I'm a software developer and interaction designer. In late 2015 I was approached by a startup for some UX work. Long story short, in late 2016 I became a co-owner/shareholder.
The product has a lot of potential. But as of yet, we haven't made any money. Our business model is a subscription-based SaaS-application. That application is exactly our main problem.
One of our shareholders (let's call him David) owns a software development business. Two of his employees have been working part-time on the application for about five years now. There are a lot of major issues:
- The application is still not in production, we haven't shipped anything in five years.
- The application is buggy, fragile, untested, unmaintainable, hard to change and overall poorly made. A big ball of mud, so to say.
- David and his employees are mostly unable to meet deadlines.
- David knows the intricacies of the product quite well. The same cannot be said for his employees. They repeatedly make poor design decisions based on incorrect assumptions.
- Since David and his team is very busy working on other projects, they can spend eight man-hours a week on the application.
The success of our business greatly depends on having a functioning application that meets current and future requirements. As you can imagine, all shareholders are disappointed with David's results.
Clearly, something needed to happen. Two months ago, without discussing it with any of the co-owners, I started developing the application myself. From scratch. I'm already about 15% towards a shippable application at this point. Thanks to David's efforts, I know exactly what I need to build. I have the luxury to start from a clean slate and being able to work 20 to 30 hours a week on developing the application.
Two weeks ago, I informed the founder of our company. He was very surprised but also happy and satisfied with my decision and results so far. He told me we would need to break the news to David (and the rest) as soon as possible. We have arranged a meeting with David which is scheduled for next week.
What's the best way to inform David? How should I break the news to him?
My intuition tells me to emphasize on the positive effects for David and the rest of our team. After all, David will benefit from a functioning application too, even if he didn't write the code. He also doesn't have to spend his already limited resources on it. So, it is good news for him on multiple levels.
On the other hand, it might hurt his ego. He might see himself as a loser (which he isn't). He might feel betrayed. He might feel that he will lose control, which is of course true.
So, he has a lot of reasons to be happy, but it wouldn't surprise me if he would be angry or disappointed or
<insert negative emotion>.
I think it's good to also emphasize on the extent in which he stays involved with the company in the future. He could be a valuable sparring partner, code reviewer or something else.
Also, I'm not going to take the credit he earned away from him. Again, thanks to him the product is well-defined and I can sail smoothly because I know exactly what needs to be built.
Again, what's the best way to approach this? Are there things I need to be aware about?