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Ask L2: Startup Red Flags?

“My co-founder hired a young guy that I would report to but never told me. And now he has taken an investment, after claiming he wants to self-fund. Are these red flags?”

Disclaimer: Identities are kept confidential. The advice given here should be taken at your own risk. If you are having true mental or physical issues, please seek professional assistance.

I joined a very small startup just over a year ago, selling outsourced childbirth education to hospitals. I was the first official hire. Ten months in, my co-founder hired a young guy to serve as our head of sales (who I would report to) but never told me, I figured it out after a few convos with the new guy.

Now I am finding out by accident that my co-founder—who claims he wants to be self-funded—has or did take on an investment without saying anything to me. There are six of us in the organization. Between selling a product for expectant WOMEN, the buyer being mostly female nurse leaders, and the fact that there are now two men making all of the decisions and not including those of us who are moms - who have more years of healthcare experience than both of them. Are these red flags? Am I crazy that these things concern me? The last thing I want is to be part of a bro-led company that isn't transparent and is super top-down. Ugh . . .


Nah, they’re not red flags.

They’re red banners with associated caution tape wrapped around and around your entire workplace.

Lack of transparency is the basis of almost all toxic environments, and it rarely gets better. These are ego-driven decisions being made to satisfy something that has nothing to do with you or the company. You should not have to find out critical things about the company by accident or by piecing together fragmented bits of data.

If it’s like this with a handful of people, it will get worse as more are added and there are more people making decisions.

I love startups. They’re my happy place. I will spend the rest of my career building tiny companies into big companies because it’s what makes me happiest. That said, there are a lot of bad startups out there that are more ego-building machines than they are functional companies that will change [insert field.] I assure you, your mental health is worth more.



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