I recently caught up with a former colleague, a mid-level software developer. For the last year, he has been at a failing (badly), self-funded, single-owner software startup.
According to him, the president has no software development experience, used his own personal savings and cash-out from an ineffectual software partnership to start the company, and pitched his "revolutionary business changing" idea to unsuspecting people last year (including the former colleague). They have not worked on the idea since opening, instead they've been working on scores of ad-supported mobile and web crapware and according the colleague's inside sources, have plans to outsource almost all of the development of the "revolutionary idea". Also according to the same inside sources, the company is losing $20k a month, already being down $100k from license and equipment purchases.
To make things worse, he signed a broadly defined 24-month NDA and non-compete agreement under suspect circumstances, and is working for well-below market wages, even for a state well-known for relatively low IT wages (he was also sold the profit-sharing and bonus idea).
What are the ways that developers can identify these bad, fly-by-nigh, start-up companies and steer clear of them? What are ways can developers identify these companies on recruiting websites and in personal interviews? And if a developer suddenly realizes they are working for one of these companies, what are the steps he or she can take to remove themselves from them with minimal repercussions?