Startups, Designers can’t eat Equity!
For those of you who don’t know, Spain is in the crapper. It’s gone Greek and there’s no easy solution. While this is terrible for Spain as a whole, it’s given way to an explosion of Startups eager to create the next Apple or Facebook and put Spain back where it belongs.
Of course this Startup explosion is by no way limited to Spain, you only have to scour the creative job boards to see that the traditional design positions have largely disappeared and have been replaced by something along these lines:
Acme Design is looking for an awesome UI/UX designer to help us turn social networking on it’s head! We have a world class team, whose goal it is to make this world a little better, through intelligent design. But don’t worry it’s not all work, work, work. We’re a crazy bunch of nerds as well. This is a tremendous opportunity for an extremely talented individual to work for free with the possibility to make a few pennies on the 0.1% equity we’re planning on rewarding to the 70 hour a week work slave lucky enough to be chosen. So come on, you know you want to.
And therein lies the problem. Everyone has a great idea (or not as the case may be) for a business and even occasionally the knowledge to make it a reality, but startups being what they are generally seem to suffer from the same problem, a lack of funding. If there are no funds, how do you pay someone to work for you? How do you realise this dream?
You offer equity…
As I understand it spec work is bad, right? Everyone knows that. You’re asked to produce a piece of work in the hope that you land the gig and you get paid. The problem of course is that there are 50 other designers vying for the same spot. 49 times out of 50, you’re working for free. So…if you can help it, don’t do it.
Now, how is working for equity any different from spec work? At it’s core it’s not any different. You work on a product or service in the hope that it will become the next Facebook and you’ll get paid. But you’d best not forget that 92% of all startups fall flat on their arses. (that’s financial talk) You’d better fill up on bagels now, because you’re next meal might be a long way off!
The Flip Side
(Unfortunately) You can’t talk about equity based salaries without mentioning the success story. Facebook. I attended this years Made In Spain design conference and was lucky enough to hear the Cuban Council speak about some of the lessons they’ve learned over the years.
Lesson number one: Don’t always take the money, why? Because they designed the Facebook logo for chump change, while others who took a % cut are now millionaires. Who could’ve known? (not them) but the fact remains, that sometimes a gamble can pay off. You just have to be in a position to take that gamble, and have some savings in the bank.
My real issue with all this equity business isn’t that these startups are promising pots of gold, it’s that they’re promising pots of gold while you’re working full time on their product. (for free)
I’m sorry guys, but you can’t eat equity*
*Credit to @LyallTimmons