After 8 months, I think my cofounder is an idiot. Is this normal, what should I do?

I worked with the cofounder in a non tech big-co job for a number of years years before the start up.  We were joint managers of a tech team. I was really excited but then things got weird. It’s suppose to be difficult right? Where is the line between normal, difficult and insanity?

He decided to try a deal with big-co where we would take the team and software and they would pay us a tidy sum. I thought it was crazy but he was undeterred. A few months wasted.

He would only talk to one investor that he really liked. I said exclusivity wasn’t cool until we have a deal, he still refused.

I think he offered his friends jobs without my knowledge.

He’s super gung-ho about a deal with another company that would prevent us from using our software for anything other than the partnership with that company, even after the deal is over.  The company would pay us, but i still think its crazy. He doesn’t mind that I think it’s crazy.

And, he’s now saying he’s out of cash and wants us to do joint consulting.

Is this what they mean when they say startups are hard and cofounder relationships are intense?

  • Yes, it does seem normal to have co-founder issues (just like marriage) and you have to evaluate each relationship/situation based on the personalities involved and goals of the founder(s).

    Sounds like he’s a deal-guy who like’s to get business and is working toward a “life-style” business vs a “VC funded make it or break-it” model. Many successful long-term businesses are life-style small companies that provide a nice income and lots of flexibilities for the owners (I knew one non-tech biz that netted $5m year in profits for the married couple that ran it).

    The question is: are your goals aligned? Maybe he has only courted 1 VC because he is comfortable with them and can remain in control vs. pitching to outside VC and risk losing control of the business (tons of “gotcha” terms in VC legal agreements that can ultimately out the founders — I lived through it, I know).

    Question is: without him, can you bring in clients and revenue? Consulting for short-term cash can be a good thing (lead to new clients) or bad thing (get sucked into bad projects and billing/collection issues).

    No easy answer, but yes, this is what they mean by “its hard to do a startup” and what you’re seeing is normal (unless you’re an Uber or other unicorn).

  • Toss your “cofounder” QUICK. He is delusional still thinks he’s in big corporate with the big budget, multiple depts cushion.

    Focusing on only ONE sale for months in the beginning, only talking to 1 investor, pushing for exclusive partnership, when he should be chasing several deals, multiple investors, partnerships that don’t prevent your growth? And offering his friends jobs without your knowledge? Count your blessings for finding out now while company’s worth nothing. Dissolve it, drop him, start a new one and look for another partner (with proper equity and vesting schedules ready).

    To answer your question: NO, this isn’t this what we mean when we say startups are hard and cofounder relationships are intense.

  • I think he is an idiot, too. Perhaps you were upset at the time of this post and did not reveal any redeeming behaviors. Or, sometimes people do something because they thought they didn’t have any other option. You have to be sure that you are perceiving his actual behavior and attitude, instead of what you assume his attitude is. That skill IS important in every partnership you will have.

    But if this is the whole kit and caboodle, if you asked him to talk to other VCs and he turned you down saying, “I don’t like them and I won’t talk to them” then he is actually an idiot and you should dissolve company. Lesson learned….

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