What happens when founders break up and how to prevent it
Updated on August 27, 2018
I recently wrote about the prevalence of breakups between founders of companies.
So how do you prevent founder breakups? You should be able to call each other out and the other side needs to listen. I mean really listen, not just play lip service. Founders need to be proactive about cultivating trust between each other and those around them by taking the other's concerns seriously.
I know the family analogy is overplayed or downright wrong, but the marriage analogy between founders holds true. Just like you can't neglect your partner in life, neither can you neglect your business partner. It's a financial marriage and a legal one, and it can get difficult and ugly to retract.
Having been there myself, I can attest to how frustrating it can feel when communication disappears and you're left with... nothing. It doesn't get that point overnight, though. It's a process and inevitably both sides are to blame for a deterioration in the relationship among founders. Sometimes founder relationships, like some marriages, are just destined to fail.
When that happens, it's best to limit the fallout by cutting bait. When transparency leads to the certainty that the partnership is going to fail, then cut bait right away. Don't let it drag out. Your relationship may be saved this way and it will also be better for the company.
Ultimately, founder breakup outcomes vary but they fall into three general buckets:
Logan Green and John Zimmer of Lyft seem to have avoided these problems even as their company has grown to billions in value and over 1,000 employees. It’s highly unlikely that these two could remain friends and business partners over the course of such an incredible climb. But they did.
I listened to John Zimmer describe the origin and ascent of Lyft and it appears they avoided these pitfalls by building the precise opposite of my points in the founder breakups post:
For these reasons, in the long run, I’d bet on Lyft over Uber.
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