Web developer in project, slow going, need advice


I was approached over a year ago by a "start up" offering me 10% in the company. I thought about it for a few days and said, "Sure, why not?".

I was sucked into the dream of being a part of something huge but sadly, over a year later we have a 75% complete website with zero revenue. When I first started I was positive this website would be complete in 4-6 months and I can pretty much guarantee it would've been, but the two other partners have been constantly making huge changes to the website. When almost complete with one part it seems I have to redo it or something else changes. This is very frustrating. I feel the limiting factor of completing this project is them and I am pretty burnt out on it. I have expressed my feeling towards them expressing the reasons this project isn't complete and they acknowledge that it is their fault because they "want the site to be perfect".

I still believe strongly in the idea of the website but to be truthful I don't believe in my partners on executing it right.

So I am stuck in a huge dilemma. Be true to my word and finish this and hope to make money or cut my losses and be done with the whole deal? Should I work with them on cutting me compensation? Should I sell the current state of the website to them for the hours I have vested? (I've kept track)


-Confused Web Developer

Partner Development Compensation

asked Apr 3 '11 at 10:22
43 points

6 Answers


I think Getting Real from 37 Signals have done a good job of explaining why you should release early, get feedback from "real" users. And there is no perfect, things can always improve

At least read the chapter Fix Time & Budget, Flex Scope

If you can't fit everything in within
the time and budget allotted then
don't expand the time and budget.
Instead, pull back the scope. There's
always time to add stuff later — later
is eternal, now is fleeting.

answered Apr 3 '11 at 11:56
Jiew Meng
141 points


Based on everything you have said, and all of the great follow up comments -- I think that you are now at a critical cross road. As someone with a sales and marketing background I appreciate the value that they have and will continue to bring to the product. I also appreciate your challenge is securing their support for a deployment of a MVP.

I think that you need to sit down with your partners. You need to engage them in a serious conversation. You need to communicate that you will not continue moving forward in the same format that you have.

You can not continue to incurred deferred compensation. You can not continue to work for only 10% of the company. You can not continue iterative developing of the product without active engagement of a beta customer group.

And they need to understand that. And you need to have the solution in your mind -- but you don't disclose until they have fully agreed that the status-quo.

I would propose that all future development work be billed at an hourly rate. That you will incur a maximum of $X dollars outstanding. And that payment on deferred compensation is paid as a percentage of gross margin.

Best of luck on this tricky situation!

answered Apr 4 '11 at 14:24
Joseph Barisonzi
12,141 points
  • This is basically what happened. Thank you all for your responses! – 404 13 years ago


Launched is better than perfect unfinished. You know that already.

Seems to me you have a choice, thus:

Cut your losses and walk away now. I have no idea what terms you have in place for the work already done - if informal it's likely to get messy. You know their track record thus far, and doubt their execution - only you can know if the changes were "reasonable" due to events, or constantly the latest great idea.

Present them with a final opportunity to deliver a launch, and be willing to spend xx weeks to complete, and don't deviate. Just one change and you risk starting the cycle all over again. So you'd probably have to keep reminding and educating them of things like MVP (Minimum viable product) and why that's recommended. Perhaps you should be talking in terms of larger percentage or compensation as your work has grown so much - maybe that would focus minds.

Which is best only you can answer.

answered Apr 3 '11 at 10:55
2,552 points
  • I believe this is a very solid answer if I choose to carry forward. I have stressed to them before the MVP but as their backgrounds are marketing and sales they have a hard time seeing past this. And since it isn't costing them anything (yet at least) to say "oh, add this" or "oh, change this" they don't see a problem with it. – 404 13 years ago
  • Having a sales and marketing background is no excuse for not recognizing MVP when it is presented to you. I think they may need to grasp the real prospect of losing you before they get the message. You need to walk. If they should choose to beg you to come back, you would need to have a defined scope and schedule that they cannot mess with. That will be basically impossible as they can always hold out on you in the end. It's "live and learn" time. – Kenneth Vogt 13 years ago


You and your team are in a tough situation. It sounds like you have a bad team and you need to replace them with A-players.

Unfortunately, it sounds like you were invited in, and are a minority partner with only 10% so it will not be easy to switch partners as it is not primarily your decision to make.

One choice you have is to politely ask your partners whether you can carry forward the idea and maybe they can step aside. If you don't come to an agreement about that, I would probably leave the project.

Here is why: there is a tremendous number of ideas that are worthy of believing in. You will find another great one if you want to. Most important is that you surround yourself with A-people who can deliver fast and high-quality results. An inefficient team will fail even if the product launches because it will just get out-competed against by better teams.

answered Apr 3 '11 at 11:09
1,821 points
  • Unfortunately they are have extensive marketing and sales backgrounds so once the development is done, they take over and sale the product. I could in no way carry the product. – 404 13 years ago


Ok, so situation aside, what caught my eye is that you don't talk much about how you might consider a similar opportunity the next time around.

It seems you choose pretty quicky... in fact your sole reason was "why not?" instead of due diligence to find some good reasons why not. (Such as "Is your goal to launch fast or perfect?")

Now you say "Be true to my word and finish this" (which I implicitly take to mean they are breaking their word..) ... well what exactly is your word? If they misrepresented what the goal for launch is then why stay? If you were solely in charge of it then you would be breaking your word.

answered Apr 3 '11 at 22:47
249 points
  • You are completely right. I chose to do it on a whim, I didn't think through the logistics or consider any road bumps. It was a lesson learned and a good lesson learned. My word is basically the man code. No partnership agreement was ever signed, it was set to be signed once the development was done. They have no code. – 404 13 years ago


You may have made a commitment to them, but what commitment did they make to you? Asking you to build a website requiring X amount of effort and then turning around and asking X * 10 is not keeping up their end of the deal. You may believe in the concept, but I'm not sure you believe in you partner's ability to execute. Confront them and get answers on where all this will stop and what is the basis for making these changes? Do they really know what they are doing? This is what is going to determine the level of success and not some concept.

answered Apr 4 '11 at 09:38
Jeff O
6,169 points

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