What are the signs of being laid off?
Choose the right company by asking the right questions.
Fast raised a $102M Series B, and just over a year later, laid off all of its ~500 employees. Five pieces of advice to avoid joining the “next Fast”: a company that could suffer a similar fate on short notice:
1. Firstly, do your research on the company and founders. Do your homework on the history of the company, and past red flags.
I did this when I got a reachout to potentially interview for Fast in the second half of 2020. I found some unsettling information about the founder of Fast, Dominic Holland and decided to stay away from a company run by someone with a shady past.
2. Secondly, ask for numbers.
How much runway does the company have left? What is the burn per month? What is the revenue of the company, and what is the spending?
Especially when joining at senior levels – Staff engineer or above, Director or above. Thus it should be a red flag if people don’t share these numbers with you, at least verbally. In addition, if you get pushback. You can always use the Fast story as reasoning on why you want to know these numbers.
3. Thirdly, ask if there is a clear set of key business metrics. Furthermore, if engineers have access to these close to real-time. Is it the number of users? Revenue? Signups? Percentage of returning daily users?
If the answer is “no” to either of the questions, treat it as a red flag. In the case of Fast, these metrics were likely not defined, and the data was not shared with all engineers.
4. Reverse interview your future manager and a founder. However, once you have an offer, ask to talk with your future manager and a founder. Collect all your doubts and questions, and ask them on the spot.
Ask to talk with lead investors. Investors are almost always happy to jump on a call to talk with potential candidates. Expect that this will mostly be a sell call, where the investors share why they invested in the company. Still, you might find out information.
5. In conclusion, talk with people who left. Try to find people who left the startup, and who were in a similar position to what you are applying for. Lastly, message them on LinkedIn. And ask if they can share why they left. A surprisingly large number of them tend to reply.