Advice on having my friend as a co-founder for this startup


I have a friend that lives in another country and wants to join my startup, working part time outside his day job. He said he'll work on weekends mostly. I've started it about 1 year ago working on it full time and now I've got a version but it's not simplified enough and it's too complex to use.

The issue is that I have no idea if he will be committed to it or if he just wants to learn the technologies used. I don't want to spend a lot of time(which is very limited at this point) for walking him through the project, explaining the details and all that stuff and at some point to see that he was just interested to learn from my experience instead of having true hope in the success of the project.

I tried to face this problem and tell him directly that I don't want to loose a lot of time without knowing that he is really enthusiastic and really interested in it. He told me that he likes the idea and thinks it could be better than the competitor's product, but I really don't know if he is genuine about it.

For a long time now, he says he wants access to the sources of the project and all other information I have about it but I hesitated to give until now because I don't want him to get involved in the technical part without being commited to the project first. I'd have to use a lot of time to explain the technology used, what the code does, etc. I didn't feel until now(although I might be VERY wrong about all these ?unjustified? fears) that he wants to simplify the idea since he kept asking for the sources first instead of analyzing the functionality and think of ways to improve the user experience.

At this point I really don't know what to do. Is a long-distance(over skype) collaboration possible on a web startup? How can I know if he is genuine or not about the project? How can I feel OK about all this?

I trust him as a friend and I know him for a lot of time, and while we understood eachother very well all the time, I think he was a bit superficial when it came to commitment. And I don't blame him, the things we did then weren't real projects and we did those out of pleasure. Now it's a completely different story, but I can't help to not think about how it was back then.

I'd wish very much he'd join me on this venture because I feel he could make a great difference to the project because he is a very smart guy. I'm also very worried that this lack of trust from my side might affect our friendship and I really don't want that to happen. I'd prefer to continue alone than to loose a friend.


asked Jul 16 '11 at 07:52
222 points

3 Answers


At this point I really don't know what to do. Is a long-distance(over
skype) collaboration possible on a web startup?

Yes, it's possible to collaborate over Skype. It's all about the right people/right relationships. Communication takes a little bit more work this way, as long as both of you have very open communication it's possible. That said, it's a bit harder teaching someone over Skype. If you need to teach him the technologies and the product, what makes him a candidate to be a cofounder?

How can I know if he is genuine or not about the project? How can I
feel OK about all this?

If you have all of these doubts, that should raise a red flag. Break out some chunks of the project for him to work on, and see how it goes. For example, if there is code that could be useful as it's own library, or a plugin, etc. Maybe I'll hire a potential employee as a consultant to build it as a test project for him to see how he fits. If he's good, we can go from there, if he's not, it was only on a contract basis.

It doesn't sound like he has any reason to be committed to this project, and I'm not seeing the qualities that would make him a potential cofounder. Are you planning to give him equity? If so how much? Would he accept being hired hourly? and then maybe he gets a percent equity vested over time if it works out. It's definitely a tough circumstance, especially because he will not be putting in the same amount of time and effort as you.

answered Jul 16 '11 at 10:48
Tom Harrigan
373 points


The problem is not the distance (although it doesn't help).

From the tone in your question, I am sensing that you don't really trust this "friend". If I was talking to a true friend, I wouldn't be concerned about him stealing my code for instance, or trying to abuse me.

So I'll take a guess and assume that this is not a close friend, but more like someone you kind-of know, but not very well. A friend of a friend maybe...?

Based on all the implicit negative tones in your question, the short answer would be: drop the friend, it won't work.

If you think I am being too harsh, then here is the test I would use to decide: has the other person contributed lots of ideas for features and changes? That's how I know if someone really believes in the product. If all this friend has done is ask you to bring him on board, but hasn't been bugging you actively about "what if we did this, what if we did that?", then drop him!

answered Jul 17 '11 at 02:01
Alain Raynaud
10,927 points
  • it's not that I don't trust him and he's not a friend of a friend or something like that - I've known him for a long time and we understood each other well; it's just the fact that I don't know if he won't become bored or uninterested in working for the project at some point and I'd see my efforts were in vain – Leadgy 13 years ago


trust is the most important thing especially when it comes to virtual.
if i were you, i will see how he develop the project and if he willing to show all the code to us and upload it to my server and if he willing to hear my opinion and do the project as i want to. if he is, i will trust him.
since it is a company, make everything paper clear and i am sure you will be save. remember, there are a lot of great developer outside.

if he leave, you still have the website and can find others to develop it. good luck

answered Jul 16 '11 at 11:11
186 points

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