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Trouble with co-founder
8 points by TrevorM1 on Dec 10, 2012 | hide | past | web | favorite | 11 comments
So, I'm in a bit of an odd situation. Likely, one that is not uncommon in the start-up world. A few months ago, I began work on a startup idea. A few weeks into my endeavours, a friend of mine told me about his entrepreneurial endeavours. I am technical by nature, and he is non-technical. I threw caution to the wind and we began working together on my project, as co-founders. I've began to realize that although his heart is in the right place, and he is a hard-worker, and he is contributing, the quality of work he is contributing is not up-to-par, and I can just tell that the business plan he is working on will need to be re-done. I think it is just lack of experience, but, my role is that of a founder and not a teacher.

So, this early on in the game, what can someone is my position do? We have not incorporated or issued equity, etc. at this point.

What I've learned is that if you find someone honest, hard working who can learn from others and his own mistakes, it may be worth fostering that relationship. Today it is him that needs this; tomorrow it might be you not knowing what to do in a technical situation and having to learn. What this does mean is you being clear with him about where you think he stands and guiding him along. If he is a learner(which is a prerequisite to making this work), you'll get a nice high once you see his growth on a regular basis.

It is a whole different thing if you and him are on a differen page about what is considered good work and bad work. But if you are on the same page and you both trust he can catch up, I'd give it a serious thought given you state that he has a good heart and is hard working(you'd be amazed how many highly skilled people are neither; it's hard to get everything in one person from the outset).

"I can just tell that the business plan he is working on will need to be re-done."

The code will have to be modified in all likelihood, and the whole business may have to pivot. While it would be ideal to find someone who makes you a millionaire on the first attempt, it's probably more practical to find someone who will keep chopping at the plan until they get something that has a chance.

The first version of the business plan gives you a document to critique and improve. It is perhaps overly optimistic to expect it to withstand contact with reality.

Good luck.

I like this take. Business plans should be thought of as the Constitution; a good rough idea, but a living document that is edited to reflect changing landscapes of technology and monetization. It's ok if it's not entirely realistic at first, as long as your partner is ok with adapting it as your product takes shape.

One of the best ways to confront it is not by "being open and honest", but by challenging it like an investor would. Imagine you're pitching it to Mark Cuban or PG; how would he challenge it, what questions would he ask, etc. Ask those to your partner, and see how capable he is of navigating that.

Take him out for drinks and say all that stuff you just said.

I agree, get really drunk first.

I agree that being honest is the most important thing to do at this point. Beyond that, I think that the first question you need to ask yourself is : "what do I want, long term". Obviously we don't know what your project is about, but do you need a non technical co-founder? If your project is a Dropbox (pure tech product) or even an Instagram (social network), I am not sure. If it is a SaaS or marketplace type business, then maybe. And I say that as a business/product co-founder myself. In general, I would recommend being able to answer these questions: onstartups.com/tabid/3339/bid/99/Important-Questions-Startup-Co-Founders-Should-Ask-Each-Other.aspx

If you cannot, talk about it with your co-founder, and if you can't find satisfactory answers, consider splitting.

Business people are obviously important in startups but tend to be dispensable. Find another co-founder, there is a surplus of business types. If you can sell your idea and vision to someone while being technical you'll have no trouble finding another partner. Good Luck.

It feels like you are asking for a secret quick fix that somebody here might know of - but it doesn't exist. You have to be upfront and honest. This is all part of what being an entrepreneur is about. The survival rate of co-founders is really low, and how it turns out is all up to how you handle the situation. Be upfront and honest and just get it done, don't let it drag on.

How you handle this will test your character. I know some people who are terrible at confrontation, but some of the best entrepreneurs and business people that I know are professional and just get it done - keeping it to strictly business and not making it personal.

I've been in the same situation. Fortunately for me, the project wasn't very serious and I had no expectation that it was any more than a dry-run. If they're not pulling their weight, and there's no chance that they will in the future, it's worth being direct - being "nice" isn't always the nicest thing to do.

Wow, thanks everyone for the helpful insights! I will definitely need to clear the air with him; over beers, of course. Thanks

Be honest. Let him know its not working out and you need to move on.

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