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How to split work between founders at a startup?

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Category: 70% Reversible

In theory, this should be 100% reversible, but without a clear division of responsibility, egos can come into play. If this goes wrong, your company can fail. I have no idea if 65% is the correct percentage of startup failures caused by founder disputes, but they are usually terminal for startups.


Divide up responsibilities with co-founders as early as possible

For first time founders, I would recommend choosing one CEO and clearly dividing up other responsibilities to a CTO/CPO/COO role for all other founders. This should reduce the chance of future conflict and make raising money easier.

When we started fundraising a £150,000 SEIS round for our first business, we had 2 Co-CEOs. Everyone refused to give us any funding because they said we 'lacked technical expertise' to deliver.

We created a new deck with me as CEO and Lukas, my co-founder as CTO. The question vanished and the money flowed in. We largely agreed on all major decisions, and although Lukas ran Tech & Product, and I ran Sales, Ops & Investors, we largely ran internally as Co-CEOs.

Now that we're on our second business together, we now work as Co-CEOs, but with the same division of responsibilities.I don't think that this would work in most cases for other people.

Lukas & I lived together for 4 years before starting Seneca, and then lived together for our 7 years building Seneca, spending 17 hours a day together. Lukas is probably more valuable to any business that we work at, is more pragmatic and has a smaller ego than me.

However, my skillset skews more towards Sales, Ops & Investors, with his skillset way more technical. Because it works for us, the titles don't matter so much anymore and we've learned to manage by consensus over 7 years. As of 2024, Netflix also has Co-CEOs. I don't think you should do this.

I think that if I was working with anyone else in the world, I would want to be CEO and have an incredibly clear division of responsibilities and titles from the get-go.

This can help to provide clarity early on & avoid the risks of falling out. So generally, my advice would be to divide up responsibilities with co-founders as early as possible after committing to the business and review if needed down the line.

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