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My friends and I are currently raising a startup that will launch our first product at the end of Q3 this year. Apart from the freelance marketing team, this startup consists of three developers, which is two of my friends and I.

My roles cover a lot of things, from code to sales. One of our developer having a 9-5 job at another company and another one working as a part-time coder at the hospital.
We've been working on our product for nine months. And up until two months ago, the team is solid and seems enthusiastic. We have at least one feature pull-requested every day and we maintain daily reports via google meet.

One day, one of our coders started to miss the deadline. He promised will open a pull request the next day or two, but simply didn't happen. He also started to not attend the daily report. After waiting for half sprint (one week), I ask him again on his task. He said his work in the company really takes all his time and energy. I can't verify whether it's true or not. But again, he promised to deliver his task at the weekend. Which, as you might guess, didn't happen. In fact, every time I discuss his commitment on this project, he always says that he is enthusiastic and fully committed. I just tired hearing positive answer from him but no action is really taken.

So after realizing he might fail in a row of three sprints, I carry on, no longer remind or ask about his task, and take over all of his tickets. I also hope my other friend didn't do the same thing. But just last week, I started to see similar symptoms, again.

We live in 3rd world country and our startup expense is paid by our own pocket. We're sensitive to the cost, it's hard to project personal expense at the time of this COVID-19 pandemic, and hiring is the last thing we want to do. Just by hiring a junior developer, we projected that we'll meet our end of the runway in 5-7 months.

These two guys are (or maybe was) the one sharing the same vision with me. It's hard to find people that have the same vision as you are.

I left my 9-5 job to build this startup. I have to take any action before things fall apart. Should I carry on, act as a single-fighter developer? Or there might be something else I need to do?

ADDITION: I think some people misunderstood the situation. This startup initiated by three co-founders. All three are coming from developers background. So it's not me forcing people to code for the product for free. Each of us know that no one will get any buck before we acquired a customer.

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    you cannot expect that sort of commitment to endure for a year and a half in the third World. This will all turn to dust. Who owns it? – Kilisi Sep 17 at 7:57
  • start selling. this forum is full of developers who haven't run a damn thing in their life but their consultancy. if you cannot sell, then you cannot be paying people to build. – bharal Sep 17 at 23:29
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    @JoeStrazzere no one getting paid. This startup initiated by three cofounders and all of us know we won't get any buck before sales happened. The share agreed by calculating contributions toward the product. – imeluntuk Sep 18 at 3:32
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Should I carry on, act as a single-fighter developer? Or there might be something else I need to do?

You need to gather with your friends and have a good talk about the future of this project and the commitment they are willing to take.

Together each one of you can decide if they are still able to commit to the project, and decide accordingly.

Do this, so you are not left guessing or in the dark, and so you can then see if the option left is for you to do this solo.

Be polite but firm and serious. Also, regarding your second friend, you've "just" seen "symptoms" of similar behavior. That doesn't necessarily mean that this friend is also burdened by their job at the hospital.

Again, talk with both of them: with your first friend to see if they are still willing to commit to the project, and to the second friend to check what happened last week (so you know if they will not be able to continue before more time passes).

Do this ASAP, as according to my knowledge Q3 of this year ends in 15 days right?

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    A discussion is definitely a good idea. Given that both of them have other full-time jobs, it's a real possibility that if they're feeling burnt out or are losing faith in the project they'll just stop working on it. The fact that they're working a full-time job AND working on the startup just makes that burn out all the more likely - from their point of view, why would they potentially wreck their health working two jobs if they can't see the light at the end of the tunnel (a big payout/large salary) on the startup project? – Kayndarr Sep 17 at 5:03
  • @DarkCygnus sorry I forget to mention that every time I ask my friend (the one working 9-5 in other company), he always says he still enthusiastic and fully committed. I'm just feeling tired hearing the positive answer from him yet no action actually taken. For the Q3, Yes 15 days. Although I left some tech debt due to this issue. – imeluntuk Sep 17 at 5:16
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    @imeluntuk sorry but this person saying "fully committed" contradicts with the fact that this person hasn't contributed code for 2 months... enthusiastic, perhaps yes, but committed, their actions show the contrary. That's why I suggest you get together and clear things up, and to expose your concerns of not delivering tasks. As a side comment, perhaps this person is getting used of you doing their tickets and not reminding them.. in a way perhaps you are "spoiling" this person by doing their tasks all the time (at least remind them of each of them so they are aware that they are slaking off!) – DarkCygnus Sep 17 at 5:26
  • And during the discussion, if you haven't yet, be super clear about what % of shares each person get. If you have 1/3 each, then i would understand this is frustrating for you. If you have 80% and they are supposed to pull a half time for it, I can understand their frustration. ie: make sure about the commitment but also the reward each person gets. If you are full time from the beginning, it's normal for you to get wayyyy more. – dyesdyes Sep 18 at 7:24
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    @imeluntuk since you already asked about commitment, you should focus on how much they are able to commit. This will give you much more insights. – Chris Sep 18 at 11:07
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I have to take any action before things fall apart.

It's already fallen apart, I'm surprised it took 9 months.

You need to make a decision to carry on solo or slowly watch it turn into dust. You also need to make sure you have sole ownership and can cut the others out if you need to.

Realistically this was doomed to failure in the third World. You cannot expect that sort of commitment from people who are focused on making a living, unless you are paying them as full time employees.

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CEO does not build. CEO does sales. with sales, your team will see potential and get excited. Do not stay on to be the only developer. You should not be a developer at all. You should be selling your product, and raising funds.

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  • he's paying people. and if you're running a startup you have to be selling from day one. or, you know, be one of the million in one chances that just build the perfect product market fit. CEOs should never ever ever ever be just building things, unless they're just the best - read harvard with rich parents - or someone already built the damn thing and ur just taking credit for it. if you're the one who quit the job to fund it, then you're the CEO. or an idiot. – bharal Sep 17 at 23:27
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    While people downvote this question (not me), I can see the value of this answer. Closing sales surely motivate the team to do more. Discussion and selling are the most rational things to do right now. – imeluntuk Sep 18 at 3:44
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    Selling things that don't exist is hard. Startups need a product, and they need customers. Saying the CEO should only be focusing on acquiring customers is pretty crazy. In a startup, everyone does what needs to be done. That includes making the product. – BittermanAndy Sep 18 at 6:53
  • @BittermanAndy no. Selling things is really hard - true. This is why startups fail, because they didn't sell anything. If you don't have any income then you need to sell. You don't know if you're making anything anyone wants if you cannot sell. CEO spending all their time selling and selling something is worthwhile. CEO spending time building things and not selling them is in the realm of crazy inventor. – bharal Sep 18 at 7:33
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    Startups have different parts of their lifecycles and different approaches based on the product. In a consultancy, yes the CEO should be out selling. If they're building a product, until they're close to a finished product you can't sell anything (other than possibly investors, which maybe he should consider). Its not uncommon to see the CEO of a tech startup writing software, frequently they have to. Its not even uncommon to see them doing so with a real product to sell, if cash flows don't allow for hiring developers yet. – Gabe Sechan Sep 19 at 6:25

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