I along with 3 other people created a concept for an innovative Ecommerce platform as part of a 5 week startup pre-incubator. We had a great run and on demo day we won the audience and panel of investors favorite vote. Now that we have a promising offering, branding, soft prototype, wireframes and meetings with investors lined up my teammates are saying they no longer want to work with me and are moving forward with the venture without me. I have tried to reason and compromise with them but they refuse to come to any arrangement that involves me as part of the company. They expressed no problems with my performance during our time together, but in fact repeatedly praised me for my work. I believe that they simply want the control and equity and have joined forces to push me out.
I have pretty much given up on the idea of reconciling because my former teammates have proved to be dishonest and untrustworthy, so I feel like my best option is to leave the project with a percentage of founders equity.
I have a couple of questions that I would appreciate any help in answering:
Thanks for taking the time to read this. I have no experience in this arena and am fighting a 3 against one battle so any advice would be very helpful.
I'll take a contrarian approach. If 3 out of 4 founders say they don't value your future contributions, you should take a hard look in the mirror and ask why.
What parts exactly did you contribute? Are you a developer? I'd guess not. Designer? Marketing? If you were great at brainstorming the initial idea, but that's all you did in 5 weeks, then that's a classic deadlock: you are attached to the idea, but the rest of the team wants to kick you out.
That being said, you probably should be able to negotiate something (equity) in exchange for letting them run with the baby. An advisor who gives a few ideas 3 times a year gets 0.5%. The most I would consider, without more details, would be 5%.
First question, before what to ask for, is how much can you prove you did? Do you have have a body of proof of your contribution? If you didn't have any agreements leading up to the creation of "whateveritis," can you show your contribution to it. Wireframes, design docs, ppt, code, anything?
You need to provide more information on what your role was, what you contributed and what you verbally agreed to in the beginning. Then an attorney can provide you some sound advice.
For example, copyright law provides protection when the expression of an idea is fixed in a medium. This means that if you wrote software that was not a work product, you own it. They would need a license. Same is true for any other expression of an idea that became part of the venture.
Again, it's too much gray area to answer with the information that you have provided.
Looks like you didnt enter into any initial agreement or arrangement designating yourself as an equal owner/ partner in your start-up. Without any legal documentation, it will be very difficult to prove your participation in the e-commerce venture. Is the potential investor aware of your contribution in the development process?
I guess you have not incorporated yet. If you had, normally you would have vesting of stock over 4 years. Lets say you got 25 %. They fired you after 5 weeks, 5/ (52 x 4) = 2.4 % of your stock. 2.4 % x 25 % = 0.6 %
But then, a cliff would have been enough to not even have to give you that.