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7 points by engineercodex 29 days ago | hide | past | favorite | 19 comments

Talk to them like an adult instead of ranting about them to Hackernews.

But to be honest, the “I’m an amazing engineer who does everything well and he’s just a college student without an internship” comes off as being petty.

> He's a college student on summer break (no internship lined up)

Can I ask how much experience you have? I can't imagine why anyone would want to work with a college kid as non-technical co-founder. They have no experience, no track record and no network. All things you need in a non-technical co-founder.

As for the question: you already know the answer.

I see you listed a lot of red flags. Can you list what you’ve done so far? Or is this a “I’ve tried nothing and I’m all out of ideas” sort of situation?

Have you at least talked to them candidly like an adult? I’m sure you have or you wouldn’t be posting on HN. How did the conversation go?

One thing I want to say here, is that it is apparent that both of your expectations of what his role is or should be doesn't align. Ideally such things should be clarified before, although I understand that often you might only find out after the fact.

As I see it you got 3 major directions now:

1. Continue working with him, but redefine his role and tasks together with him. If he is a good talker, that is not worth nothing if used correctly. He probably doesn't feel to good about having tasks assigned either, but he might feel better about it if the tasks align with his skills.

2. Part ways with him, ideally on friendly terms. Maybe you can give him a small symbolic role? Maybe you bring in a third person that pulls more and then reduce what he does.

I had this with my band, I liked the guy, but he just wouldn't so enough without the rest of us having to constantly chew his food for him. So I gave him the benefit of the doubt gave him everything he needed for a few months as a hint of what was expected of him. After it got better for a week or two, then he dropped back to doing nothing. That was when we waited if he realized himself that this okay. One horrible gig later we all knew he had to go.

Even with a real cofounder, unless you have a bulletproof contract, each of them can take their toys (I mean the code they have access to) and leave. And this guy's a buffoon, not a partner.

Only perplexity I have is what in the world drove you to hook up with such a loser? You seem to be fairly competent and accomplished ("I work a job in Big Tech") and he seems to be less than useless ("a [semi-technical] college student on summer break"). I guess the "semi" part is only as much as he was able to fake some basic competence while tickling your fragile ego, I bet he's unable to write FOR i=1 TO N without looking it up in ChatGPT.

I think that the OP is himself just a year or two our of education and in an entry-level position in Tech. It would explain a lot.

Apparently not:

"On one team, I was the head engineer at a small, seed-stage, venture-backed startup. I reported to and worked alongside the CEO.

On my second team, I was an individual contributor with 10 others at a well-known Big Tech company (Meta, Google, Apple, etc)."

From OPs linked blog.

How an apparently successful software developer, believes that having a college kid as his co founder, is a good idea is baffling though.

> On my second team, I was an individual contributor with 10 others at a well-known Big Tech company (Meta, Google, Apple, etc)."

This is almost certainly describing an entry-level position. A senior/staff IC is unlikely to describe their role as working "with 10 others" (rather than leading/managing them).

Good point. It was initially because of their network that I thought would be super valuable. It's in a niche-y industry where I took a chance on an enthusiastic college kid, I guess. (I'm where I am today because people took a chance on me in college!)

They were pretty well-connected in a way that I thought would pan out well, but it just didn't end up working out that way.

Maybe I am just from a different culture, but the thought of betting my professional future on someone who is currently going through the most unstable phase of his life seems very strange to me.

I also have a hard time believing that someone who has zero professional relationships can even have the kind networks valuable for a startup. If his connections aren't professional, what are they. Romantic? Familiar? Friendships?

Rich kid with family in the industry? There could be many possibilities.

So was I when I was 21 :-) It doesn't say much about age or experience. His dilemma on the other hands speaks volumes.

> You seem to be fairly competent and accomplished ("I work a job in Big Tech")

This (sadly) doesn't necessarily say much about their interpersonal or people management skills. BigTech ICs can be very blinkered outside of their technical focus.

If you are having these problems this early, it's not going to work. You aren't at the same place in terms of commitment, experience and motivation. Break up and try something different. You need to be multiplying each other's effectiveness, not fighting each other.

I'm 4 years in and have been through several funding rounds and stages of growth with my cofounder. The most important factor has been that I trust him completely to act in my best interest when I'm not there and to do smart things on his own. Everything else is secondary.

Fire him, it’ll just get worse going forward. Document all his lack of work before his shares get vested and kick him out.

If you havent incorporated and dont have a legal agreement, just kick him out and continue yourself.

Initial startup phase is like the honeymoon phase, if he’s not a do-er even in this phase, it’s unlikely he’ll work consistently on it all, once you’re gaining traction and have to put more effort to grow.

Once startup gains traction, there’s so many things to work on, deepening product market fit, improving conversion rate at various stages, user tests, setting up teams, hiring good folks, growth hacking, etc. It’s a ton of work, if he cant do things now, there is very little chance he’ll be able to do things then.

I think he lacks self-decision skills and reasoning through his every action to improve upon his tasks, he also seems to lack commitment. It’s typically also a sign of you not being able to 100% sell your vision of the company to him. This is a hard thing to do that you’ll encounter again once you start hiring. But eitherway its best to remove him. People like this who fail to deliver at such an early stage, become worse later. It’s not your job to sell the vision to him. He chose to be a co-founder instead of an employee and he’s not pulling his weight.

I had a co-founder like this once, removed him after giving him 6 months to improve. Best decision I ever took. We are still on friendly terms, and he was a good person. Fire him nicely, and avoid bringing to many emotions into it, I hope your co-founder understands.

Good luck, this is an important matter to settle before things start gaining more traction and then it’ll be harder to remove him.

(And remove all his contributed work, name logo, etc, he can claim % of company or an outrageous price figure, and show it as stolen work later, depending on your jurisdiction, remove all of his work, that you didnt pay for via a legal invoice from him)

If you have any doubts you have no doubts.

I’ve made the mistake myself to try to “change” my co-founder attitude and work ethic but it just not worth it. Fire him and look for a new co-founder who is actually passionate about the company vision and mission

Lot of potentially identifiable detail there. Does your co-founder read HN?

This is the problem with wanting to have a cofounder at all costs. It's a bad idea. Especially if you're stuck with an idea guy.

Most people on this sight will pander to you because they use messageboards as soundboards for their narcissistic delusions.

Here is what you really need to hear...stop blaming other people for the results of your decisions.

Who hired him? Who hired the designer really? Who keeps paying the designer? etc etc etc.

You are bullshitting yourself. Stop.

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