In 2007 I began writing a small piece of software, at the start of 2008 I packaged the software up as a product and started selling it. For the next 9 months it grew slowly and I asked a friend to join the informal "company" to help out. The software sales continued to grow and with my friends help we started to make money. At this point we needed more help and a friend of my friend joined the still informal "company". For the next 1 month sales grew faster and faster and we decided to formally incorporate, we each took 1/3rd ownership of the new company and became co-founders of "the company". I remained the sole founder of the software as I had been the lead developer and worked on it full time since inception.

A week after incorporation we were approached by a company in the same space that wanted to acquire the software, we agreed to the acquisition and the deal included employment for each of us with the parent for 1 year minimum and a cash sum. We informally agreed that I would stay with the company permanently and they would both leave after 1 year, during this year we also agreed that they would not work full-time for the parent, the parent agreed to this.

I have remained with the company, currently I am the lead developer on the software and it has continued to grow. As we agreed the other 2 company founders left the parent after 1 year and during their 1 year of employment did not work on the product, the "employment" existed as an faux earnout. I am no longer in regular contact with either as they have moved on with their lives.

Last month I received an email from LinkedIn recommending a new connection, it was the 3rd co-founder of "the company", the friend of a friend who joined for 1 month prior to the incorporation and subsequent sale. His LinkedIn profile lists that he is still with the company managing the product. I thought this was odd so I looked into it further, here is what I found:

He has completely misrepresented his role in the product formation, growth and continued management. He claims that he founded the product, that his role was lead developer, that he is still with the company and most importantly he is completely misrepresenting the product itself. He claims that during his time with the company he has helped the product sell over 50,000 units per month: this is untrue, during his time with the company our total all-time sales were sub 40,000 and we have never reached 50,000 monthly units (peak unit sales is 35,000 last month).

Further viewing of his Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn and Stackoverflow accounts shows he has continued to claim that he had a role in founding the product and based on some conversations he has had publicly on Twitter he has secured further employment in the same industry based on misleading claims about the product and his role. He has also attended conferences and made network connections.

He is an exceptional business manager (which is why he was brought on) and I am not, I am only a developer, he has presented himself as the founder of the software with no challenge for a significant period of time and now I am very concerned that when I decide to move on from this company I may be considered the one misrepresenting history.

What should I do in this situation? I have considered publicly outing him however I do not have any reach nor do I wish to engage in petty name calling. Should I contact the companies he has fraudulently secured employment with and explain to them the misleading information he has provided?

I would like to be the founder of my own product and have my name attached the success my work has achieved. How do I regain ownership of my personal brand?

  • 2
    First read this article about the role of business people in developing software. It sounds like you agreed to be cofounders which makes me wonder if your question should instead be, "how do I stop a cofounder from taking more credit/inaccurate credit than I feel he should have for a product I want to present as if I started exclusively myself?" – enderland Apr 14 '13 at 12:42
  • 1
    I am unclear on what it is you are asking. It appears to be a rant about a former co-founder rather than a legitimate question. – IDrinkandIKnowThings Apr 15 '13 at 14:18
  • Is he intentionally misrepresenting himself? I had colleagues that haven't been updating their Lindkedin profile for a long time, and have not in-synch with each other. – tehnyit Apr 15 '13 at 18:34
  • This is not a dupe, but you may find this related answer useful. It only takes three clicks on linkedin to report someone who is no longer working for your company. Also, there is a second form for reporting people who are impersonating a role. workplace.stackexchange.com/a/67383/14577 – Stephan Branczyk May 26 '16 at 16:18

It is a tough blow to your ego but the wisest decision here is not to waste time, energy or money on battling this. It doesn't seem to be directly interfering with your career or interests in any way so his lying about his experience is now his problem.

The only time I feel this is a worthwhile fight is if you are applying for a position or venture capital and somebody calls into question how you both had X role in the past company or how you both accomplished Y very specifically. At which point I would pretend as if it is the first I have ever heard about this and explain the situation. I would then politely ask him to redact his false claims and if he does not then I would seek legal action for damages in the form of lost business due to reputation loss from his false claims.


I see two options:

  • You send him a mail in which you "respectfully ask him" (no irony intended) to update some facts on his public profiles that are not represented correctly, and you state those facts.

  • You don't do anything. From your mail I do not see that he actually is harming your interests.

If one mail has no effect, keep it at that.

  • 1
    I agree; if it were me, unless some key specifically asks, I would let it go. This sort of thing always catches up to the people doing it, and if you are still with the acquiring company, chances are colleagues will recognize that your role with the product is more of an ownership one. It is your "baby." I also doubt that in future conversations anybody would bring it up, but if they should, you are well within your bounds to set the record straight. – jdb1a1 Apr 14 '13 at 13:38

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