Fighting between cofounders: one of the main reasons that startups fail | Jeremie Berrebi

Often the problem isn’t launching a bad product, burning too much money, hiring bad people but the founders destroying their own company.

First, we have to say that managing a startup is clearly not “fun”. It needs a lot of work, focus and organization constantly facing a lot of problems (cash, hiring, technical, marketing..). Founders need to manage cash flow efficiently to be able to keep the company alive until a potential success.

When you are facing problems, you have 2 ways to apprehend them:
(A) The problem is someone else’s fault: “I’m working so much, I’m sure I’m doing my ‘job’ someone/something else is the cause”
(B) The problem is part of life: it is not insolvable, so let’s see how we can solve it.

In case of (A) at a startup, the founders are almost always looking at their cofounders to see how they work…and for sure, they will always find many things that are not perfect so…HE MUST BE THE CAUSE FOR OUR PROBLEMS!

But there is a secret.

In the Talmud (Kidushin, Daf 70B), we can learn something that I almost always find relevant. It says : כָּל הַפּוֹסֵל בְּמוּמוֹ פּוֹסֵל
It means that if someone is invalidating someone else for a specific reason or default, it’s because of his own (same) default.

So in our case, when Founder A is thinking that the other Founder B is not working enough or not doing his job correctly, it’s probably because founder A is not working correctly.

So how to manage this kind of situation ?
If you are Founder A, focus only on what you are doing and what you have to do. Don’t always check what your cofounder is doing. Don’t always try to correct him, change him like a father.

If you think your cofounder can improve things, go to a restaurant, talk together and ask him first:
– How do you think we can improve the company ?
– How can we solve this problem ?
– How can we hire this type of guy ?

Discuss together about all these subjects.

After this talk, write on a piece of paper who needs to do what and agree together on a due date for each part and then stop thinking about him completely.

If after a few months, if you still think that there is a real problem, talk with another entrepreneur/mentor first and ask him for advice. Don’t be upset by this situation, being upset will not help.
If you find that everyone agrees that he is a problem, talk with your cofounder…and help him improve the way he works.

Fights can also happen when a cofounder is working on another side-project without the approval of the others. In that case, yes, you have a real big reason to be upset.

But trying to fire a cofounder almost never works and most of the time will kill the company.

A last word: I clearly recommend to launch a company with at least 2 cofounders, ideally 3. When you will have difficulties to solve, you will be a lot more efficient by working together.

Don’t forget to negotiate and sign a founders agreement defining exactly the role of each founder.

Quite often, founder agreement are missing an exclusivity clause saying that founders will not work on anything else beside the company without the authorization of the other cofounders. For me it’s really very important.

Good luck!

complete post of Jeremie Berrenbi : Fighting between cofounders: one of the main reasons that startups fail | Jeremie Berrebi Blog.


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