Somewhere deep inside I disrespect my co-founder. I think all the problems we have with our startup root in that.

Somewhere deep inside I disrespect my co-founder. I think all the problems we have with our startup root in that…

I started my startup in FinTech over 2 years ago. I can’t say I’m a snob… But thinking that I could be a snob makes me feel bad.

Ok, here is the story. I’m not from the US, I’m from one of the former Soviet countries to be exact, neither is my co-founder, despite that, we were able to build a fairly successful Fintech startup. It is very hard, indeed both financially and emotionally.

I started it with one guy, and then this guy joined us 2 years ago. I don’t know why I invited him but it is what it is. The first co-founder dropped along the way so it is only 2 of us left, the third guy and me.

This third guy is not a tech person and did not have experience running a startup, just another Finance student like me. We both went to a fairly good school in NYC, nothing too exciting.

Although we are pretty much from the same place, we have very different backgrounds, I went to one of the top schools in the country based on my academic merits, I am from a liberal family and from the kind of an upper-middle-class social background (don’t get me wrong I am not saying it with any sort of pride or prejudice). I grew up in that environment where your friends are all bright exceptionally intellectual kids with vision, highly opinionated and political.

And then my co-founder (again I am not trying to be a snob here); he wasn’t intellectual, he grew up “on the street”, fighting and admiring Putin. He is from a very conservative family with very conservative views on everything, from gays to women, from family to politics. I will give it to him he is tough, but I can’t ignore it anymore, I don’t like it.

Those fundamental differences lead to enormous misunderstanding of everything from brainstorming ideas to execution. I can say that I was pushing this startup all the way along for past 2 years.

Here is an example: we saw a marketing video from Apple, the one about 1984 and my co-founder didn’t even know Orwell.

I want a co-founder I can look upon and be admired by. It is hard, It will only get harder…

  • I think you have to try to sort out two things. The different background of you and your partner is only one thing. That can be problematic, for sure, but this also can work if you are both on the same page. But if you are not, things like the background will intensify the problems you currently seem to have.

    I can only speak about my own experience – cofounding a tech startup in Germany three years ago together with a partner. Good, patented product in torque measurement, but then we had the feeling that we need support for funding and I took in a third person to assist in this. Wrong decision – after one year I decided to leave as the person took over more and more of my scope and even several discussions about it led to nothing. It was a mistake that I took him in, and I knew that this would lead to nothing if I´d continue like that.

    If you are able to stop with him, do it. If you already have investors, disclose it to them – you need partners for your descision. If you are not already funded, it can be easier to quit with him. But if the core team does not fit, you won´t get successful. BR from Germany, B.

  • I don’t know if the upper class vs. street background is enough to justify not being someone’s partner, but the gay thing definitely is! I could still respect even people who disagree entirely with my business views, but could never have a cofounder that is a racist or a homophobic (or votes for Putin really).

    I have someone in a high position in my startup who I disrespect entirely when it comes to work. It was not my decision for him to be there and is not in my power to remove him unfortunately. The reason I disrespect him so much is that he is a complete idiot at his job – guy has no idea what he is doing and is still smug as hell, acts as though he is the most intelligent person in the office. I have so little respect for him that when he talks I barelly even listen anymore. When he tries to tell me anything I just nod and think “what an idiot”. I tollerate him because he is not an inherently bad person, he’s just incompetent.

    What I’m saying is: there’s a thin line between what you are able to tollerate and what is downright unacceptable. It could do you good to find what that line is between you and your business partner. If you think he’s an idiot in life but doing a great job and you are able to keep things strictly professional (which with startups is extremely rare), then you can find respect for his work and go on (don’t let him represent you startup’s ideas though). If this is something you can’t do (and I understand – startups are extremely personal) then maybe it’s time to move on.

    A good idea is also to add someone you do respect to the team. They might give you perspective just by being able to see the guy without your bias.

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