Being an Early Employee at Startup That Exited

I am one of the early employees at Dropsuite, previously known as Dropmysite. Today, I was informed that Dropsuite has IPOed in the Australian Stock Exchange. Technically, it is a reverse IPO. The whole process took one year. The Australian Stock Exchange, or Australian investors, is known to welcome technology companies, which is why local technology companies choose to list there. Another local example is

It’s rare to have worked in a startup that exited. Rarer still, in Singapore. I’ve worked with 6 startups where only 2 of them exited. One(Dropsuite) IPOed, the other(Courex) got acquired. The rest closed down when the money ran out. If you are considering making a move to a startup, you can use my experience as a data point.

Financially, is it worth the move?

Most startups will offer below market salary and make it up using stock options. Stock options gives you the right to buy X number of stock of the company at X price at X time. Usually you only receive stock options after you’ve worked after a year or more. Every month, you continue to receive options, until the your allotment runs out. As an early employee, you share in the ownership of the company via owning the options. You partake in shaping the future of the company.

I was one of the early employees. I wasn’t senior management, but I was in Engineering as one of the lead engineers, leading one of the key products: Dropmyemail. There were about 10 people when I joined. At that time, we were still using a shared office, and the CEO was one table across me.

My options are only a few month’s worth of salary at the current price. Considering I earned a good chunk of the option pool, this shows that unless you are one of the founders or the investors, you won’t get rich through stock options.

Is it worth it at all?

It depends on which stage you are at your career. If you are young, and weighing between a startup or a corporation, go with the startup. You will learn how to make do with less resources, learn how other functions of the business worked, more importantly learn how to get things done. That experience is priceless and will prove an asset in your later years. If you are not young anymore, either start a company as a founder, or join as the senior management. Otherwise the opportunity cost does not justify the move.