When to ditch a partnership


I have been working on a project for a little over a year. This project was my partners idea, and we agreed to a percentage of the stake when it gets done. (he gets the majority)

Originally, the program was created by some other programmers. It was done in C# Windows application, and the program looked like it was from the 1980s.

When it fell into my hands, I made the decision to recode it into a web application in order to use 'rapid development' frameworks and to create an online accessible system that would greatly increase the value of the product. (checking in through phones, internet dashboard, etc)

I also added tremendous aesthetic value to the product.

Recently, although aesthetically pleasing, I've been redesigning the user interface to conform more to User Experience concepts. (target audience, simplicity, efficiency etc)

This has taken some time, and my partner is getting frustrated. My partner, even though I've explained these important concepts to add value to the product and give it a shine to venture capitalists, does not really 'soak it in'. He just wants it done, now.

Recently, he decided to work behind my back a little bit and sought out some additional programmers to 'help' me finish the product. I was not involved in this process, and I have no idea if the people he found are even qualified as I do not even know what languages they can write in.

He is also deciding to pay the programmer to help me finish it, while I am not getting paid.

Is it the right time to bail out, even after so much time dedicated to the project? I am having a hard time seeing a future with my partner when I have these surprises. (and this is not the first one)

The value of it to me is:

  • Would look good on resume
  • Been in my mind a long time, have to get it done
  • Great potential in money-making

The cons are:

  • Partner's behind the back practices (treats me as an employee instead of an owner)
  • Partner's lack of understanding of elements that are attractive to venture capitalists
  • Partner's narrow vision

Thanks in advance

Partnerships Project Conflict Of Interest

asked Jan 29 '12 at 01:21
130 points
  • it sounds like neither of you know what to do. If you lost confidence in im and he in y ou, then talk to him about splitting up. – Tim J 12 years ago

3 Answers


It sounds like your partner is trying to quickly get a minimum viable product (MVP) for business reasons while you are driven by other non-business goals. Further it would seem that perhaps he is better at business (at least in negotiating with you he ended up with more stock than you did) while you are better at programming. You both have skills which compliment each other and you may both be right in your own way.

What seems to be lacking on both your parts is an understanding of why the other person thinks the way they do. I would recommend you sit down with him over a set of two sessions. The purpose of the first session would be for you to totally understanding his goals for the product and why he wants to proceed the way he wants to. Then in the second session (next day perhaps) you do the opposite, this would be your turn to help him understand why you feel it is important to proceed that way you want to. Don't try to do both in one session as there would be a high likelihood that it turns into a debate (non productive) rather than a learning experience.

Once you both understand how and why the other person thinks the way they do you will be in a much better position to decide if you feel the other person brings value to the table and if it is worth working together.

As an aside, you state:

I have been working on a project for a little over a year. This
project was my partners idea, and we agreed to a percentage of the
stake when it gets done. (he gets the majority)

Are you saying you have worked for a year with no pay and will get zero stock until the project is done? In other words if you walk away now he keeps a year's worth of your work and you have nothing?

If so, perhaps next time you want to think about negotiating a better deal.

answered Jan 29 '12 at 13:32
Jonny Boats
4,848 points
  • MVP isn't a half-baked product with imperfect user experience. It's "minimalism" is in the feature set, which is less than the founder's(s') vision. User experience is as much of a business goal as production cost or conversion rate are. Time to market means nothing if the product feels raw. – Dnbrv 12 years ago


I will personally feel that this is more of an ego clash. We need to understand the requirement of business. There is no limit to fine tune a product. For very large companies, two future releases are already on work, when a stable version is released. Efficiency has no limits effectiveness should be targeted.

One should understand the partners viewpoint. Unless it is completed, the business will never move forward. Although, you have worked hard to improve the look and feel of the program, you will appreciate that it has taken its own time. You have gone through several iteration and should appreciate that time has got its own value.

Instead of calling it a day, you should sit with the partner, take him into confidence and give a realistic schedule for a stable version.

answered Jan 29 '12 at 02:22
Natwar Lath
294 points
  • Ditch is not a very aesthetic word.... – Natwar Lath 12 years ago
  • Web applications don't have "releases" - they have a backlog that they go through and either update the continuously or in batches. – Dnbrv 12 years ago


If you partner doesn't understand how user experience affects product value & success, it sounds like you have a major disconnect on product management. In startups, this is a critical point.

Try talking to him and figure out which features can be dropped from the first deployment so that the product is still valuable to customers but doesn't require as much development time. This way you'll be able to polish your existing features & release the product on time. If he doesn't agree to such a plan, you should leave the project because such differences in values aren't healthy for the business. They also aren't attractive to VCs who invest in teams rather than products/ideas (a great team works together to fix a bad product while a bad team works separately to destroy a great product).

answered Jan 29 '12 at 03:08
1,963 points
  • Although all the answers here are great, I'm awarding the 'final' answer here as we do have a major disconnect on product management. And we won't be able to much else say to a VC about our team anything other than 'I own the majority but he creates and designs everything'. – Vigrond 12 years ago

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