Dear SaaStr: I am leaving a startup I co-founded on good terms with both the company and the remaining team. Should I resign my board seat?
You should. If they really don’t want you to leave the board — they will tell you. You’ll know if they really want you to stay on the board.
It’s always awkward when ex-founders, ex-CEOs, etc. remain on the board, at least 90% of the time. The only general exception is a CEO that partially retires once a startup is fairly big to an active chairperson role. But even there, sometimes it can be a distraction:
- First, things will change. As you leave your operating role, the company will a year or two be very different from the company you worked at.
- Second, the Board is the CEO’s boss. Having an ex-colleague as your boss is full of issues and micro-conflicts.
- Third, it creates tension & distractions all around. Even if you don’t see it. This helps no one.
I’ve generally seen founders that leave fairly early that stay on the board … just inadvertently create more trouble than they intend. Not intentionally, in most cases, but they get in the way. You can still just be a “senior advisor”. Be that.
Step down and move on, and let the company make the most of your equity.
That’s where your return is. Not being critical about a company you don’t even work at anymore, and often, haven’t in quite some time.
A related post here:
(note: an updated SaaStr Classic answer)