Dear SaaStr: What Was the Moment You Knew You Had to Break Up With Your Co-founder?
It’s happened to me twice, that “moment”. It was the same thing both times:
When they just didn’t show up to a critical meeting.
Founder conflict is unfortunately pretty common. I was blessed in my first start-up to never have a second of it. That’s really about as good as it gets in start-up land. Since then, I’ve always had some, to varying degrees. In the end, almost all founder conflict comes from asymmetric commitment.
It’s hard to deal with a situation where you are more committed than a co-founder, but my lesson learned is at least try. Even a 95% commitment from someone that can do magic can be a decent bridge strategy at least. So my general advice is try harder! At least try to make it last a little longer if they are insanely talented.
But below a 95% commitment doesn’t work.
The classic one for me is when they just don’t show up to something important. No notice, no heads-up, no email or Slack ahead of time. They just don’t show up.
That’s something founders just have to do — you gotta show up.
Not going may be a natural reaction to stress, a need to take a break, etc. It’s not done out of malice, or lack of Google Calendar skills. It’s just something folks that disengage do, for some reason.
But my learning is when you see this sign — it’s too late. It can’t be fixed. They don’t have the minimum commitment to make it happen.
Move on to Plan B.
(note: an updated Classic SaaStr Answer)