We were bound by the same agreement.
Bryan’s article already covers the part of about reading everything before you sign it. So I’ll just elaborate a bit on it and add my unique spin to it:
The most important thing you can learn as a young worker at someone else’s company, the one thing that nobody told me is this: Stock and stock options are not gifts; they are a responsibility. Let me repeat that; stock is a RESPONSIBILITY. In todays ridiculous legal environment, stock could even be thought of as a liability. Stock and options are a way not only for an employer to “buy” your loyalty, they are also a way for them to enforce it too. Thats right boys and girls, shareholder’s agreements often have their own set of rules and responsibilities, and they are a particularly insidious way for employers to keep you from working in your own field for a certain amount of time. Remember that next time you’re being offered stock.
I’m not saying that you shouldn’t take that start up job and work your ass off. I don’t regret that decision at all. Its taught me a lot about who I am. However, I might have read some agreements a little more closely if I could do it over again. Now then, back to the employer agreements. All large companies seem to have them these days, and they deserve a little more leeway in that they are for the most part run from a fear based culture. Its not the large ones you have to worry about anyways, its the small ones. If a startup company comes to you, and requires you sign an awful lot of paperwork just to work there, you need to take a second look at the place. They have a LOT more control over the paperwork they choose to put in front of you than the large companies, and a bunch of shitty and restrictive paperwork should tell you all you need to know about what they really think about you.
I firmly believe that taking a job at a startup when you’re young and you have nothing to lose is a great way to find the inner entrepreneur in yourself. Its a great way to establish a life, and its a great way to get a start in your field of choice. Understand what you’re giving though, the gift of youth, passion and excitement. That gift is worth much more than anything the employer can give you in return. Remember that, and make sure to find the right company to dedicate yourself to.