The love is gone. Ideas haven't had sex in months. The infatuation is stale and now you are surrounded and stressed by the startup blues. You and your cofounder are at each other's throat, some have gone dark or simply no longer are meeting expectations or deadlines. Maybe it's time for a divorce.
Consider the process in three stages: 1) what to think about before breaking up, 2) how to break up, and 3) what to do after you have severed ties.
1. What is in your co-founder’s way?
Is your co-founder being held up by a lack of clarity? Is it a lack of motivation or a lack of autonomy? Why are they not pulling their weight? Just sitting down to talk with them could help clear this up.
2. What job was your co-founder brought on to complete?
Is this job being completed? Maybe you need to define your roles better, or maybe they are in the wrong role.
3. Is your co-founder capable of doing the job?
Do their skills match their position? Sometimes, startup founders bring on close friends because they trust them, but then come to realize they are in the wrong position and the company suffers because of it. If your co-founder is not capable, you either need to lay them off or find a better spot for them within the company.
4. Do you just simply not like the way this co-founder works?
People work differently. Some like micromanaging while others prefer a more laid-back management style. Does your style match theirs? Is this something you can work on together, or is it a deal-breaker? If it’s the latter, maybe you should reconsider your position and theirs within the company.
6. Do you have a valid agreement in place?
7. When is the time to separate such that you can execute Plan B?
8. Do you have mentors or advisors you can consult?
9. Who needs to know-investors, other cofounders, spouses?
Find the right accounting, tax, PR, investor relations and legal advisors to educate you about the options, the process and the immediate and longer term consequence if you decide to proceed.
The world is a small round place so it is likely that you will run into your ex sometime in the future. What's more, it is likely that your baby i.e.your company, will be affected by how you treat each other. Take the long view, add it to your failure resume and move on. Knowing the limits of one’s ability and understanding when it is best for the organization to have another assume power is perhaps the greatest quality any leader can possess. And it’s a rare talent indeed.