My six job was the first on the list of start-ups that I had worked for. The company that I landed at, rather unexpectedly, was called Rising Star. I did not look for it, they found me through a recruiting agency located on Piccadilly Circus, London. The brief the agency had received from the client was to find a person who spoke Russian and English, and had some experience in Marketing and PR, preferably in the area of magazine publishing. Voila! It was me.
Rising Star or X-Media, as the name was changed in the process, happened to be a publishing start-up under the wing of an exhibition company. The office of this start-up was situated in the same building that was occupied by the exhibition company. X-Media had two simultaneous but rather different projects that I was hired to take care of. One was a B2B magazine Russian Oil and Gas Investor and the other — B2C magazine Luxury Traveller. The first one was published in English and the second one — in Russian. Russian Oil and Gas Investor was intended for the Western market and The Luxury Traveller for the Russian. I was to market and promote both.
My salary was 1,210 GBP after taxes — a slight improvement from the previous job. The travel to work took 20 min by the direct train from Richmond. Lunches were either a sandwich or a hot meal in one of the local cafes. The salary still could not even cover my rent.
The Director of the Rising Star/X-Media was of an Icelandic-Lebanese background and had some experience in setting up a start-up in Cairo, Egypt from where he had moved to London. His partnering with the London-based exhibition company was due to his ‘accidental’ partnering with one of its employees. Their partnership seemed a rather intimate one.
What for my job, I loved the scope of my work and the challenge the start-up nature of the projects posed. What I did not like, though, was lies that the excruciatingly charming Director fed his start-up employees with.
After three months of charging forward we unexpectedly stalled and had to move offices. The reason was not explained. Within two months of being in a new office, our salaries stopped being paid. Using his power of persuasion and personal magnetism with elements of hypnotism the Director had us working for another three months. For free. One day at the end of the three months of working for free, we came to work to a locked office. It had been ‘arrested’ for not paying the rent. With it, our personal things that we had left on our desks were locked too.
A month later, half of us gathered again in a new office, in Kensington. Still not paid. Our personal things, however, had been returned to us. We even had some computers from the previous office installed in a new one. The premises in Kensington belonged to the Bulgarian Embassy, where the ‘romantic’ partner of the Director had some connections. The same ‘romantic’ partner who had helped with the initial start-up partnering of the exhibition company and our charming crooked entrepreneur.
After another unpromising month of promises I finally left. I later heard that the Director and his ‘romantic’ partner found investors for their new start-up project — a Super Car Show in Moscow, Russia.
The conclusion: Few start-ups make it to the glorious success. And that is quite all-right. There is no crime in failure either. However, it is criminal and unethical to lead employees into believing that things are fine, to not disclose vital information, to lie, and to switch so easily and happily to new projects without a second thought about the ‘disposed of material’ — the employees — of the previous start-up. For, ‘You become responsible, forever, for what you have tamed.’ — The Little Prince.
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