For any early stage employees stuck with startups verbally promising significant equities, CTO position and no salary: Run away and stop undervaluing yourself.

Background: ~4 years experience. Was member of core technical team of 2 startups that had successful exits. Had few startup failures as well from which I have learnt a lot.

Until 2 months ago, I was stuck in a pretty bad situation (CTO position with no salary, low equity, only verbal contract, very abusive founders) at a startup without realising it. Now that I am out of it and doing well, it was so apparent that they were using me baseless promises.

If you are stuck in any such situation, I highly suggest you look up Stockholm Syndrome, seek help and GET OUT of it immediately. After reflecting on input on my previous post, it became clear to me that I was swimming deep in their bullshit for months. The mental torture is just not worth it and I think it only adds to the self-doubt. Thanks to this subreddit I got out and have entirely cut them off.

Besides, I was highly undervaluing my skills and expertise due to their constant demotivation and threats. Little did I know that there was tremendous demand for experienced CTOs and the value we bring to the table when it comes to building quick MVPs and MERN based scalable applications post idea validation/market fit. I got over my fear, skipped the freelancer phase entirely and took the leap to start my own 2 person software development company-cum-venture studio last month on 8th September– after targeting only HNWI and their side ventures, today we crossed 74 Lakhs ($ 95k+) in sales with a solid MRR despite of the pandemic. Thankfully, we are getting more projects from existing handful of clients and their word-of-mouth referral, so we are not even pitching any more for now.

Do what you do best. And please stop wasting your valuable time with people who do not value you or constantly bring you down– be it friends, family or co-workers. Also, do not work with anyone based on verbal confirmation – get it on paper with legal help and protect your interests. Dishonest and abusive people always show their real colours when you ask them for a written contract.

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