Together or apart?

“I think the number one most unrecognized reason startups fail is because the founders fell apart,” says Naval Ravikant, who has invested in dozens of companies, including Twitter, Uber and Yammer. But why “unrecognized?” Naval didn’t reveal his thinking, but let’s try to guess.

A successful partnership is a single organism, like the fusion of driver and navigator in a rally crew. Together they are power; separately, each is meaningless. When there is harmony between the founders, they effectively solve all problems one by one. This is a necessary but not sufficient condition for success. War, economic crisis, change of legislation, intrigues of competitors and miscalculations of the founders themselves — many reasons can ruin a startup. But at least the reasons are more or less conspicuous.

Another thing is a rift between the founders. Misunderstanding, irritation, and resentment can build up for quite a long time before the conflict escalates. But to the founders themselves, what is going on is not at all obvious. If you ask them about the quality of the relationship, they will say, “There are disputes, but in general everything is OK.” Employees are usually as confused as children whose parents stealthily devalue and hurt each other, but strenuously maintain the facade of a happy family. It takes the eyes of an independent expert who, noticing the typical signals and asking in-depth questions, diagnoses which stage of the nine is the conflict.

But most importantly, the dissonance in the “head” makes the whole corporate “body” slow and clumsy. Decisions are delayed, poorly analyzed, and never fully implemented. Mistakes accumulate like a snowball. And when the immune system is weakened, any one of ten thousand diseases can strike the body. So if revenue growth is slowing, margins are dropping, and the team is feverish, it makes sense to examine not the symptoms, the competition, or the market, but the co-founders — are they still together or are they de facto apart.

Sincerely yours,


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Alexander Lyadov

Alexander Lyadov

As a business therapist, I help entrepreneurs to navigate faster in non-standard situations.