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First of all, this question is not about "how to save a startup", it's about some possible career opportunities, so I think it fits the rules of Workplace SE.

I am a lead developer in a small tech startup that has not yet got any investments, we've been performing really nice and won 2 hackathons. Now we and a couple of other selected projects are being mentored by some international experts and we're likely to be a favorite.

Everything seems to be very very nice so far, but there's one problem. It's not as if we've been cheating or whatever, all the demos we've been showing were built with our tool, 100% fair. But the promises of marketing guys are insanely exaggerated, the idea itself has been evolving, and now it requires stuff that we can't do and can't afford. It's not as if I was a pessimist or hysteric or whatever, but without really huge investments what they are claiming we do is IMPOSSIBLE (and we won't get it because we can't even show the MVP for the current idea).

So:

  • We're likely to be favorite, mentors (which are all non-tech) like our idea
  • I am the only developer that is working right on the product, not the stuff that comes alongside like promotion sites, etc
  • The team is TOO OPTIMISTIC about the opportunities, despite the fact that I have explicitly pointed out the problem, many times, not by giving some transparent hint, but by explicitly saying that we won't handle that. They seem not to be listening at all.

So, we're likely either to go down silently fading and stopping to attract attention, or the fact that our marketing guys have been constantly exaggerating (whilst we were showing not so awesome as they were saying demos) will be revealed.

The latter is much worse and I would like to avoid getting that stain on my reputation, so, why then am I participating? (that's not the question I'm asking here :))

As I've said, there are some cool guys mentoring us, and I was making some contacts, exchanging business cards, etc.

Is it possible in this situation - and, if so, how? - to make use of these contacts? I am a good developer and I have an impressive CV. Is that possible in such a situation to get a job offer from these guys or maybe some recommendation to join another projects that's not such a nonsense?

I know that it's quite a broad question, so to narrow it, how would some approach a business owner in the position like described to get better career opportunities? (I am going to leave my project anyway).

Sorry for such a long story, but I believe that without the details the full picture would be lost.

Thanks, Kate K.

  • The first 6 paragraphs are a bit superfluous. You want to network and find a new job. So do it! – user29055 Feb 16 '16 at 13:54
  • @JoeStrazzere well, I've been in software development for 6 years and I'm quite used to the fact that marketers tend not to tell the truth, but now the entire idea is based on what is impossible to accomplish with means we have and can possibly ever get. I would not like reveal the name of the project or whatever, but it's not like "We'll make it faster and thinner" but "Tomorrow we'll build a spaceship from what we've found at the junkyard". When I joined then 5 months ago it was much more realistic. – Kate Feb 16 '16 at 13:58
  • Have you tried sitting down and listing all of their wanted features, listing out time estimates, what else is required to complete said task and why some tasks are not possible (and offer alternatives). You've got a lot of back story, but haven't really provided any detail on what you've done to try and save the situation. – yuikonnu Feb 16 '16 at 14:31
  • @asdasd Adding that would increase the size even more, but basically whenever I explain the situation, it all goes like "Oh, really... sounds bad, yes, we need to re-think, yeah..." so they agree. But the next day it all goes on again. Whenever I point that out, they agree again "Yeah, remember you said that, we need to adjust the idea to our abilities, yes, you're right, let's now just do what we can for another demo" and it's been going like that for a long while already – Kate Feb 16 '16 at 15:46
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    possibly all they need are demo's to showcase an idea or part of an idea. The end product is not something that concerns them right now, their main interest is probably just to get funding and continue getting funding as long as possible. That's not uncommon. – Kilisi Feb 16 '16 at 21:10
5

Don't read too much into your networking, these people think you're cool because your marketing people are exaggerating amongst other things. They're not technical people as you have said.

If you start approaching them for a job two things will happen.

They'll wonder what is wrong with your present job that you're trying to jump ship despite all the wonderful things they're hearing, and perhaps think about withdrawing their support. They'll probably ask you about this as well.

Secondly they will think you're loyalty is questionable.

Many non technical people are impressed with developers, but have no real idea of what is involved and think that all developers are pretty much the same.

You will have a strong negotiating position and some solid credentials if the startup succeeds, but at the moment it's just hearsay.

So in answer to your question, unless you have a strong sense that you can get a job with one of them, steer clear of people associated with your present job, you could get yourself in trouble if word got out. If I were you I would apply elsewhere.

  • I don't think mentors just go by the marketing and media. They are ex-founders themselves or industry experts in most cases :) – Dawny33 Feb 16 '16 at 15:11
  • makes little difference who they are if your bosses find out that your job hunting with their mentors or whatever. – Kilisi Feb 16 '16 at 15:18
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    FWIW, "you're"="you are", not "belonging to you." – Amy Blankenship Feb 16 '16 at 17:23
  • @AmyBlankenship noted, will endeavour not to do it again :-) – Kilisi Feb 16 '16 at 20:51
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I'd like to start by pointing out the "obvious":

If you start leveraging the contacts you've just made within the startup community for a job, it is pretty likely that:

  1. The information will get back to your bosses/teammates

and

  1. That this action in and of itself will send the signal that your company is a sinking ship.

I'm a firm believer in watching out for one's own interests first and foremost, however you don't want to be too hasty.

Be careful who you approach for a job, and how you start applying.

For example, updating your LinkedIn when your entire team is part of your network would be a bad idea.

In the end, if you really, truly believe that the company is going down, run for it. However, you should also consider what your reputation in that community might become after the fact, etc.

2

Firstly, startups should not market more than what their product actually does, especially in the initial stages. It leads to disgruntled customers, and poor execution due to over-working and haphazard priorities.

Some might have different views about that, but it is from my personal experience I can say that exaggerated marketing would kill startups. Focus on delivering exactly what the mission is, and deliver it perfectly.

Is that possible in such a situation to get a job offer from these guys or maybe some recommendation to join another projects that's not such a nonsense?

Initially, they might feel that you are abandoning a sinking ship which needs your help more than anything. So, you need to explain the situation to them, clearly; and what you tried to stop the startup heading where it is heading now. And tell them that the marketing and operations strategies at your startup are killing it and you need to make a move to a better team. That would be highly appreciated.

So, send a detailed mail, or meet them personally and explain the situation and the reasons which made you jump ship. As they are closely following the processes at the startup, they would be most probably be aware of your role and seniority there, which'd make the process easier for you.

  • If Larry Ellison followed your point of view we would not have Oracle. This is the excellent product that was built on constant over-promising and under-delivering. – PM 77-1 Feb 16 '16 at 23:05
  • @PM77-1 Nice point. That is just one example is for one startup where odds have been braved nicely. My example is for 1000s others which have failed :) – Dawny33 Feb 17 '16 at 1:31
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Just about the same things you would do when applying for any other job.

The advantage you have, is they're familiar with the project. Do some research on these companies and send them your CV or apply for a specific opening. If you can mention something in the cover letter specific to meeting someone from their company, even better.

Don't bash the marketing or lack of funding. You worked on an ambitious project with lofty goals. You're suppose to be excited about that and not dwell on the practicality or viability of the project. What did you learn? How did it make you better at your job? What was the nature of the work and how could it apply to help the next company?

Many very good people have been a part of failed projects. Focus on the positive things just like any other smart candidate would.

Edit: Non-compete It may be difficult to find out, but some of these people your company are in contact with may have agreements not to hire each other's employees. You may need to spend some time talking to these people about their situation and if their company sounds desirable, let them know how you feel without coming right out and asking for a job.

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