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POWA PROBLEMS: Staff complain of bad management and wild spending at troubled tech unicorn

Published by Business Insider on Fri, 19 Feb 2016

Struggling payments company Powa Technologies "spends outrageous amounts of money," frequently changing strategy, and suffers high staff turnover, according to anonymous reviews from former and current employees.Reviews left on jobs site Glassdoor also repeatedly slam management of the company, say development staff are given little respect, and say the company is expanding at an unrealistic pace and overpromising to clients.Powa Technologies declined to comment on questions about its spending, staff turnover, management, and expansion put to it by Business Insider.Powa, which makes a mobile payment and shopping app, is currently facing questions around its future after running out of cash.The company, valued at 1.8 billion ($2.7 billion), struggled to pay staff on time in January and CEO Dan Wagner told staff the company is "pre-revenue."Website Glassdoor lets current and former staff leave anonymous reviews of companies. The reviews should be taken with a pinch of saltthey're all anonymous after all and it's hard to sift someone with an axe to grind from someone giving genuine feedback.But, taken in aggregate, they can give an interesting insight into an otherwise closed world. And the frequency of particular criticisms across more than 130 reviews for Powa Technologies on the site suggests they are more than just isolated gripes of disgruntled staff.Business Insider reviewed the 133 public reviews of Powa on Glassdoor. Powa's overall rating is 3.2, but within that there's a huge disparity in feedback. The most common rating of the company is just 1 star, with 50 reviewers giving this rating. By contrast, the second most common rating is 5 stars, with 43 reviews giving this rank.Across the majority of reviews, however, several key themes crop up again and again:Uncontrolled spending"Company spends outrageous amounts of money on travel and parties for potential customers and vendors, yet leaving hundreds of unpaid bills and invoices stack up leaving people to scramble just to keep the lights on and not get evicted.""That a start-up with no revenue needs offices in the most expensive buildings in each city is one example of poor management at this company.""This company spends money like the world is coming to an end.""Get the product right, then you can pay for the expensive offices, suits and corporate headcount."High turnover of staff"Most people get fired (more than 60%).""REDUNDANCIES!!! This is kinda a company tradition. Just to warn you, it happens every quarter of the year.""Senior leadership instability (supervisor changed 5 times in 10 months).""Shortly after I joined, my manager was fired for no reason and then everyone else left.""People that have done an outstanding job have been basically fired. I have no idea why this keeps happening but it does."Bad management"Management with no vision, lack of competence.""They do not appreciate your work, management use different excuses to destroy your years of work, re-design and ask you to rebuild it so that they can take over the control.""We all sit back and watch rolling our eyes as senior management changes direction.""Management is delusional about company's future.""Complete new management is needed. As long as they are there, nothing will go forward.""Appalling management."Disregard for development team"There is zero respect for anyone that works in development or product.""No acknowledgement of good work, a new product was launched yet there was no "well done" from upper management not even an email.""If you are a developer or anyone working downstairs from us, avoid like the plague, you are treated like dirt, I cannot give more clear advice than that.""In many years working in technology companies, I have yet to see a company less capable of managing engineering."Unrealistic expansion"Stop opening offices in other countries and focus on having success in the countries you are already in.""With nearly no funding, lots of debts, delayed payroll, the company decided to revamp the whole system by vendor.""Dan Wagner and other managers promise expectations and 'dates' for clients that are simply impossible."Even most positive reviews acknowledge many of the problems Powa faces. One five-star reviewer writes: "Inevitably as a start up and fast growing team there is a level of people joining and leaving which for some may be uncomfortable."On management, another five-star review writes: "The fast-paced nature of the business can mean decisions and strategies can change, and sometimes this can be frustrating, and so for some this can be distressing." Another says: "Adding more structure and processes would be helpful." And yet another highlights daily "communication challenges."Of course, there are some genuinely positive reviews on the site, for example, this from the current Global Head of Sales Operations in London:Great people, exciting place to work. Dynamic workload which constantly keeps you thinking and pushes the business forward. Like a family, everyone looking out for each other and there is a really positive vibe about where the company is going! I almost forgot to mention the view from the balcony which is amazing!And another from an anonymous staffer in London:If you like working in a dynamic atmosphere with forward thinking people then consider Powa. Anytime I have had a work problem both your team and management jump to help. More importantly if you disagree with a point of view you can say it and state how you would prefer to go about the solution and will be fully supported. It is a dynamic atmosphere with some inspirational minds. Best of all you'll have a good laugh, everyone gets on well and there is always good banter.Honestly don't believe the negative comments this is an exciting company to be part of and you won't regret joining.While employs may disagree about whether it's a good place to work or not, the frequency of certain criticisms suggest serious operational issues at the heart of the business.High employee turnover, high spending, and poor management go some way to explaining the currentturmoil at Powa, valued at $2.7 billion (1.8 billion).The payment app company is struggling to pay staff on time, is behind on filing accounts, and is reportedly struggling to raise new money. Filings show it has debts of $16.4 million and only $250,000 in the bank and Powa's board admits there are "significant doubts" about the company's future.The financial difficulty comes despite a loan from its biggest investor, Boston-based Wellington Management, just three months ago and $50 million (35 million) worth of investment in 2015 alone. Powa has raised at least $175 million (122.7 million) since setting up in 2007.Join the conversation about this storyNOW WATCH: Disgraced pharma CEO Martin Shkreli dissed a Wu-Tang Clan member in a hostile video
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