What Not to Do During Co-Founder Exit or Split [#LessonsLearned]

[Editorial Notes : Birds Fly, Fishes Swim and Cofounders Split. What really matters is how one handles the split. Here is a great piece of experience sharing* by Anubhav Jain, cofounder of StudyBud]

I’ll keep it straight. I started an Education venture with my batch mate from college 3 years back. We ran it with some success in the offline mode (50+ clients, 50,000+ students) but decided to switch online for scalability and growth. Honestly, he was not very confident about it, after spending 3 years and not being able to make it big (yeah, I mean money here). But he stuck around, mostly because I was (and am still) confident.

Cofounders' Split
Cofounders’ Split

After spending 9 months in product development, and hiring a team of 3, he decided to call it quits in March this year. Since then, I have been trying to pull this off. Today, as I sail through, I thought penning down a few things I learnt one must not do during such phase to ensure smooth running.

Stick to ‘We’, no transition to ‘I’ 

Before the split, we were always ‘We’. Both of us discussed things during day and night. There were calls at 1 AM. We spoke to our team as ‘we’, met our clients as a team and addressed all our mails with a ‘We are XYZ’. Even after his exit, I continue to use ‘We’. Even when I am talking to my Business Development Team, there is no change.

The only thing that has changed is the way I communicate. Earlier, whenever we addressed our Sales Team, it used to be – “We (referring to my Co-Founder and myself) would love to see more aggression in our sales cycle from you”. Now it is slightly different – “We (referring to them and myself) have to make this work”. I realized I need them more than ever and without a team, well, you know what I am saying!

Don’t immediately start looking for a Co-Founder, Plug the Gaps 

I was always the Product and Technology person and he was everything else. At the time of the split, I thought – “Whoa! He used to handle so many things – Sales, Meetings, Presentations, Financials and what not. How am I going to do all that? I need someone”.

But wait, spend some time with yourself. What I did is I took a break. In fact, I travelled to Sikkim for a week and said to myself – “I’ll figure out the most critical places where I feel the gaps”. I told my team before leaving – “Nothing changes for you, treat this as an opportunity to rise to another level. Handle things without us, as if this was your start-up. For a week, you are the Co-Founders”.

And when I came back, I carefully studied everything that happened when I was away. I put down to paper each number, under two columns, ‘Before’ and ‘After’. And then I listed the areas which had significant impact. I felt better. I knew exactly where I needed someone, the skill to look for.

Don’t hide the change from anyone, Clients or Customers 

This is the toughest part. No doubt, he was more outgoing and known to my clients and customers. Everyone felt more comfortable interacting with him, including me. With him gone, I had to manage the change in all our interactions. But I knew that someday I had to make this public.

People always associate with people first, then with companies. Moreover, for an upcoming startup, Co-Founder exit could mean something terribly wrong with the company. But that was never the case with us. I decided to be open with everyone.

And it helped.

Of course, he is still with me, a very good friend, ready to help, ready to be a Mentor, a Guide. We have known each other for 8 years and share the same relationship till date, meet and talk regularly and celebrate the smallest success together.

Possibly, that’s why, I feel all the more confident.

[Note: If you want to share your insights as a guest author, simply drop us an email : editors@nextbigwhat.com]

Leave a Reply