Can I still continue with this cofounder?

Over a year ago I started a startup with a good friend of mine. My idea was to launch an online service in another speaking country, so I invited my friend to join the startup as he speaks the language fluently and we can work together well. So I thought…

At this point I am very much doubting my co founder’s motivation and dedication to make this startup work. I want to meet up at least twice a week (we are both working day jobs) but I feel like I am the only one taking initiative to meet up. If I don’t propose a meeting we’re not working on the startup, it’s that simple. Also, during these meeting it feels like I am always the one coming up with ideas, proposing to-do’s etc. Even though I am the tech guy – developing the platform – I expect my cofounder to contact possible clients, work on our sales strategy etc. Or, at least ask if he can start working on something or ask how my work is progressing. I feel like an employer…

Even though I am working a full time job, I sacrifice a considerable amount of my free time to complete my to-do’s and continue developing our product/platform. Besides our meetings, I am working on the startup a couple of nights a week + weekends. My cofounder seems to only use our meetings to work on his to-do’s, instead of getting his share done before meeting up.

When we do meet up, things don’t always go smooth, for instance:

  • We decided to work on the startup at 7pm. I sent a reminder at around 5pm, after which he replies he’ll be a bit later. At around 7.30pm I call him to get his ETA. He says he’s on his way, arriving at around 8.30pm. At 9.20pm he picks up his stuff and leaves, without any notice. He has to work early the next day…
  • We decided to work on the startup during the weekend. We talk about our meeting on friday, when he tells me he made afternoon plans (even though our plans were made earlier). So we can only work till 1pm. Not great, but I still want to get things done during the morning. At 1pm his “plans” show up and he leaves, after having worked on the startup for 1.5h.
  • My cofounder agrees to meet up the next day (to make up for the day before). I propose a time, but receive no reply. So the next day I get up early and call to inform about our meeting. I cannot reach my cofounder. I hear from his girlfriend that he is away, working on his car.

I cannot run a business like this. I want to launch our product the right way. I understand that still working day jobs means time is limited. But I seem to get a lot of things done, so why isn’t my cofounder? I’ve already initiated multiple talks about how we should be contributing more time to the startup, but it doesn’t seem to help… Should I give it another try (demanding more effort and results), or is this just not going to work (together)?

  • Edit to the above:

    At 1pm his “plans” show up and he leaves, after having worked on the startup for 1.5h.

    –> His “plans” showed up at 11am, not 1pm.

  • Seems like, professionally, the biggest question here is how easily you can replace his language ability (and how cost effectively). Beyond that, how much formal paperwork has been done is a factor. If you already have any sort of incorporation documents, you may not be able to easily sever ties.

    Assuming you can split up, it seems safe to bet that he’s not going to rush to beat you to market with your idea. Whether you want to give any weight in your decision-making calculus to whether he’ll remain a friend is a question of your individual priorities, but it seems like a worthwhile consideration too.

    • There is a language barrier, but it’s not something that is going to make me stop from making this startup become successful.

      I don’t want this startup to ruin our friendship, I don’t believe my co founder want either. I just have the feeling like he is more motivated to work at his dayjob, than he is to make our startup succesful.

  • What is your equity split? I knew someone who gave his “cofounder” 10 percent yet wanted the same amount of dedication as himself and couldn’t see why the guy didn’t seem motivated.

      • In that case some people just aren’t cut out to be entrepreneurs. It seems your co-founder might just want to do this for the prestige.

        The question is, is he aware you’re putting in a lot more than he is? If that is so ask him how he wants to move forward knowing he’s not pulling his weight.

    • Thank you for your reply. I often asked what he wants to achieve with our business. For my personally, I want to get things running ASAP, start generating enough cash so I can quit my dayjob and start working on this full time and continue growing. My co founder always replies “that’s future talk, we’ll see…”

      I’m afraid you are right…

  • Run fast and run hard. Try to work something in your language or use google. Basically he’s stringing himself along waiting for you to make millions. Fuck his friendship. If he doesn’t ship up and shape out he has to leave the company and if he plays the friend card he’s a douche.

    Either make something for yourself and leave him or do all the work and pay him.

    • Thanks for your input. I has been over a week since we worked on our business together, and I haven’t heard a thing from my friend. Today I broke silence and proposed a meeting to discuss the future of our business and talk about his motivation and dedication to work on this startup. If he can’t convince me things are going to change and comes up with an actionplan himself, I’m pulling the plug from our partnership.

  • At my first startup, I had a cofounder who was similarly iffy on his commitment. Also similar to you, even though I noticed signs of his lack of commitment early on, there were specific reasons I felt I needed him (his family ended up being our seed investor). Two years later, the startup crumbled into dust- driven in a large part by the fact that I had no one to share the weight with.

    There are three outcomes to your scenario. In order of increasing desirability, (1) you continue to work with him, using a combination of cajoling and pressure to get him to do what you need him to do. But it’s not enough in the long run to sustain the demands of a startup. Eventually, startup fails, and you’ve lost a few years of your life. (2) He quits soon. Which probably makes you freak out but fortunately forces you to figure out how to keep going without him earlier, rather than later. (3) You choose to stop working with him. This is probably the hardest decision to take, because you might feel some version of ‘what am I going to do without him?’ The answer is “you’ll figure it out, because you care enough to (unlike him).” If you take this decision, there will be temporary pain followed by a deep and powerful sense of pride and ownership with the hard decision you were able to take.

    Whatever you decide, I wish you the best. Good luck!

  • I feel for you. Im going through nearly the exact thing, except I am working full time on my startup (I have another gig that feeds me). My cofounder works on the software at night (he isnt even a developer, but the guy who came up with the idea) and pretty much nothing else. And to top it off, he is going through a divorce.

    For instance, I’ve told him he wasnt holding his own..about 7-8 times now. He says what do you want me do? I say post something on Twitter or Facebook. Help me drive sales by calling contacts. Anything but not just software work with the developer.

    Result: nothing has changed.

    My advice is…Im not sure. My gut tells me find another partner, if possible, and have a talk with your cofounder telling him you need someone more committed. You can keep your shares, but we need a new partner, so it will cost you and him some equity.

  • My man, he’s lost the motivation to work on the startup. Its very simple as an outsider to see that he doesn’t care. You’ll get more done in this situation as a sole founder with 100% equity. Launch your product, get some traction and then go from there.

  • He isn’t motivated in the same way as you are. That or he isn’t focused enough, also a clear possibility. Try to find out why. Does he have an incentive? Does he value the product? Is he passionate? Another question is your own passion. Are you self driven enough to do this yourself? It seems to me like you certainly are based on the above. If the sole reason you told me he’s your cofounder is because you asked him and because he can speak a foreign language I would be suspicious and recommend think about whether or not this is a good relationship to mix with business to begin with. You cofounder needs to be someone with his/her own personal and vested interest in the company’s vision and product.

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