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Mar 7th, 2013 Share: Share on Twitter Share on Facebook Share on LinkedIn

Sudden Cofounder Loss Syndrome

True story: It is 1998, I am about 3 months into my first startup. It’s me, my cofounder, a part-time marketeer and two interns. We are in the middle of our fund raising; speaking to dozens of VCs, making the rounds. It’s stressful as we are working on some money I raised from friends & family which is about to run out any time soon. One day I come into the office and my cofounder has just disappeared. Desk completely empty. Gone.

Turned out that he couldn’t handle the stress and the uncertainty. Ironically I managed to raise about $2 million two short weeks after he left (which created a fun situation for me as I had to explain to the VCs that I just lost my cofounder).

This story is not unique. I hear similar stories from early stage startups again and again. The stress a startup puts on you is immense. And some people just crack. Or simply realize that this is not what they want to do at this moment in their lives.

And it’s okay. Shit happens. Establish a culture of intellectual honesty and talk about these things early on. Make it clear to each other that this can happen and establish a path how you would like to proceed if it happens. Just don’t pack your stuff over night and disappear… ;)

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