As an employee, startup stock options are hard.
I'm feeling pretty confident by now, but only because I've seen my friends get burned and been burned myself.
What's so hard?
- At one company, my option contract was to be signed "at a future date", not together with my employment contract. In the end, I got the option contract almost a year after signing, and the number of options was 2-5x less than what I was indicated during the offer.
- At another company, a friend got it even worse: they worked for 2 years without having received an option contract, and in the end, were let go without any stock (even though they'd passed their cliff).
- It's really hard to value grants. Founders/recruiters can tell you all kinds of stories, but unless you push them, you don't get the requisite numbers for figuring out the last-round valuation of your grant, and even less so any revenue-multiple-based valuation based on revenue and growth numbers.
- Nobody tells you about liquidation preferences.
- In the template startup documents many Estonian startups use, the company has the right to fire you and take away any already-vested options (Bad Leaver clause).
No wonder so many people treat option grants as just a nice perk, not something of economic value.