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I have served as a professional mediator in San Francisco, specializing in resolving conflict among startup founding teams for the last year and a half. My partner and I have facilitated multiple early stage startups with a combined valuation of over 10 Million, all of which have been able to reach formal agreement and deeper levels of trust among members.

The Challenge

Facilitating these agreements is particularly difficult due to the fact that the founders may be withholding crucial information from each other (such as their intended duration of involvement in the company). In these situations, there are clear financial advantages to withholding information from their co-founders. Revealing information, such as leaving the company in 2 years for a co-founder to start another venture, would risk current equity rewards, and promote animosity between founders (“the other guy will just leave in another year, I’m the one who’s in this for the long-run”). Protectionist measures play out in aspects of who gets what, who deserves how much, what working culture should be, each founders capacity to trust the others judgement, roles, names for those roles, who has power to execute, evaluate of new hires, who fires, who pitches, who takes out the garbage, who represents them in the eyes of the public, investors, when will one co-founder quit their day-job, who do they raise money from. …


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Treated water exiting one of the worlds largest WWTPs (wastewater treatment plants) (Chengdu, China. Credit: Nigel Wylie)

Waste does not lie. It is a confronting record of our consumption and what we choose not to see/value.

Waste has always fascinated me. Where does it go? Why are people so disgusted with it? I was told not to waste, food in particular, and value waste as a resource through my Korean grandmother, an avid gardener.

I chose to see the value gaps in the wastewater industry early on in my career. My desire to see the real-life results of my work led me to study and begin a career designing, engineering and constructing wastewater treatment systems. I founded a wastewater engineering firm in 2011, Thrive Water, evaluating novel, energy efficient water technologies to implement as solutions in Asia and working on some of the largest industrial wastewater projects in the region. I developed skills in this venture for design-to-implementation and forming strong partnerships with utilities, contractors, equipment suppliers, industrial clients to complete projects efficiently in an industry known for long sales-cycles. …


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When it comes to serious co-founder conflict, prevention is the best cure.

There are a great many articles on the subject of co-founder conflict, but few resources out there that provide a complete solution. Our aim in designing this resource is to give you a step-by-step guide for nipping co-founder conflict in the bud.

Going through this process early on in your startup journey will provide you clarity on how to operate with your co-founder and strengthen the working relationship within your founding team in the process.

(The following article is from the team at The Resolution Co. …


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Let’s begin this session with a few questions:

  • How is your relationship with your co-founder?
  • Is this how you envisioned working together?
  • How do you and your co-founder talk about sensitive topics?
  • How do you and your co-founder manage internal conflict?

To maintain the well-being of your founding team, as is true in healthcare, prevention is always the best solution.

While I don’t know you personally, or your particular case, I can tell you co-founder conflict is all too common in the entrepreneurship world. Whether you are in Silicon Valley, Shanghai or Lagos, conflict that exists within founding teams generally follows the same set of universal patterns. …


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Relationship breakdown between founders is the single largest reason[1] why startups fail.

Based on our experience working with co-founders at The Resolution Co., I’ve compiled a list of the most common signals that point to the fraying of a founding team relationship.

You can use the following list to self diagnose where you and your co-founder are — from early warning signs, all the way to critical late stages of breakdown. Instead of denying these signs, they can be embraced as a golden opportunity to plug gaps and uncover blind spots, smoothing the path to growth.

Early Stage Warning Signs are situations that your founding team can recover relatively quickly from, and establish frameworks to prevent them from recurring [See: Founding Team Conflict: Prevention is The Cure]. It is important to remember that even early signs of trouble, if left unaddressed, can snowball very quickly into much deeper and more complex problems. …

About

Nigel Wylie

Mediator, Facilitator & Water Entrepreneur

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