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My previous project was developing an SaaS. I started a start up company. I developed everything from design, planning, launching, and maintaining the SaaS on my own, which is great on my resume and great to talk about. The problem is that this start up hasn't taken off just yet. So I am looking for a job to support myself in the meantime. When interviewing for jobs, I'm asked about this position, there was an instance where a company looked down at the fact that I took on more responsibilities that I should have and build this SaaS which was at first impressive BUT it may not have succeeded that great if I am at this interview looking for a job.

My question is, how should I present this experience in a positive light so it does not work against me? it is important to present this experience like I'm no longer tied to it full time and I'm ready to commit to a new job, even though I will continue to develop it, on the side on my free time. Also, the planning and work that went in to creating this SaaS from scratch, took upwards of two years and low pay. What do I say if I'm asked about how much I was paid there (which was zero most of the time)? Also, what if I am asked for references about this position?

Lastly, would a viable option be representing myself as a partner of the company that made $X/hr even though this isn't necessarily true?

  • Are you applying for a job creating software, or a job running a business? – jmac Sep 26 '13 at 5:03
  • Creating software – AnchovyLegend Sep 26 '13 at 13:06
  • Are you willing to show some of your site's code and design? If it is any good, it sounds to me like an excellent portfolio. – user8365 Sep 26 '13 at 18:23
  • thanks for the feedback @JeffO. Sure, I wouldn't mind displaying some code snippets. – AnchovyLegend Sep 26 '13 at 18:57
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You have nothing to hide. Employers want initiative, obviously you have it. What they don't want is distractions, therefore the fact that you're still working on this might be a problem. You're in another rather interesting bind - if you work on for the company on a project that uses what you know about your SaaS product, they're afraid of conflict of interest, if you work on something unrelated, you're diluting your core knowledge.

You might consider consulting, based on the business knowledge you have, rather than the technical side. You might have to drop a hint as to what the service is, it might make it easier to determine if there's any value in that.

If you really need full time work, you're going to have to put the startup idea away for awhile. If you can do 1099 contracting in 'survival mode', this would keep the business alive. You really need to find someone hardnosed that can tell you whether you're wasting your time - I've seen a lot of services that compete in crowded markets and shouldn't have been done in the first place.

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My question is, how should I present this experience in a positive light so it does not work against me?

Experience you gained while trying to start your own company is extremely valuable in many cases. The technology, processes and perhaps business skills you honed may very well be an asset to your new company. Concentrate on these - just as you would if you had been employed by a company at the time and had worked on projects that didn't happen to get launched.

it is important to present this experience like I'm no longer tied to it full time and I'm ready to commit to a new job, even though I will continue to develop it, on the side on my free time.

I suspect this is your biggest problem. You have to ask your self if you really are committed to a new job, or if you are just committed until your free time gig takes off. Interviewers will ask this, because they usually want to hire employees for the long haul who are dedicated to their new company. Come up with a great answer and practice saying it until it feels natural.

On the other hand if in your heart you really aren't committed to a new job, you may be better off working as a contractor. That way, your commitment is expected only for the duration of the contract, and you can re-assess your situation in between contracts.

Also, the planning and work that went in to creating this SaaS from scratch, took upwards of two years and low pay. What do I say if I'm asked about how much I was paid there (which was zero most of the time)?

If asked, you should be honest and explain to the interviewer that you drew no pay most of the time. This is perfectly reasonable. Explaining how you were trying to launch a product and company will help the interviewer understand.

Also, what if I am asked for references about this position?

Do you have any references? Perhaps a financial backer, partner, or someone you hired? Perhaps a client with whom you were working?

If you have references for that period of time, provide them if required. Otherwise, use references prior to that period.

Lastly, would a viable option be representing myself as a partner of the company that made $X/hr even though this isn't necessarily true?

Viable? I don't believe lies are usually viable alternatives, but that is something your personal ethics will dictate.

I can say that I never hire people who lie to me (assuming I find out before an offer is made). And finding out that an employee lied during an interview is grounds for firing in every company where I have ever worked.

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I would look upon your start-up as a positive depending on the position you were interviewing for. Many start-ups are done while the person is still working or working part-time. You will need to convince the employer that the start-up is now self sufficient and will not conflict with your business requirements of the new job. This I think would be the major worry of the prospective employer. Also, do you plan to leave again once the start-up is able to produce you a wage? As an employer I would hate to think I have put my trust in someone and they perform well and then they are gone again. If neither of these are an issue then I would be happy to employ you on these grounds and look at your knowledge that you gained from the start-up as a great asset to my company.

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