I don't want to name it, but I had started working with a startup in July 2015. I was the sole tech guy there. The product we were working on didn't work out after a year or so, and we were out of funds, so I left the city to take a short break and look for what next startup to join.
Meanwhile, the previous startup founders re-approached me saying they need my help to launch another product, even though they do not have any money as of now, and it is all a risk as of now, but they will pay me as soon as they get money. I was offered the place of co-founder and CTO with a good equity. But I didn't want to join in for a long term with the team and told them I can help them out by working remotely from the city I was in for now, but after that I'll mostly start my own startup or may be join other startup, but before I leave, I will help them set up a tech team to replace me. We agreed, I was told what I will be paid, and what equity I will get in return for the efforts I will be putting in as per this new deal. The salary was to be paid whenever they could get some money, either from investments or from clients. So it was a well-understood risk, and hence to compensate for that I was promised equity. The new product was a SAAS model. As part of the new deal, I was promised total of 2%, 1% was existing ESOP, which was going to mature in 2-3 months in the parent company (that was issued when I had joined the startup and was working on their first product), and the other 1% was for working for them through this uncertain phase.
I started working on the product, helped them develop prototypes to pitch to their clients, one of their clients is a government agency too. After 4 months, it was time for me to move on and explore what opportunity to join and I helped them hire a techie to replace me. During the 4 months, luckily salary was paid, although after delays of on average 2 months. In the end some 20k was still remaining that they owed me, and I was told they need to pay the new techie so I should understand their situation, trust them that they will pay my dues very soon. I agreed and left full time work on their product.
Now, I joined another startup after 1-2 months, but still the due 20k and 2% was not processed. I was told to wait, until they figure out financial options, and that things are very tough on their end. I thought I should wait, and another 4 months passed like that.
Now in mid June, I received an email from the CEO saying as I had resigned when leaving the city, I'm no longer an employee and hence the 1% ESOP can not be vested into me. The other 1%? He made no mention of that, and thanked me for working for them as a "consultant".
So today, after about 7 months, they still owe me the 20k along with the 2% equity, and the CEO no longer attends any calls, or replies to my emails. I have been requesting him via email to at least clear the 20k, but he has been conveniently ignoring all of those emails.
Also, we do not have any paperwork about the equity, or about the contract (like employee agreement) that should have been there when I had started working on the new product of theirs. Yes, that was foolish of me, but they said "trust us", and I just did that. I just have the paperwork for ESOPs issued, but with my resignation from their first product coming before those ESOPs could mature, they're using it as a technical advantage claiming I was not employed by them anymore, and hence the ESOPs are not valid.
However, I just have screenshots of our conversations on Slack, Whatsapp and emails where we discussed what I'll be getting out of the work I will be doing on their new product. In some of the screenshots, the CEO clearly calls me "shareholder" (I was working for them at that time). In other screenshots, we are discussing that if I stay for longer than the time I had conveyed to them, I will be given greater than 2% equity.
I'm now feeling cheated by them, and have been thinking of writing a blog along with the screenshots. If they are doing this to me, I'm sure they will be cheating their investors and other future employees too with false promises.
Also, I haven't seen people writing blogs on such issues in India. I'm a guy who loves solving problems of the people, I'm a simple man, but I want to avoid getting into a huge controversy. At the same time, I want to tell the story too about what all happened in my case.
Yes, in future I'm always going to go through all paper works before doing anything like this, but is there any solution to this as of now?
Moreover, will my current or future employers see my blog in a bad light? I honestly wouldn't want to join someone who does see that in a bad light, but is the majority of industry like that?
Is there a better way to approach this?