How much $ have you made in stock options at your startups?

New / Product
zeekerton

New Product

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Amazon
BIO
Hi!
zeekertonmore
Jan 6, 2018 21 Comments

I feel like I might be in the minority here but I’ve never made any money on stock options. I’m talking real money that has hit my bank account. In fact, on paper I’m actually in the negative $10,000. My first startup was acquired and I ended up with what was essentially meaningless stock, and I actually had to pay to exercise some stock from my past company which just had a major down round

I think stock options at startups are one of this industry’s dirty little secrets. Founders and maybe a few early employees make some money, but in the majority of cases stock ends up being worthless. Founders have a real upper hand here over employees. Even vesting agreements are starting to look ridiculous with 15% of your stock options becoming available for you to purchase after a 1 year cliff. Have I mentioned these ludicrous exercise rules? Pay your strike price within 3 months of leaving a startup or lose everything? Talk about the odds being stacked against you. Who has $100k lying around to exercise all these stock options that might be worth nothing one day? Yet another example of founders and investors not having employees best interests in mind.

Have you made anything on your stock options at a startup? Knowing what you know now, do you value salary or equity significantly more?

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TOP 21 Comments
  • Snapchat / Eng
    Fibonappy

    Snapchat Eng

    PRE
    PepsiCo
    BIO
    I'm Dic.
    Fibonappymore
    8 figures but my story isn't the typical.
    Jan 6, 2018 6
    • Snapchat / Eng
      Fibonappy

      Snapchat Eng

      PRE
      PepsiCo
      BIO
      I'm Dic.
      Fibonappymore
      Thank you! I will say that it isn't quite as awesome as I imagined it would be. I have some nicer things but overall I don't think it made a big impact on my happiness. Advice I have for anyone trying to jackpot a startup is to focus on what actually makes you happy and not just money!
      Jan 6, 2018
    • New / Product LavarBall
      8 figures post tax at the current value?
      Jan 7, 2018
    • Snapchat / Eng
      Fibonappy

      Snapchat Eng

      PRE
      PepsiCo
      BIO
      I'm Dic.
      Fibonappymore
      Correct. I don't hold anymore stock in that company. Sold off a while back.
      Jan 7, 2018
    • New / Product LavarBall
      Must have been very early. Maybe one of the first 20 engineers?
      Jan 7, 2018
    • Palantir / Eng Babadook
      Jan 20, 2018
  • New / Product LavarBall
    What you’re explaining is exactly why we take these jobs. If you find yourself at the 1% of companies that make it, you should get paid out well. If you’re not interested in that risk there are plenty of jobs that pay solid salaries, good annual bonuses and don’t require 80-90 hour work weeks.
    Jan 6, 2018 1
    • New / Product
      zeekerton

      New Product

      PRE
      Amazon
      BIO
      Hi!
      zeekertonmore
      OP
      You’re right. Thanks for the comment!
      Jan 6, 2018
  • Jet NJ100
    Made 0 many times but recently netted millions. It’s not luck - learn who to bet on.
    Jan 6, 2018 3
    • New / Product
      zeekerton

      New Product

      PRE
      Amazon
      BIO
      Hi!
      zeekertonmore
      OP
      Would love to hear more
      Jan 6, 2018
    • Jet NJ100
      Story is that simple. Joined. Good team. Millions.
      Jan 8, 2018
    • Clara Lending / Product oleole
      Team vs. Market, Market always wins. Good team is huge, but product market fit is better
      Feb 2, 2018
  • Workday Rxqqq28[€>
    It's always less than you'd hoped it would be. No more start ups for me
    Jan 6, 2018 0
  • Pure Storage / Eng MangoGuano
    For pre-ipo options you are buying a lottery ticket. Get in real early and hold on for a long time or get in a couple years pre-ipo and ride through. Either way it is luck and timing. Expect most to die on the vine or stay underwater for a long time. But we all play the lottery for the chance at that 8-figure payday.
    Jan 9, 2018 1
    • Microsoft / Eng
      Gintama

      Microsoft Eng

      PRE
      Microsoft
      Gintamamore
      It’s different though the cost of buying a lottery ticket is negligible compared to the time and efforts you spend on a startup which will also prevent you from other high paid jobs. I would then prefer to buy lottery tickets they have a far much bigger payoff ratio :-)
      Jan 12, 2018
  • Facebook / Product tyu
    50k because I was post series D and newer in my career, but I witnessed a lot of newly minted millionaires that day.
    Jan 6, 2018 0
  • Salesforce / Eng Z📺🐑✂️😗
    Negative $5,000.
    Going to write them off this tax year.

    Bought my options when I left. Management changed and ran company into the ground in less than two years after.
    Jan 8, 2018 0
  • Intel / Eng pleb
    About 100k after taxes. Fucking peanuts after many years of hard work. Wasn't worth it financially but I got to work on super interesting things and to learn a lot. And now I'll probably have to throw everything down the toilet and start JavaScript if I want to be paid too.

    I wouldn't do it again in the near future, at least until I get to save some money for a home. Then I'd probably do it again cause challanges are fun. If it's too easy, I get bored and life's too short not to do what you like.
    Jan 6, 2018 0
  • Cisco / Eng Mylady
    This is my SO: Startup #1: recalled the offer (hiring freeze) right after announcing the leave to the current manager. Had to come up quickly with other gig. Startup #2 - 0, left within 6 months. They are pretty successful and earn lots of cash, no insentive to go on IPO. Startup #3 - 140K after a year in, joined 6 months pre-IPO, so didn't get too much and didn't wait for the rest to vest. Startup #4 - 220K in a year, happened to go through 2 acquisitions and all stocks vested, in a 1.5 left for the startup, this time early stage. Will see how it is going to play out.
    Jan 12, 2018 0
  • Microsoft / Eng
    Gintama

    Microsoft Eng

    PRE
    Microsoft
    Gintamamore
    I have 3 startups on my shoulder and made no money on shares after tax. I would never join another one again, also I am too old. Equally though I know a couple of friends that made about a million each but they were very close to the founders.
    Jan 7, 2018 0

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