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Should I ask non-technical co-founder to leave startup?
11 points by wussyib 1380 days ago | hide | past | web | 22 comments | favorite
I'm a couple months in to a startup with 2 other talented guys. I'm also the lead design,ui,ux, front-end developer (html/css/js). One other guy is the lead back end developer, and the third in question was assigned with the business dev./hustler role.

This non-tech guy, in a nutshell, is smart. He's as technically savvy as you can get without actually knowing how to code. Normally, I would never ask a non-tech person to join a startup team, but I honestly felt that he had some valuable skills to bring to the table. We're about 1.5 months into the project. A working demo is about 70% done, which me and the other developer have been working on. 2 of us are full-time on this. The non-tech guy, still carries his full time job.If his priorities were in-line with the startup, he can still get a lot done during work hours, as well as night and weekends. What I'm finding however, is that he's unable to make that commitment.

While me and the other developer have practically made an entire product in 1 month, he still has yet to deliver a business plan or pitch deck. He goes unresponsive for days at a time via email. Never logs on to Gtalk unless we have a scheduled hangout meeting. He never even talks business w/me. I've always been an aspiring startup entrepneur, so keep tabs on current news and resources that will help me become successful. He does not. I find myself constantly having to source resources for him to absorb. It never concerned me that he didn't know this stuff up front. My confidence in his ability assumed that he would do it on his own, but as I've observed.. this is not the case.

I know this guy is smart, I know he CAN do it, but he's currently not.I am planning to talk with him within the next couple days, but my question is, should I give him another chance after our discussion?Thanks for any feedback.

He is dead weight. Drop him.

Achieving a difficult goal (like building a company) requires a fanatical, passionate determination that does not waver and which drives consistent "do it yourself" behavioral patterns. Independent initiative, determined focus, and unrelenting pursuit of your objectives are not optional.

Surrounding yourself with people who do not carry this same fire will hold you back.

I wrote a blog about this recently, and here is an excerpt:

"Setting an important, ambitious personal goal is the first shot fired in a war of attrition in which the entire world will seek to distract and demoralize you. It is a war for your time and attention, and success depends on the way you storm the beaches of every moment and seize them in the name of your endeavor."

Full entry: http://thinkforrestthink.wordpress.com/2012/10/29/we-slept-o...

Thanks for the feedback. The one thing I was considering, was asking him to join the rest of the team by quitting his job. I'm not saying this will make him into some epic team-member, but what I do know for sure, is that his current lack of motivation is due largely in part that he hasn't "burned his ship" so-to-speak. IF i presented that, and IF he actually said "okay.. i'll do it". Does that change your analysis at all?

I would worry that if you convince him to "burn his ship", and the company goes down in flames, he will hold a lot of resentment against you.

I really think that he needs to be in a place where burning his ships is his decision.

No matter how awesome your company is, things are going to get bad. There will be long nights, rejections, technical problems, and failure will loom large. You can make it through this with a good attitude if you really believe in what you are doing. If he is just tagging along with you, I'd worry that he wouldn't have the kind of emotional investment that would see him through the bad times.

But more importantly, I think you would want to bring people into your company that add to the momentum. You want people who inspire you and push you harder. Creative ideas, fresh perspectives, and emotional encouragement aren't going to come from a reluctant, non-committal person who is only there because he burned his ship.

My two cents. =)

Thanks for your time and advice. I've came to the same conclusions as yourself already, but It's good to know that someone with more experience then me echo's the same thoughts. The main reason I brought him on was to be the motivator, ironically. Although I lead the product vision, as well as doing the actual front-end grunt work, I wanted to hand-off the motivation role so I could concentrate on other things. As it stands now, not am I only trying to keep myself going, I'm trying to keep him going as well.. and it's already starting to mentally drain me. Thanks again.

It sounds like you should ask him to leave. "Smart" is meaningless unless it's coupled with "Do". If you want to do this in the least offensive way, ask everyone on the team to buy into this project, maybe around $10,000 for future expenses. Then we'll see how interested he is in continuing.

Well, that specifically would not work for him, because he actually has money. Financially there's only about 4k into the project, primarily because me and the non-tech guy helped some living expenses for the back-end developer, who's not as fortunate as us. If we parted ways with the non-tech guy, I'll have to reimburse him 2k, which is not a big deal.

Maybe he can change roles from co-founder to seed funder. Ask him for more? :)

Hi Everyone. First off, thank you all who gave feedback. It was all very helpful.

So I sat down for lunch with my friend about a week ago. As far as he was concerned, it was just to go over the first draft of the business plan. Mid way through our Jersey Mike's subs, I eased into the discussion by asking him how his work load was at his 9-5, and if he was handling everything okay. After that, I basically just voiced my concern over his bandwidth within the context of having 2 other full-time co-founders w/ no income being dependent on him and his output.

I made my case, and made sure that he understood it wasn't an issue of ability, but really just a logistical issue of him being physically available to do the work that's been tasked to him. And asked him if he was comfortable having the livelihood of 2 other co-founders (1 who JUST got married, and another with his 2nd kid on the way) in his hands. I think when I put it that way, it really dawned on him that taking a week to do anything when 2 of us don't have income is a huge responsibility on his part. Long story short, everything ended very amiably. We actually went to go see Hobbit afterwards.

Surprisingly, he said he still wanted to be a part of the project just for the sake of participating something he believed in. I told him we'd love to have him help to any capacity, but at least now instead of resenting when he was late on something, we'd be thankful for his help.

I'm 100% confident that I made the right choice. I feel we (the remaining team) have already benefited from it, because in the last 2 weeks of holiday... the ex-cofounder was supposed to help with some additional feedback since he wasn't doing anything, but I haven't heard from him since. Which is probably what would have happened even if he was still a co-founder. So at least our destiny is not in the hands of someone who doesn't have as much on the line.

Again, thanks for everything!

-Noah Kim, Kowop.com

No, don't give him a chance. If he is unresponsive for days and wants to be a co-founder without doing anything, he shouldn't have any equity in your startup (if he didn't get the initial idea). Just write him, that if he'll not invest (financial or with his work) he can't be part of the startup.

To be fair to him, and provide you with more details... he was on a business trip for a few days. Within those few days, I had sent him about 4-5 emails, 2 of which specficially requested some details for an accelerator application. It took him 3 days to respond to it, and he still hasn't actually provided everything I needed. It was literally just where you gradated, what year, what's your best accomplishments, etc.. I want to be fair to him, but I'm personally kind of a "don't bullshit me" type of person. I personally find it unreasonable that even in the midst of your business travel, you can't find 10 minutes to email back your co-founder when he's doing your job anyways. Am I being unreasonable?

Actually, I think that this should have been HIS job, not yours. He's the business guy, you're the tech/design. If getting into the incubator is important to your business, and he's the guy who can hustle/sell. Why are you doing the application AND the design/development.

I'd say if he has been involved with the planning of the business, the incubator application would have been on that road-map and I'd assume it would have been assigned to him.

Now, that could be your flaw in taking too much on yourself, and not distributing the weight properly, but you might take that as an understanding that he isn't taking full consideration of what is happening, who is doing what, and what he should be doing.

I learned this lesson myself a few years ago. I had a start-up that was getting a decent amount of traction, and brought a friend on board as co-founder to help with the marketing/biz stuff while I did the coding. I head to lead him around for months, until we decided he just wasn't taking the initiative and getting things done.

We've managed to still stay friends, and cutting early was the best decision.

I feel I'm taking it on because I have too. I have a 3.5 year old, and a wife who's 7 months pregnant. When 2-3 days go by with no answer to an email from one of my partners.. and I have to wake up to no job and a family I have to support, I guess I've taken it upon myself to just do what needs to get done.

I've been here in an old company. Inevitably some people put in more work than others. Some much more. You need to formalise amongst yourselves, the directors, a way of getting rewarded commensurable with your work. It's a valid concern.

We did it by assigning extra equity (non-voting share portions) to each according to work. You could effectively work yourself a bigger slice of the company (but you would not loose your original shares). The scheme started at an agreed date and ended when the project was launched and started earning revenue.

It worked well and increased everyone's work commitment and output. You have to be careful and weigh the amount of extra share portions with the estimated remain of the project and how much original equity there was.

This sounds like a good idea. Any example how it might be structured and written in an agreement?

I actually don't think you should ask him to leave yet.

Because what it sounds like is that you haven't communicated very well with him (understandable - you've been busy).

He may not even know that you guys are having issues with his performance. I'd sit down and talk to him first before deciding anything.

Your assessment is correct in that this issue has never been communicated before. We're only 1.5 months into the project, so it hasn't had an opportunity to happen until now. Which is also the same reason why it's scary. If one can't stay motivated for a handful of weeks at the inception of a project, how's that going to look in a year?

If you had asked me to join your startup and I didn't contribute anything then why am I part of your startup?

Some people think they're doing work or contributing, but they're just dead weight. Not everyone actually works

Free equity?

I think it is a bad idea to ask such a question from your account and not a throwaway (just sayin!).

I don't really have anything to hide from Y combinator, it's community, or my friend. This is all stuff we will be discussing shortly.

You must understand that a startup should be "sacred" for founders.You don't go on this quest just for money/fame or any other superficial reason.There needs to be a synergy and passion in the team.Of course no startup is without problems but some things must come naturally.

Lack of communication outrageous me honestly.I've seen this over and over again.It is extremely important to have good communication.Plus the fact that he works is another downside here.A successful startup needs dedication.

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