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I worked for free at a small start-up company for four years. No one there got any pay, even the CEO. It was very interesting work. We were all professionals in computer hardware and software, had all worked for one or more big companies where we were never allowed to do the job right. So this time we could and did. Unfortunately, none of us had any marketing experience, and many of us had worked for AT&T, so we were less qualified than average at marketing. So a little while later, we ran out of capital for rent, telephone bills, etc., and had to close down. But it was worth it to be able to do good work for a change.

That's different because you were probably hoping the company would be successful and there was a pot of gold in the end.
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