I just walked out of my startup because of irreconcilable differences, but I am depressed.

I was part of a very exciting and fast growing startup. The co-founders had been doing this for about 6 months before they met me. When I came on board, even though I had equal or more gravitas, I somehow didn’t negotiate co-founder position for myself. I was happy with the equity on offer.

Then another 6-7 months down the line, one of the co-founders backed out. I was fully functional and vested in the business by then and supported the other co-founder in full might. The business wasn’t growing fast enough and the co-founder was getting nervous. But I stuck through and kept plugging. We turned a corner and were able to raise more money. The team kept growing and everyone could see that my contribution was equal to the co-founder and so even though I didn’t have the title, I was looked upon and respected as one – especially since I was the one who was driving the vision by then. The co-founder understood and appreciated this and even increased my equity. It was a point at which, I could have negotiated to change myself to co-founder and I didn’t. I am a trusting person and

Then about a year later we made a hiring mistake and hired someone who brought about a lot of political tension within the team. He was out within 4 months but had corrupted the system by then, including the strong bond of trust that I had shared with the co-founder. Even though the company did not suffer from this dark period, my relationship with the co-founder did and things never went back to the same. It started showing in the way my contribution was getting marginalized – while the whole team leaned on me, I was just not getting the credit from the one person that mattered.

This eventually got to a point of frustration in a few months and we had a hard conversation a few weeks ago and it was decided that it’s best that I moved on. In his words “Things got f***d up”. I exited with grace.

It’s been two months now and on the one hand I’m happy and cheerful, but I think I’m seeing signs of depression. I had a couple of startup ideas but I haven’t done anything about them yet. I’m meeting a few people but just not enough. Given I was in a high burn startup, a lot of my personal matters had fallen by the wayside due to lack of time. Now even though I have the time, I’m unable to focus on those. I had promised myself to start working out and losing weight – I’ve started it but I can see it’s half-hearted. One example is I bought a fitbit and for two months it has been sitting, I haven’t even installed it yet.

I do need to break out this but I’m feeling quite lonely and while I know what I need to do, I’m unable to do it. Any help would be appreciated.


  • Depressed: Go on vacation, clear your mind.

    *… been doing this for about 6 months before they met me. … even though I had equal or more gravitas, I somehow didn’t negotiate co-founder position for myself. *: People really need to quit pathetic ego rewrites of history and tying their esteem to a title. You are not a cofounder because you didn’t start the company, simple.

  • Feeling depressed is normal – many of us have been there – give yourself time to grieve what feels like a loss, forgive the people you feel wronged you (so you don’t carry around anger and resentment), identify lessons learned, and keep moving forward.

  • Who cares about “cofounder”?

    If you are a leading role the title would be COO or CTO depending on your work. But then again, it’s just cosmetic and purely for your ego. You write that the team respects you, so why do you need a special title?

  • I am afraid this type of situation happens too frequently in a start-up type of environment. Live and learn and put on your fitbit! Next time, you’ll be wiser in your dealings.

    Depression is just repressed anger, so in this case, you’re probably angry at the situation and its unfairness as well as angry at yourself for not negotiating a stronger position for yourself in the first place.

    And, in work situations where things are changing on a daily basis, titles do matter in my opinion. If you are doing the work of an executive, then, you should be acknowledged as one.

  • Well, as someone said, that’s not unusual. Yes, and it is: you may have felt to be better than the founder, but you weren’t – been there, done this.

    There are the founders, and – the others.

    What I found to be of tremendous value, for my self-esteem at least; i have learnt that much during those times. Without the full risk. And :))) may you please think so, also.

    It sounds familiar, your writing. A sort of “dead end” for the org, like it is at this moment. Would require restructuring, of people, of ideas, etc.

    No of the three people I have worked for was actually able to do so. They are still stuck. One – since 10 years. The same situation of just-making-it for all of these years. They look 10 years older than me 🙂 .. as i have spent (like you are starting) a lot of time in the gym, then.

    Well, three times. So, I have learnt a lot, I am not stuck, and I will do my own ideas far better and open minded and, of course, in a fair way ..

    Good luck! .. May do a few months just the gym .. it’s great.

  • One step at a time. Do something. Small… but take a step. Make your bed in the morning. Do 25 situps. Make 3 phone calls a day. Just do one. Engage your friends – don’t shut them out. Call one, tell them you could use a beer/coffee to talk and let them listen and help you. You’ll get your mojo back, and it doesn’t have to happen all at once. Just take a step… one small step.

    • Yes, this is totally normal feeling. And it’s important you take some time to actually feel it.

      I really support taking small steps to rebuild. It works.

      A close family member died suddenly when I was making the leap to work for myself. I lost my ability to speak. I couldn’t even answer the phone to accept condolences. So, everyday, I got up, went to a coffee house, and ordered coffee.

      And each day was an interation further than the previous. Good news is, you know how to iterate already.

      More than a year later, I’m still building, but a million miles further than I was.

      Just one foot in front of the other.

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