Is my business strategy cofounder deadweight?

I run a startup that is in a very hot space right now, with lots of investment. I brought in a business cofounder who was excited about the industry, had great credentials, and previous startup experience.

Several months down the road as we have started to build out our prototype, it’s becoming clear that he doesn’t have a full grasp of the product and his understanding of the industry is entirely shaped by Silicon Valley investor perceptions (basically, his market research is TechCrunch and CrunchBase). Each time he goes to an industry-related conference or event, he comes back with a new idea of how to pivot in order to attract investors, dismissing our current approach as generic. I constantly have to remind him of A) or initial goal and B) what our product actually does to bring him back to earth.

Despite his early contributions in helping build a group of advisors and doing the initial setup, now that we have gotten to the product development phase, his ability to provide value per his business role has dried up. Most importantly, he hasn’t delivered any business strategy. After constantly asking, and getting nothing, I finally produced a business plan myself and just asked him to make updates per his research and findings.

I know he’s working on other projects (I’m still working a full time day-job, so no issues with that), but I meet fairly regularly throughout the week with my other cofounder and key advisor. I just don’t see anything from him. He has a substantial chunk of equity, yet the ratio of hours put in me vs him is on the order of 20:1. There has been no financial contribution from him (though there was no expectation of that up front). I’ve given him the benefit of the doubt due to a very impressive resume, but I’m growing tired of the constant excuses for not applying to incubators or reaching out for even cursory chats with potential investors.

My question is – is this guy deadweight or is this a leadership issue on my part?

  • Hard to say when you don’t know what problem your product solves… If he’s pivoting, it may mean that you created a product without a actual customer that needed your solution.

    If you want him to prove his salt, tell him to come back with a customer check and not an investor. Customer check will draw investors. If it’s a hot space, then you won’t have a problem.

  • Have him work on customer development.

    Have him prepare a content marketing plan.

    Have him start generating a list of leads / set-up your lead gen infrastructure.

    Have him set-up your CRM.

    Give him specific deliverables.

    All of these should be core to “business strategy” skill set and will show you how he would perform once you launch.

    Evaluate from there.

    Good luck with the venture!

  • “My question is – is this guy deadweight or is this a leadership issue on my part?”

    He’s dead weight.

    But it will be your ‘leadership issue’ if you let it go much longer.

    Once you actually put your product in the market his lack of relevance will get even worse and de-focus you further. At that point he will be radioactive and start pointing the finger at you for any perceived market adoption issues.

    By the way, guys like this are an epidemic in tech right now. And they’ve been ‘enabled’ way too much by the incubators, VCs and other investor channels that over-value these kind of candy-ass marketers who are weak-kneed and woozy for the latest ‘lean’ BS.

    By the way, when a guy recommends you ‘pivot’ and doesn’t back it up with his own biz plan to support it…….It’s a huge tell. Also better take back as much of his equity as possible or he’ll be coming for you later. And praise the cosmos it wasn’t a woman or you’d be charged with discrimination for trying to fix it. Good luck.

  • As the CEO, you should be in charge of ‘business strategy’. And if you’re feeling overwhelmed, get advisors & mentors.

    A co-founder who just does ‘business strategy’ is dead-weight. A business cofounder should either be hitting the phones bringing in sales or hacking away at your marketing stack. Either way, should be measured on revenues (or pilot sign ups if you’re still in beta).

  • {"email":"Email address invalid","url":"Website address invalid","required":"Required field missing"}

    You may also like