Are You Ready to “Lose” Your Partner in Building a Startup?

wiku - 17 October 2011

A few days ago, a friend asked about a service or startup that had not been heard for a long time. The same question also was asked by myself and a number of other friends.

I still try to find out and collect information about the development of some startups. However, let’s discuss about something that I think interesting for us, especially for startups that are built by more than one founder.

Developing or building a technology startup is basically a business. It might be in the form of web service, mobile, game, or any other services dealing with technology. There are many things should be considered when building a business. One of them is the founder and the partners (for businesses that are built by more than one founder).

A co-founder or partner (see below) in a number of cases becomes a major factor in creating a startup as a company could thrive thanks to having a perfect match of talents, although it may fail due to a fall out among the founding partners.

Matching co-founders is also a popular condition among startup incubators, accelerators, venture capitals, and angel investors whereby they seek co-founders that show that they can work together as they develop and grow their companies.

I see this as a condition, for example, a startup may have a chance in acquiring plenty of users and gaining a positive response from the market to allow them to develop further, but this falls apart because of a lack of teamwork, a failure by the founders to work together optimally.

Before creating a larger team, the core team consisting of the founders is the heart of a company. Remco Lupker, a co-founder at Tokobagus mentioned an interesting quote with regards to this, “Good ideas can be copied, good teams can’t be copied.” I think among all the members of a team within the company, the founders are the most important.

It’s also possible that due to massive changes within the development period, the founders would grow apart or split, so for me this is not just about choosing the right partner, but also being prepared to face a situation in which one of the co-founders leave.

There are times when a startup with a single founder or more than one would have little to no problems when faced with structural changes but often I discover that the changes would negatively affect the journey of the startup that’s undergoing early development or one that already has a product or service. Whether it’s due to diminished spirit, weakening pattern, or even lack of attention even if the company has received funding, development could slow to a point where it would go off the radar.

The above issues sometimes happen because the product or service offered fails to receive enough attention or care from the users or members. While this is common in business, sometimes it would originate internally.

Founders of course play an important role in the development of a startup, sometimes becoming a decisive factor for investors to grant funding assistance. They can also make a startup interesting simply because of who they are.

I don’t of course expect founders to resign from the companies that they’ve built or that those with a solid team to break apart. For them, they should continue doing what they do. This more about preparing for the worst.

Before  the worst happens, my advice is spare some time to ask yourself, “Am I ready for all the possible outcomes?” One thing that needs to be prepared for as well for those who have partners in their companies is whether you’re ready to lose your partner if one day he or she decides to resign from the company you built together, and what your strategy is in facing those possibilities.

Note: While there may be different definitions on what a co-founder is, my understanding of the term falls along the lines of what is explained here (in indonesian)

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