founder @ BraveWave. Previously @ Endeavor & Acumen. Worked in 30+ countries, lived in 5 and speak 3 languages. Passionate about entrepreneurship & restorative business.
Firstly, congrats on the success to date. As someone who has worked with Brazilian entrepreneurs (e quem fala Portuguese), I understand how tough it is to do business in Brazil right now.
There are several issues that seem to be at play in your company:
1. Purpose - Lack of clarity or agreement on purpose
2. Values - Failure to define/enforce a set of organizational values
3. Compatibility - Potential lack of compatibility between cofounders
There are a number of triggers that can cause burnout: lack of purpose (beyond profit), life imbalance (working too hard for too long), hostile work environment, etc. All three of these could be reasons why you’re feeling burnout, but I’m guessing that the lack of purpose is a key driver. You mention, “I feel like I’m working for money only.” I’ve felt that several times in my career as well. Money will only motivate us so much. Research here in the US has shown that money sharply decreases as a motivator once people reach an annual income of around $70,000. In order to feel more motivated, you and your co-founders need to have a heart-to-heart to clarify WHY you do WHAT you do. You can go through a similar exercise individually to figure out why you get up every morning to come to work. Harvard researchers have shown that there are 6 motivators for why we work: play, purpose, growth, economic pressure, emotional pressure and inertia. The first three are productive whereas the latter three are destructive.
Values drive our decision-making and behavior. It sounds like there are some major mismatches in the company, firstly at the founder level and secondly more deeply in the organization. Unfortunately, very few entrepreneurs consider the values compatibility of potential co-founders before embarking on the startup journey together. You may find yourself in this situation. As an organization, you need to identify the 3-10 values that make you different from the competition. Don’t focus on generic values like honesty and integrity. Dig deeper into the secret ingredients that make your company unique. Next you need to translate those values into actual behaviors so everyone is clear on what it means to live out a certain value. Thirdly, you need to weave those values into the culture of the organization. You should hire, grow and fire people based on values compatibility. It sounds like you have grown quickly and hired people that are not a good values/cultural fit.
You mention your fear of being "Woz'ed" away. Frankly, that could be a blessing in disguise if your cofounders do not share a similar purpose and values for the company. If there’s large disagreement today between these core elements of the company, then that’s not likely to change. Think about each of your cofounders in four buckets: personality, abilities, likes and values. Identify what each founder brings to the table. Are issues largely coming from personality differences? Are founders simply interested in different things? Are your values simply not compatible?
Good luck as you try to decide on the path forward. Boa sorte. Estou aqui pra te servir.
Wow, thanks for such an honest question. The reality is that entrepreneurship is tough. It’s a long slog and the only thing that will keep you motivated is the purpose behind the business. Think about why you’re interested in being an entrepreneur in the first place.
In The Founder’s Dilemma, Noam Wasserman found that the primary reasons why founders started companies were money and power. There are also a growing number of conscious entrepreneurs who are building purposeful ventures (think TOMS and Warby Parker). Personally, I don’t think having a great idea is enough. Having a purpose beyond yourself will keep you motivated to move past the difficult times.
Once you’ve thought about your motivations for becoming an entrepreneur, then I would encourage you to think about how much your individual design (personality, likes, abilities, and values) is a fit for the startup. Scientists have found a gene that is more common in entrepreneurs, but the reality is that entrepreneurs come in all shapes and sizes. That being said, some personalities have a natural advantage when it comes to certain aspects of entrepreneurship (taking risks, sales, etc.) You can mitigate some of these through co-founders, but that also requires careful selection.
Best of luck on your journey!
As the saying goes, “the only ship that doesn’t sail is a partnership.” As other folks have mentioned, finding the right co-founder is a critical decision, similar to a marriage. Unfortunately, I think most people make the decision purely based on skill set, ignoring the other elements of their design. The first step in finding a co-founder is to understand your own design (personality, likes, abilities and values). By understanding how you are wired (personality), what you enjoy (likes), what you are good at (abilities), and what drives your actions (values), you can better understand what you bring to the table. Next, you need to understand WHY you are starting a business in the first place. In The Founder’s Dilemma, Noam Wasserman cites research that shows that the primary reasons why entrepreneurs start companies are money and power. There is also a growing number of conscious entrepreneurs who are pursuing a purpose beyond profit. Once you understand your design and what is driving you to launch a company, you’re now ready to identify the gaps necessary to get your startup going. Think through all aspects of individual design and create personas of likely people you might find. Make sure you don’t ignore values because when the going gets tough common values are the only things that can hold you together.
Lastly, identify “watering holes” where people with designs similar to your personas will hang out. For instance, if you are looking for a gifted CTO, think about where those types of people will hang out. What are the likely conferences, clubs, schools, etc. where you can find such people? Lastly, I want to encourage you to take your time to find the RIGHT people. There is an extreme bias towards speed in the startup world, but finding the right co-founders is something that really should not be rushed.