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For all intents and purposes, I seem to have found myself in a two person start up. I don't want to go into too much detail for sake of anonymity. An idea a friend and I had spawned a profitable side project. Very small scale, but it could grow (and we both believe it will).

Our issue is that we work at different paces. I am single, have stable money, and enjoy throwing time into this project. He is not single, is unstable financially, and says he enjoys the project, too. When we talk, we both clearly have intentions to throw time into the work. In reality, only I do.

I work maybe 10 hours to his 1. It's pretty out of whack. I love the guy, and I know his priorities are different, but when the difference in work put in is this high it feels like he's being onboarded forever. He'll try to add to the codebase, but because the work we need is being added without him, I need to help him through everything. It also doesn't help that I'm ~7 yrs into software engineering & he's ~1 yr into the same career.

We both have said that there's a difference in the work we put in, but I haven't brought it up as a true issue. I'm not sure that it would help. Essentially, I don't know what he brings to the project at all, and I've started to get protective about it when he pitches anything; it feels less and less like he's got any grounds to say what this project is anymore..

What can I do?

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    What do you want to achieve? – Tymoteusz Paul Jan 27 at 8:31
  • @TymoteuszPaul I edited the question title based on my understanding of the situation, feel free to change / edit, if you see fit. – Sourav Ghosh Jan 27 at 8:46
  • @JoeStrazzere That's a great question. I don't know. :/ At first it started as a hobby, so it wasn't a big deal for me if he was or was not super helpful.. Now it's evolved and it's becoming a big deal – Mr QF Jan 27 at 17:39
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Before you do anything else.

Read The Partnership Charter: How To Start Out Right With Your New Business Partnership (or Fix The One You're In)

It was written by a mediator who does arbitration after business partnerships have failed. So after having seen so many failed partnerships, he decided to write a book about preventing problems in the first place.

Think of it as a form of marriage counseling before an actual marriage takes place. It's absolutely essential that both you and your business partner read that book before you continue any further.

And yes, reading it may mean that you'll need to break up the current partnership, but honestly, I don't see any other way around that.

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  • I really appreciate this. Will read. :) – Mr QF Jan 27 at 17:40
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Given that this is a two person startup (as of now), and you have significantly more experience in the relevant field, you need to make the leadership (not managerial) role.

The primary problem I can sense from your description is, lack of project management (Yes, it is relevant for even small-scale projects, too). Unless you have clear goals set and have proper tracking to ensure that the targets are not missed - everyone will run into this problem sooner or later.

I'd suggest,

  • Invite the other engineer and have a proper planning meeting.
  • Break down the tasks and assign accordingly. Set clear goals, with deadlines. Do the SWOT analysis and have preventive action plan as backup to overcome the issues, should they appear.
  • Have a tracking mechanism to ensure the regularity of the outcome, or to measure the deviation.

This way, both of you will have a clear idea who and where it's lacking, without appearing to be as the one as pointing the finger.

Over a period of time, once you gather sufficient data to perform some analytics, you can compare the same. I'd advise : Do not go into a comparison of time invested / spent, rather take it up as the amount of responsibility covered by the outcome / deliverable. If the other engineer in unable to contribute in a way which was agreed upon in the planning meeting - check for the possible impediments and try to work out a practical solution.

I'm sorry to say this, but statistically your startup has 50% of it's current workforce as dead-load, and that cannot continue forever. Plan and work to improve that, otherwise you need to find out other people / employee and bring them onboard who can deliver.

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  • I would also strongly recommend entering into a legal agreement sooner rather than later - it might cost you both a few hundred dollars now, but it could save you much more in the future – HorusKol Jan 27 at 8:43
  • @HorusKol Very true...but I'd assume that's already in place..other than that, the best match of this action which I can find in my vocabulary is "charity" / "pet project", not a startup. Won't you agree? – Sourav Ghosh Jan 27 at 8:44
  • I'm not sure how that is going to help. OP said both are aware and acknowledge the difference in input. Your suggestion would just formalize that difference. – quarague Jan 27 at 8:45
  • @quarague Maybe that is what is required? OP already said, they did not make it formal yet, so chances are (having seen that the other person is relatively new to the domain) a formal discussion will have some positive impact. – Sourav Ghosh Jan 27 at 8:47
  • It could be a useful part of a solution depending on what OP wants to achieve. Force his buddy to do his part? Push/buy him out of the startup? Get out of it himself to cut his losses? – quarague Jan 27 at 8:50

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