maniuplation tactic to keep everyone motivated and allowed managers and executives to ignore obviously reported abuse.
And I was at a loss to explain how manager who was supposed to be working Monday-Friday felt compelled to email us on a Saturday morning during the holiday season to belittle us. From this short email there’s obvious manipulation and not recognizing the rights of others. The tone from the email is threatening, insulting and meant to demean which are all characteristics of The Sociopathic Business Model™.
To give that demeaning, insulting and threatening email context of unrealistic growth expectations; and, out of a 72 rep sales force only eight were women during this time:
Most companies expect a steady increase of 10% to an aggressive 20% in sales year over year in comparison. Futher proof the sustainability model is “off” in startups; and, realistically how does someone grow their business 43% over the previous year and STILL only end up 77% to quota? Employees at most companies would be getting promoted over those numbers.
Note the memo line in the email: Help Please. I had asked my manager for these numbers several times but he refused to provide them. Management can manipulate the facts when reps don’t have them. I went over his head (to the respected source regarding things numbers at the company) and acquired the factual information.
This is when I started really noticing not only the “projections were off” but at that rate we’d all be out of jobs the following year. I kept telling my manager and his manager that “the math is off.” I tracked my business and this trend within the company in order to understand my business and what I ended up finding out is that my company did NOT know theirs. The Company pulled the IPO filing and sold to a large conglomerate in January 2010.
Once the company was sold the same growth projections were placed on the reps and company (executives over promised and the there was no way reps could do anything but under deliver). The conglomerate error was to not immediately move from a hypergrowth sales model to a sustainable growth sales model.
This wasn’t just “my” story it was again “our” story as every rep was feeling the same negative results; and, confirmed the following year (2010) there were 82 reps and less than 10 made their annual quota; and, Januray 4, 2011, two weeks before the National Sales Meeting where such information could be discussed, and I would have been vocal with my fact based data, I was terminated.
So, what does all this mean?
1: It supports the theory that startups are only concerned with profit or hypergrowth (to show investors and leverage with potential buyers) and any IPO talk is just a manipulation to keep the carrot out in front. No company can go IPO without showing sustainable profits (which is different than hypergrowth).
What every Startup employee should know about stock options. There is ‘preferred stock’ which the investors or VC’s get and there is ‘common stock’ which is what the employees get. And owners of preferred stock get the added perk of ‘liquidation preferences,’ which means once the startup sells, the owners of preferred stock get a guaranteed amount of money from the sale.
And the executives who over promised already made their money, some were victims and some accomplices were given new seed money for the next startup; and, they left the company they built behind to die on the vine along with it all the people who helped build the successful business. Greed, fraud and mismanagement shouldn’t lead to running more companies it should lead to an episode of American Greed where the stars watch from behind bars.
2. Startups will manipulate, pathologically lie, threaten, engage in unethical or illegal behavior which almost always starts with EEOC violations as a trigger (Retaliation, Race, Sex Discrimination)
And here is a sample from my “anonymous” 360 Review of my Manager, which he later quoted exactly back to me while threatening me. Yeah-I think that quailifies as EEOC violations. Click the link to read more fun with HR and Management!
It should also be pointed out that prior to this he mentioend several times that “this isn’t a job for women.” I’ve stated before I went through the proper channels three times (twice as a startup and once under the buyout).
I was working with someone from the Home Office when my managered called, screamed and me and called me a “fucking idiot and a liar” (pertaining to an account which we had just left); and, that person riding with me was kind enough to come to forward in my defense and support my allegations against my manager. Which then prompted a threatening call from the Company HR Attorney stating I could not discuss this with anyone “or get people to come forward on my behalf” or it would end in immediate termination.
Yep it all starts with gross neglect the EEOC rights of employees and once they bulldoze over those laws it’s on to bigger unethical and illegal behavior; and again, it’s not a trend it’s entrenched in business-where it’s encouraged, replicated and rewarded.
Tinder’s Former VP of Marketing Whitney Wolfe supports the initial trigger case study with EEOC sex discrimination and retaliations claims triggering signs The Sociopathic Business Model™is used by the Company. It will be interesting to follow this case to see if other unethical or illegal behavior is exposed regarding CMO Justin Mateen and co-founder or CEO Sean Rad.
And another case study in the making from Bloodhound:
TechCrunch once hailed the tradeshow app as “genius” and Peter Thiel led a $3 million investment round in the “blowing up” company. So when a landlord drove out a popular arts collective from its home in the heart of the San Francisco’s Mission District, Bloodhound was quick to sign as the new tenant. Fifteen months later, the company is out on the street and being sued for unpaid rent.
And begin the pathological lies:
When emailed for comment, Bloodhound co-founder Anthony Krumeich simply stated “We moved out of the office. No longer fit our needs.” However court documents indicate Bloodhound has gone AWOL and abandoned their office. The landlord’s attorney has not been able to issue the company or its founders a summons. Now court documents are prominently taped to Bloodhound’s former front door. Source: ValleyWag
Or Grooveshark employees who fear retaliation (that sounds familiar doesn’t it?)
The unnamed employee says they anonymously published to Pastebin “so I won’t be sued into oblivion.” After reading through the rant, it’s hard to imagine the place will be around much longer Source: ValleyWag:
Let’s keep this in mind as you read the following:
Grooveshark employee here. I’m posting this anonymously so I won’t be sued into oblivion. They will sue you into oblivion.
It’s bad. Really, really bad. So bad I figured I should do something.
> 10 people laid off mid-June
No one was spared. Senior engineers and people who were here for less than a year were both kicked out.
Sam (our fucking CEO) lied about our valuation back around October. He told us point-blank we were worth $375 million. Bullshit. We barely rake in $13 million a year and we’re being sued to hell, how the hell are we worth 28x that?
Hey investors! We have a deal for you: Sam and clown circus are trying to raise $60 million for the Series B. $30 million of that will go to paying off the major music labels because Sam was caught red-handed uploading pirated music to his website. The rest will be spent helping us pivot from being ad-based to subscription-based in a market full of strong competitors that aren’t being sued to hell. Ready to invest?
Our positive Glassdoor reviews are nearly all fake. Really. If you scroll back through to the reviews written in February, you’ll see a bunch of “Work here! It’s awesome!” reviews that Adrian-Hayes Santos ordered out of us since HR was convinced no developers wanted to work at Grooveshark because our Glassdoor rating wasn’t high enough. How about our pay motherfucker? Is $40,000 really compensation for spending 50-60 hours a week here doing hard work? You want to read an honest review? See this one (I know exactly who wrote it):
The people who make all the decisions are all Greek culture and smooth-tongued PR fucks. From that controlling bitch Julia Anderson over at QA to our laughable excuse of an in-house lawyer Jeff to the 40+ year old frat bros Todd Chase and Dan Rua. You know you’re working on illegal shit when Dan Rua’s in the house. Guy worked on Napster too. God help you if you’re not drinking with these douchebags, because you’re probably next on the chopping block.
In addition to being all Greek fucks and suits, the executive team is incompetent. They went on a hiring spree getting 10-20 people on board from a guy who used to work on the original Mac team to a bunch of HR clowns. Now, I’m not a math guy, but let me figure this out:
1) Revenue is constant
2) The company is already just barely scraping by
3) You go on a hiring spree
These dumbasses were so confident they would get funding that they decided to start hiring immediately. Fuck. You. Guys. We lost a lot of good people because of you fucks.
Interestingly enough, the HR people who do fucking do nothing got to stay. The guys who did actual work got fired. This used to be a really fun environment instead of a corporate hellhole. All our perks are gone or meaningless too and we’ve all got paycuts. Morale was low before, but now it’s in the dumps.
We don’t have the money to keep people on for next to nothing, but we do have money for instigating lawsuits that they kindly don’t mention to us ever:
Oh, and last bit. Grooveshark operates by social blackmail. You don’t let anything out because your friends work at the company, and you don’t want bad things to happen to your friends, right? Sorry guys, but you’ve already been fucked. Alex Shifrin’s already cheated you out of your stock options, and Sam’s going to keep lying to you. I’m tired of seeing good people getting hurt because of these douchebags, and it’s going to hurt before it gets better. I’m working here until I can find a decent job somewhere else where I won’t have to sell my soul anymore.
Tough to verify if the employee is really a Grooveshark employee or verify the facts immediately; but, fact based evidence over time has proven anonymous message boards from employees start out of frustration and because the company is ignoring the facts. And if even half of what was written is true, The Sociopathic Business Model™ is alive and well.
3. And if you’re an employee who finds yourself working for a company employing The Sociopathic Business Model™ protect yourself: