Is it a bad sign if a startup expects dedication and long hours but does not offer any incentives like equity, bonus, etc?
It’s a sign of a very green founder-CEO.
It’s not important in a start-up that everyone works 100 hours a week. That doesn’t even help. People cannot do high quality work 100 hours. If you force them to sit in an office 100 hours, other than for short sprints … they’ll fade. They’ll screw around. Their productivity will dramatically fall off.
It makes no sense. Asking people to work 60+ hours a week year-round is a recipe for failure as you scale. Asking them to work a few insane weeks, when you are pushing out a big release, or have to close out the quarter, that makes a lot more sense.
What is more important in a start-up IMHO is that your start-up is the only commitment of your best employees.
What I see all the time in poorly run start-ups is engineers leaving early to go home and work on their side projects. Sales reps spending lots of time thinking about other businesses where they could make more money. Forget about staying late. Folks leaving early to do other stuff is what really hurts you.
Legally, your employees can do whatever they want in their free time. So be it.
But if their work hearts-and-minds aren’t 100% focuses on making your start-up a success, you’ll never do nearly as well as you would otherwise.
Find a way to make that happen. For them to be so passionate and committed about your company that it’s all the “work” they want to do.
And worry less about how many hours a week that is.