Leave Startup Without Killing It or Breaking Hearts?

I lost all passion and interest in my startup over 6 months ago (post traction and funding). I stuck it out to make sure that I really wanted to leave. I know now that I definitely want to leave.

As a co-founder, I play a pretty vital role in running the company. I’d rather not stick around for months on end while the company makes the transition to filling my role. But, I’m afraid that reducing my involvement anytime soon will start a snowball effect that ends up killing the company.

I haven’t talked to my co-founder yet and I know that I need to. I know it will break his heart and I don’t want to just leave him with all of the struggles of our company.

Does anyone have any advice or suggestions on how to best break the news to a co-founder and leave the startup without major negative side effects?

  • Just went through this. After a year my partner wanted out. But I knew well before he told me because he had been MIA for months. It was actually a relief to finally get it on the table and be able to make a plan to move on because I had felt stuck in his lack of action. Best thing to do is to recruit quickly and make a thoughtful, planned transition. He gave me three months to make the transition. It would be responsible of you to do something similar. Founder transitions often kill the company but lack of action when things aren’t working is a sure killer too. Now that I look back on it, his leaving was actually a great thing. I have renewed energy and things are moving forward again.

  • I witnessed total lack of “we-on-same-page” between 2 founders and I positively knew one was hanging out there just for IPO.

    BUT that might never happened as the other co-founder was a total nut.

    Trust me, employees did sensed it all, and they would be just fine after your sudden escapade.

    You can always say, I want to spend more time with my family. 🙂

  • Honest communication is key. You’re in a position where you can really hurt the startup (and everybody knows this), so try to emphasize with the other side and try to part ways amicably.

    It doesn’t matter much how exactly you bring the news, there is no “trick” to make it go smoothly. So be honest, express how you feel, make clear that you don’t think the situation can be salvaged from your end, emphasize that you still care about your cofounders and are willing to do what it takes to ensure a smooth transition, because you at least owe them that.

    • That’s in ideal world…

      Honest communication with dishonest partner (co-founder) is a total time waste.

      My advice is as soon as you recognize it, RUN….no matter equity, heartbreak…

      • Oh ! Shocking !


        Seriously: if you consider you co-founders are no worth honest talk, why did you found a company with them ?

        If you are honest and you think your co-founders are too, continue like this. At the end of the day, honesty is the most important asset you owe.

  • I just went through this. You have to do it and move quickly to find a safe place for yourself or you will really do damage to yourself.

  • Review your legal docs first. Once you know what they state clearly then go and be honest with your cofounders. Once the conversation is had anything can happen at that point (they try to push you out the door without compensation, etc). I’ve been there, went through nasty lawsuit with cofounder and in the end I was the one that retained the startup even though I felt like I wanted out.

  • Leave but have a discussion. Don’t be a wimp and run from discussion. It’s better for both of you and the idea of you are honest. Too many people run and don’t have the talk or stay without doing the work. Be honest with him and yourself.

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