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One year ago I started a social media page with a partner with the goal of turning it into a business. Initially we divided work between us almost equally (posting the pictures, etc. however it was not much time investment), as we were both working full time for another company, and we were making little progress as the concept was not bringing any value to the users and we were not growing. In May / June I quit my job to dedicate myself full-time to the page, my partner didn't.

After 3 months of working alone on the project, completely changing the concept and the strategy, my solo work brought enough followers to justify starting an actual business (I grew the page from 100 to 15K followers in 3 months).

At the sight of this success, my partner is demanding a high stake in the future company, disproportionate to the amount of work invested, which was basically 0 from the time I changed everything. From my point of view T0 was the time when I completely rethought the concept and the strategy. And my partner is not interested to quit the current job and work on this full-time. My partner is demanding either a high stake or a huge amount of money, otherwise I was threatened with legal action in court.

Is it normal/ethical to grant my partner a stake in the company to be formed just for contributing at first (without any success back then)?

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  • Was it a formal partnership?
    – Kilisi
    Sep 11 at 6:49
  • No, not normal at all unless that partner comes with a huge asset (like a huge audience, a reputation mailing list, a brand, or a distribution network, etc). With that said, if you didn't write a contract and he's already your partner, it may already be too late as he may already own 50% of the company. I'd suggest you consult a lawyer immediately. Also, for next time you're thinking of starting a partnership, before you do anything, please read this book: amazon.com/Partnership-Charter-Start-Right-Business/dp/… Sep 11 at 6:51
  • We were friends, this is how this partnership started. We do not have any written contract, just a signed collaboration of the two of us with a company that was supposed to help us with getting some money support from the state. However, the company is not being established on my name, there is no written contract nor agreement with my partner.
    – Adrianna
    Sep 11 at 7:14
  • Giving someone more than you feel they deserve is not a question of ethics.
    – jcm
    Sep 11 at 9:56
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    Talk to your lawyer sure, but also talk to your partner. He may feel that you took over, you're doing things he wouldn't have done, you're leaving him out and you're also freezing him out of money, and the only thing he has any chance to claim is money. It's possible that repairing the relationship will eliminate the money demands. (It's also possible the partner is lazy, greedy, and selfish, but a short caring chat might save a lot of time, effort, and lawyer money.) Sep 11 at 11:37
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You need to talk to a lawyer.

First off, you are calling him a partner, which implies he does have an ownership stake. You also said in the comments that there is "a signed collaboration of the two of us with a company." This also implies he has a stake of the ownership. You quitting your job to work on it full time might not be a factor in whether or not he has a stake, just how much.

Again, this isnt a question of ethics, its a question of law at this point.

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  • I just called her a partner as it was supposed to be a partnership, however, I realised how much time I invested the last months and how many promises she delivered but no action with regard to what she had to do.
    – Adrianna
    Sep 12 at 19:03
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    @Adrianna again, lack of action is not necessarily a dissolution of a partnership. If legal ownership is in question, then this is a question of law. Only a lawyer in your jurisdiction can advise you on that.
    – Keltari
    Sep 12 at 19:33
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    This is best advice here - If there is any legal document showing that your friend is in anyway associated with your business, that's enough for her to start a court proceeding against you. (Whether they will win or not is a different matter - anyone can make any claim, but proving it in court is a different matter.)
    – sfxedit
    Sep 13 at 0:42
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Generally you just ignore empty threats and handle any issues as they arise rather than entering into a dialogue. All that accomplishes is validating that there is an issue to be addressed.

A certain degree of ruthlessness is important when breaking into business. I suggest you change any passwords or other access controls and carry on.

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Have you formed a company, for example a limited company, with each of you owning fifty percent of the company? What contracts have you signed?

When you say "my partner", if that means your husband / boyfriend / whatever, if they want money from your hard work, then dump them.

If "my partner" means "someone who I agreed with to start a business, but who didn't contribute anything, and who hasn't any contract about anything", dump them.

If "my partner" means "someone who founded a company together with me and who owns substantial parts of the company like me, but has contributed much less than me", get a lawyer immediately.

Do NOT let anyone talk you into admitting that you owe this partner anything, especially not in writing, unless your lawyer tells you that you have to (which is unlikely to happen unless you signed something that you shouldn't have signed).

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  • Yes, I formed a company but it is on my name with 100% stake. It was supposed that she will jump into the business later and I will give her a stake. The contract signed was just a collaboration contract with a company that was supposed to help us to get some fundings. I just called her as a partner as we started together this initiative and it was supposed to do this together, however, I was the only one working on it and she she is playing on two grounds as she also wanted to keep her job to have a safe income and stick to "we are partners" idea, but I realised she is too opportunistic
    – Adrianna
    Sep 12 at 19:01
  • @Adrianna, Calling her a partner in front of a third party was a really bad move. You need to consult a lawyer in your jurisdiction as soon as possible. Sep 13 at 2:08
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I would say just change the credential of that account. Does your company(social media) have any paperwork done or is it only verbally? if your company doesn't have any paperwork then it is not a company it will be more like an investment. If your work isn't registered anywhere then your partner won't have any proof and he/she won't go to court it will be only empty threats. Even if your partner will go to court you can show your past 3 months' work and show them "how you got these many followers" this will be your proof. what's the worse can happen you may have to pay 10% of what you got in those 3 months.

It is safe to say that your partner isn't your friend anymore in your situation. if he/she was your friend then your partner won't threaten you bridges were already burned so don't hesitate to take some steps toward it.

For the safe side take a log of how many times a day you used that social media account and from which device your new content was uploaded. If you can't do it by yourself then ask someone to do it.

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  1. Yes, it is very common that someone gets a percentage of a company, for doing almost nothing.

Of many examples, the "lucky" partner might

  • have the basic idea

  • be a famous or influential person

  • be a person with contacts

  • provide the answer to some key technical difficulty

  • Is it "ethical", the question is meaningless. If you both agree, it's obviously fine. As in point 1, it's very common, so it's extremely unlikely there's some "moral" problem.

You ask ...

Is it normal/ethical to grant blah blah

It is utterly bizarre, strange and oddball to "GRANT", ie "GIVE" anything to anyone.

(1) If the person made a deal with you at the beginning, then that's a deal, like when you say "purchase a house". It's a deal, there's nothing more to discuss.

(2) If there was no deal made, and (for some oddball reason) this person addresses you in any way (face to face, email, whatever), simply (a) ghost them (b) look "through their face", so, that's when you look slightly to the left of their eyes as if you're looking at something behind their head. Then, using your feet walk away.

If there's no deal, what you have is "flap gums". Gums sometimes flap, it's curious, but there you go. If "sound" comes out, whatever, that's "interesting" but not relevant to your life.

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