Pinterest's 2nd employee ever explains why becoming an early startup employee is a 'terrible' idea if you want to get rich

Pinterest's 2nd employee ever explains why becoming an early startup employee is a 'terrible' idea if you want to get rich

Pinterest headquarters in the South of Market (SoMa) neighborhood of San Francisco, CA.
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Sahil Lavingia was the No. 2 employee at Pinterest and is the founder and CEO of Gumroad, an all-in-one e-commerce solution for creators.

He says that being an early employee at a startup is almost always a terrible financial decision — and a few famous venture capitalists, including Y Combinator founder Paul Graham, disagreed with him on Twitter.

In this op-ed, Lavingia defends his stance: There are plenty of great reasons to join a startup as an early employee, but if you're doing it for short-term financial reasons, you're probably not making a good move.

He suggests that startups refer to these early employees as "angel employees," to make it clear to the world that their important contributions are valued.

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Startupland has three essential components: people who start companies, people who work at those companies, and investors. Without all three, the system breaks. Without all three, there's no Facebook, Microsoft, Apple, Google, or Netflix.The stories of founders and investors as well-known and well-told. If you've seen "The Social Network" (2010), you're familiar with the roles that startup founders and venture-capital investors play in the formation of a startup. The latter group has taken such a profound, selfless risk, according to our collective mythology, that we refer to them as "angel investors."And if you've paid attention to headlines and IPO S-1s, you'll know that many of them have become billionaires several times over. Yet as our media and zeitgeist continue to fixate on founders and investors with things such as the Forbes "30 Under 30" and "Midas List," the roles of early employees are largely out of sight and out of mind.Most importantly, while founders and investors become millionaires and billionaires, early employees rarely do.
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