Dark Side of Blockchain Development Jobs

Last Updated: 4 June 2023

Whether you are a fan of blockchain or not, the number of job postings for blockchain developers is definitely on the rise. There are some legit companies out there building cool things on the blockchain, but its no secret that there are a lot of sketchy companies too.

Even if a company is working on a legit project, a lot of them are taking advantage of software developers. Awhile back, I was out to lunch and a software developer told me about a shocking offer he had received.

He liked his current job, but was contemplating taking a position at some blockchain development startup. It sounded like the interview went well and he even received an offer.

Compensation wise it was a pretty competitive offer for our area in the mid one hundred thousand dollars range. On par for a sr. software engineer at a bigger company. But definitely not silicon valley pay.

There was an initial hire on bonus with the opportunity to earn regular bonuses.

On its face, it sounded great. That is until he received the actual offer and employment agreement. This is why it is super important to know what you are signing. Never just take a verbal offer from a potential employer at their word. Read the fine print.

I was thinking… please tell me you didn’t say yes… It was that bad!

Let’s get into the specifics of the offer and some important things to consider.

The first red flag was that they required an unreasonably restrictive multi-year noncompete agreement where you cannot work for any other company doing anything related to blockchain.

This was a problem for several reasons. Block chain development is still ultra-specialized. Stepping away from more common forms of development will cause your previous skills to atrophy.

These new skills are in an area that isn’t very transferrable and is at risk of being replaced due to how fast things are moving as well as the possibility of a technology failing to get traction.

It appears that the company is mostly operating in our state with laws that limit non-competes to a shorter time period to protect employees from unreasonable restrictions. But to get around this, the company incorporated in a different state back east that gives companies a lot of room to take advantage of employees and the agreement required all legal disputes to be resolved in that other messed up state.

Another concern was that they required two or three months notice for resignation and you were required to notify them ahead of time that you were interviewing at other companies.

Because they registered in that other state they could get away with this even though our state is at will, meaning we can quit at any time and the company can fire us at any time.

Hey, but at least there was the hire on bonus and performance bonuses to look forward too. Not. really.

When it came time for the offer, the company backpedaled on the hire on bonus that they dangled as a carrot to get the dev to interview.

To get the performance bonuses you had to beat the estimates for the features you were working on. Problem was that someone else sets the estimates for you.

Totally objective. Not.

You don’t get to estimate your work and if you want to get the bonuses you’re basically going to be working overtime and now your salary becomes meh. Lower than average.

But at least you get a bonus in crypto coins… That he said weren’t really being actively traded anywhere and the value of the coins appeared to be on the decline.

Disclaimer, I have no idea coins they were or how well they will do over time.

So far, they are asking for a lot of commitment from this gal to a startup in an industry where startups regularly vanish overnight and the fine print makes the perks seem not so great.

Did I mention that it would be contract and “their guy” would help you set up a company creatively so that you could “expense” a ton of stuff including things that seem highly likely to result in an audit that doesn’t work out well for you.

Who knows… I am not an accountant or tax expert, so I could be wrong.

And. And! You would have to agree to assume liability for any legal problems that could arise from the code and project rather than the company even if they instructed you to do those things, tasks or whatever.

Sounds like the real reason they want you to be 1099 is to scapegoat you if things go south. But why would they be worried about that if they were asking you to do legit things?

So far this company sounds like a real winner? I mean, at this point would your run or would you accept the offer? Let me know in the comments below.

I know what I would do. I would do the Kessel Run in 12 parsecs away from there.

But to be fair, even regular software companies can have problems and I previously did a video on red flags to watch out for in an interview.