The Co-Founder Bootcamp

Co-founder stress and strain is one of the most under appreciated of all the startup challenges. If you don’t have a co-founder, well then you have other challenges, namely having to do it all on your own. But if you do have a co-founder or two or three, I would imagine that figuring out how to get along, stay aligned, communicate honestly and openly, and not drive each other crazy is a big challenge. I’ve seen it so many times. And co-founders don’t like to talk about it because they are afraid that their issues will freak out everyone else; their employees, their investors, etc. That’s why its among the least discussed and under appreciated of all of the startup challenges.

My friend and former partner Jerry Colonna and his colleagues are out to change that. In their CEO coaching work, they come across this co-founder stress issue very frequently. And so they have designed a four day Co-Founder Bootcamp to attack the issue head on. The next one is the first weekend in March.

A concern that I’ve heard from founders is “how are we going to afford $9k per person to do this?”  That’s a great question. My answer is the company should pay for it if it can. And if your investors aren’t in favor of you making this investment in the partnership that drives the business, then they don’t have their priorities straight. Getting the co-founders working right will go a long way to getting the company going right.

If you and your co-founder(s) are struggling, consider four days in the mountains in Colorado in early March with a team of people who can help you work out the kinks in the relationship. It can be a game changer for your company.


Comments (Archived):

  1. William Mougayar

    Jerry knows the pulse of tech startups so well, and this program shows he is pro-active in addressing issues like this one.The trick is for the co-founders to come out and recognize there are issues that could be worked on. Or, for a founder to realize it and be pro-active with it. Often, these tensions stay silent for a while, because the co-founders can suck it for a while, knowing that this is part of the toughness and hardness of running startups. But it doesn’t have to be.Thanks for bringing visibility to this important topic. I’ve lived these tensions, and knew they existed but couldn’t do something formal about it, as we continued to suck it and work away despite everything not being perfect.

    1. awaldstein

      Sounds like relationships in general honestly.Leads to the smaller but interesting topic about founding companies with your life partner. Invariably a bad idea btw.

      1. jerrycolonna

        We take a lot from general relational theory. Our last CoFounder camp had two couples who’d launched couples…two couples and a pair of siblings. It creates really interesting, but not insurmountable, challenges.

        1. awaldstein

          Yup…People often need to choose the person or the joint management of the enterprise. I so respect folks that chose the value of the relationship and have the guts to act on it.

      2. panterosa,

        The Germans have a word, liebesabschnittpartner, which translates loosely as “life partner of the moment”. Ironic maybe for those who see life partner as including your whole life. Yet, I know you’ve had more than one life partner and so have I. I see working with your life partner as something which should factor in when you came together vs when the idea was born.It’s possible to parent ideas past their partnership, just as you and I have parented children past the partnerships into which they were born. The success of all the above depends on communication.

        1. awaldstein

          Great comment.Touches home. Let’s connect over wine in February and I can bring you uptodate.A wise person in this community said make that choice and it sets you free regardless of which way you choose.

          1. panterosa,

            Yes to wine!Decisions are freeing, if you can make them, whichever way you go.

          2. awaldstein

            I am finding this everywhere I turn as i spent the entire month of january addressing and making them.gonna be a great year!monday night byob at racines is how to do this–i’ll bring the wine.

        2. jerrycolonna

          LOVE that word!

          1. panterosa,

            Thought you might – it’s SO modern, so relevant to all of life.

      3. Mario Cantin

        Mattermark seems to be able to pull it off. I have been running a business with my wife for well over ten years. It was really hard for the first three months, but once we blew threw “the barrier” it has brought us even closer. So there are exceptions.

        1. awaldstein

          Each person must choose what is right for them.There is no perfect way to run a business or your life. If you are supporting the life you want to live and are happy, there is nothing else that matters.

      4. PhilipSugar

        I have to agree if you have many high level employees, like in a software company.You never get away from work which means, that when you go home and vent it comes back to the office.Which means that employees will feel screwed, and when they are your peers this doesn’t work.Now if you are running something lower tech where there is a clear delineation of employees and owners like a plumbing company that’s different.

      5. Lawrence Brass

        Very interesting indeed. That is my case, we are already partners in life so I did’t have to think too much to partner with her in business. We both had previous marital failures so we value our relationship a lot.As any startup owner knows, it is not always easy for the ones at home: financial stress, long hours absence, etc. So it came out naturally inviting her to join, after all the company owes her. If I have earned sweat shares, she has earned support shares. Every time we are in line at IRS-Broadway doing pointless errands instead of roaming the city we both love, I pat her hand and say “one day we will remember all this and laugh”. When she presented my proposal to her lawyer (this is how things work for second timers), the lawyer told her that “he wants a vote of confidence”. When I knew that I went – What? Doesn’t she know you are getting 10% fully protected stock of a great company? Time will tell.Coaching for founder couples makes so much sense, I guess it would be a hit. I wonder if we both will get burritos.

    2. LE

      Jerry knows the pulse of tech startups so well, and this program shows he is pro-active in addressing issues like this one.I would have written that “Jerry knows the pulse of tech startups well and this program is an example of how he was able to exploit knowledge of that niche for fun [1] and also make a profit”. Great business idea I love the way there are a series of these for different purposes:See “Upcoming bootcamps” here:…[1] Let’s face it the venue isn’t a hotel in the downtown of a big city for a reason.

  2. awaldstein

    Right on on all cylinders. Love the idea.For seed funded startup though the reality is that it is a cost to be reckoned with. I’d like to see a shorter verson, in a few locations to make it more accessible. Tiered offering makes sense to me.

    1. jerrycolonna

      That’s a really good idea. We’ve done that with the CEO Bootcamp concept–one-day, much lower price point, far more accessible. The other challenge we see if the time commitment. My main wish is that everyone get help, regardless of the source.

      1. awaldstein

        i love what you are doing Jerry and personally a big believer in the change that retreats as a format bring.But–issues start earlier with operating relationships as you know. And sometimes when dealt with later, like couple counseling, you spend your time overcoming not building. More intervention if you will.I get the clash of business model but I believe that the right participants could get huge benefit out of a shorter (day and morning possibly) intense approach.I’m not the expert. I just see the real value here and know that there is a huge market need for this.Best of luck with this!

        1. jerrycolonna

          I totally agree with you on this. One of the things I’ve been kicking around is having a half-day workshop (low price point, easy access) for people considering going into partnership. The idea would be to create the right structures from the very beginning (and surface issues early on before there are problems). Too often coaches and counselors are called in so late in the process that there’s little we can do (and then we end up in this awful position of being a referee…ugh).We use a process built around The Blueprint of We…an odd name for a good process for defining the operating rules of a relationship before hand. But sometimes people simply should not be partners, no matter the operating rules.Do you think a half-day program like that would be useful?

          1. awaldstein

            I think that if you can surface this pre the issues you are ahead of the behavior stumbles that invariably happen.Only thing is whether going into something with a potential partner is the right way. Kinda like a retreat with a potential partner which has its oddities to it.I think that a workshop even on a slightly larger scale for the many people who are moving towards choosing a partner has real legs. This audience is serious, focused and looking for patterns that can either match or should be alarms.

          2. jerrycolonna

            Exactly. That’s what I’m thinking…btw, we ARE thinking of adding to the roster of bootcamps. We’re doing a Camp for VCs–that’s already announced. And we’re kicking around the idea of a camp for entrepreneurs and their significant others. To me, I just want stick my head into the mouth of all the demons that plague entrepreneurs. 🙂

          3. awaldstein

            The human side of the revolution needed a leader.Thank you for taking it on!

          4. jerrycolonna

            Thanks. The not-so-secret secret is that I’m just trying to save others from the depression and pain I went through 14 years ago.

          5. awaldstein

            Against all common logic, it is possible that the broadest vehicle to get these learning out may indeed be a book.

          6. jerrycolonna

            Ugh. Please don’t say that. My partners have been hounding me to get a book down. I need a coach to help me overcome my resistance.

          7. awaldstein

            :)Some markets demand it.After blogging for 6 years now I’m realizing that if I want to grow various pieces of what I do, a book may be necessary.

          8. Richard

            Add one for doctors (hospitalists).

          9. panterosa,

            Is there way to assess the tension on a scale (like the Kinsey scale), via questionnaire?

          10. PhilipSugar

            Agree on all counts.Too often people get excited about an opportunity and just go into a partnership without really discussing what that means.Defining the operating rules.Discussing the structure and equity.And you are right, some people should not be partners.As you say if you can figure those things out at the beginning its much better than trying to fix them once problems occur and emotions take over.

          11. LE

            Future unpredictable conflict is a large part of this.If you don’t have a relationship where there is conflict and disagreements (because there aren’t major decisions to be made), then you would tend to get along in a way that wouldn’t allow you to predict what would happen when you are in that situation as things inevitably change. It’s easy to get along with people that you don’t have a reason to disagree with or when you don’t have any personal attachment to the things you are deciding (like what movie to see or where to eat dinner, who cares?).My Dad’s partner was his brother. Everything worked fine until my Uncle’s kids wanted to get into the business. At that point my Uncle’s expansion plans (needing to provide for the next generation) collided with what my Dad’s needs were. This was obviously many many years after the founding of the business. No way to predict this type of thing. Sure you can have an agreement in advance about these issues, but guess what? Agreements can’t make people happy campers or allow them to use other methods to get what they want when it is in their best interest.

          12. jerrycolonna

            Oh man…there’s so much conflation in family-owned businesses.

          13. LE

            Feel free to write to me offline and I will be glad to share the nitty gritty if it matters for anything that you do (future retreats or just general knowledge).

          14. PhilipSugar

            Are you saying have a buy sell agreement? I.e. if somebody wants out they set the price and the other party buys or sells?I agree that there are things that you have no way of knowing will come up, and agreements cannot predict or solve these problems all of the time.

          15. LE

            Buy sell doesn’t match street smarts of people using non-legal tactics to achieve their goals. [1]You know when I was going through my divorce my ex wife knew I was allergic to cats (at that time) so she bought a cat just to annoy me. One night I came home late (as usual) and made my dinner. Was fish. Put it on the table the cat jumped up when I wasn’t looking and started to eat the fish. It was 11pm at night. My Uncle played all sorts of games with my Dad a buy sell wouldn’t have stopped those games. Not that people shouldn’t have one they should but there are many other ways people can get what they want in any “relationship”.[1] Then there was a businessman who owed me money back in the day. Went to collect it with my manager, he pulled out a gun and placed it on the table. In a way that was actually good no longer had any anxiety about not getting the money (or frustration). Ended that discussion. He was a tenant of a developer in the city who actually spoke at my college entrepreneurship class. When I told him the story he said “Gina really fucked up on that one” (they had been burned as well) . Gina was the frau in the office who rented things out and checked credit. I use that expression to this day.

          16. PhilipSugar

            Doesn’t mean you shouldn’t at least try, but you should realize that if you are with the wrong person, an agreement doesn’t mean shit.

          17. jerrycolonna

            Exactly right. I’ve blown past the red lights in potential partnerships many, many times and regretted it later on. One of the things I loved about the early days of the partnership with Fred was the degree to which we talked through issues before they arose.

          18. PhilipSugar

            Probably everybody who has started multiple businesses has.To start a business you have to be a bit crazy, you have to take the plunge and say this is just going to work, so that translates over.

          19. William Mougayar

            This came in my inbox today, an interesting experiment by Seth Godin where he delivers the online course inside a private Slack. Hadn’t thought of Slack as a course delivery medium before.

          20. PhilipSugar

            That’s an interesting concept.

          21. LE

            Seems like (as far as I know) a classic Godin move trying to take advantage of juxtaposing something of the moment with something traditional in order to gain further attention (a smart move to be clear).

          22. Anne Libby

            Yes! Undeniably.”The Internet” encourages people to enter into partnerships with people they barely know.Marry in haste, repent at leisure.

  3. JimHirshfield

    Startups are about execution. If you don’t get along with your co-founders, they might execute you. Do the bootcamp.

    1. jerrycolonna

      Amen to that.

      1. JimHirshfield

        Says the man-choirboy 😉

    2. Mario Cantin

      Good line, I might borrow that.

      1. JimHirshfield

        Please do

  4. LIAD

    …another reason why founder vesting is so important and should be statutorymuch harder to work through complex co-founder issues and find resolution if no real skin in the game

    1. William Mougayar

      It often is. At least when VCs get involved, it’s one of the points that gets checked.

      1. LIAD

        sure, but oftentimes the damage is done before the big boys get involved/big boys don’t get involved

        1. awaldstein

          This needs to be right and outfront from day 1 to not create issues. Nothing festers like ownership issues.

          1. LIAD

            i’m not saying there are disputes over ownership. i’m saying if stock is fully owned vs on a vesting schedule, much less reason to work through complicated co-founder issues. much easier for a founder just to walk away, as he gets to keep all his stock anyway.(i’d expect) divorce/protracted acrimony amongst co-founders far lower when both on vesting schedules

          2. Twain Twain

            Get all would-be founders to run through these equity calculators:**…Cuts through a lot of “ego crap” of founders thinking they should get a lot more equity than they’ve EARNED the right to. “Earned” meaning having put in WORK that moved idea+execution forward.A few times, being a generous spirit, I’ve suggested equity splits of 60:40 whilst would-be co-founders have insisted it should be 50:50 — which Mark Suster has explained is wrong for all sorts of reasons:* http://www.bothsidesoftheta…So then we filled out the questionnaires in founder equity calculators …In terms of WORK I’D DONE and the value I was bringing to idea+execution … the systems calculated I should get at least 90% of the equity.Would-be co-founder, who hadn’t produced the same quantity or quality of heavy-lifting, insisted they wouldn’t do it for less than 50% equity.I said, “Good luck” and “Goodbye” and moved forward.Mark Suster’s post rings true in lots of areas and I learnt a lot from it.@jerrycolonna:disqus can steer co-founders even at this earliest of stages.—————————–There’s no bandwidth to also carry would-be co-founder(s) who aren’t carrying their part of the load but expecting me to carry them.

    2. Mario Cantin

      Statutory? Enacted by whom? Reminds me of this guy I used to know who firmly believed that couples should have permission from a mental health practioner before being allowed to have kids. Henry Ford tried to micromanage every single aspect of the life of his workforce at some point and finally concluded that it was a bad idea.

      1. LIAD

        A little hyperbole never hurt anyone

        1. Mario Cantin

          I get it. I think most people will wholeheartedly agree with your second sentence, which was your point.

          1. LIAD

            Agreeing with my second point should be statutory 😉

          2. Mario Cantin

            Ha ha! You and Gene Simmons both.

      2. JLM

        .If parents actually had to be “ready” to have kids before doing so, the survival of mankind would be in serious jeopardy.JLMwww.themusingsofthebigredca…

        1. Mario Cantin

          The entire world population might comfortably fit on Rhode Island then 🙂

          1. JLM

            .Hey, Rhode Island is delightful, no?Bit coldish in the winter for a Texas hot house tomato?JLMwww.themusingsofthebigredca…

          2. Mario Cantin

            Ok, let’s change it to Clearwater, Forida, then, ok? LOL

        2. sigmaalgebra

          Very correct and very hard to understand as a young person.Needs to be in Girls 101 for Dummies — Boys, else too many boys and girls will discover this fact too late.In blunt terms, that’s why Mother Nature has so many teenagers so eager to engage in risky sex — because it is too close to being right that that is the only kind that works. A teenage mother when the father desperately loves her and their baby is not the worst thing on the planet.It took me a while to figure out that the first two years or so what the baby needs most of all, beyond just food, is his/her mother’s love and nurturing that, really, is heavily directly from Mother Nature and commonly in quite sufficient supply from teenage mothers.

    3. fredwilson

      absolutely. no founder vesting is saying “pls screw me over”

  5. Dave Pinsen

    Jerry should have given you an affiliate link with a special 10% discount for AVC readers.

    1. jerrycolonna

      Hmmm. Interesting idea.

      1. LE

        Also sponsors to offset the high cost of this. Great business idea btw I just checked out the rack rates at the ranch it’s less that I would have expected.

        1. jerrycolonna

          Yep. We generally try to give away at least one scholarship (either free or significantly reduced rate) to make sure the camps are more accessible. Often we’ve had friends pay. Past campers, for example, have paid for new campers to come (after they’ve had some success and their companies are a little more stable). We always acknowledge the. Also, some very well-known VCs (who’ve asked to remain anonymous but y’all know them) have paid to have young entrepreneurs from seed level companies attend, even though they weren’t an investee.

  6. pointsnfigures

    I agree what Jerry is doing is a benefit to founders. Raman Chadha has been doing a much longer program (9 mos) about management in Chicago for a few years now. Teams that go through it are seeing top line revenue multiply so there is now data that backs up the thesis.I think the key is to figure out if they are simply communication problems, or a true dysfunction where it’s time to get rid of a founder. That’s a harder call, and potentially short term stressful but long term better for the company.What I hate is when board members micromanage that process instead of facilitating that process. I am quite sure Jerry talks about how to manage these conflicts, and how to manage the relationship between founders and the board.On a side note, winter may be here for startups. Money pressures are going to cause dysfunction between founders to be exacerbated.

  7. jason wright

    $9k. or perhaps stock options?

  8. Dan Berger

    Having gone through cofounder issues in the past, which subsequently led to me buying him out, I can tell you that this would have been very helpful (but probably not to the point of resolution… Maybe faster realization that we were misaligned). This is probably for those who want to be proactive in building a great and lasting business relationship.What I found helpful at the time is a book called The Partnership Charter by David Gage. It outlines things you founders should come to trend with. It’s an excellent read.

    1. Richard

      Great job executing on socialtables.

  9. jason wright

    “…four days in the mountains in Colorado in early March…”i think Jerry should sex it up by throwing in a free ski pass

    1. jerrycolonna

      What? My presence isn’t sexy enough?

      1. JLM

        .Short answer — no.JLMwww.themusingsofthebigredca…

        1. jerrycolonna

          You’re so mean.

          1. JLM

            .Hey, it’s a burden to be a sex symbol. You don’t want that burden, do you? Look at what Donald Trump has to put up with. Bet it drives him nuts.http://themusingsofthebigre…Stay streamlined. You’ll live longer.JLMwww.themusingsofthebigredca…

          2. jerrycolonna

            Oh you are so right.

          3. LE

            Did you happen to catch Chris Matthews having a liberal orgasm interviewing cankles the other night? He was practically rubbing her legs.

          4. JLM

            .I can’t take too much Chris Matthews at a sitting. Which is odd because I used to really like him.I ran into him on two occasions in Vail and had a delightful convo with him both times. He is a charming person in real life. Great storyteller.He used to be a huge admirer of Reagan and how Reagan and Tip O’Neill used to get along together.An aside, Hillary is so stilted and Trump is so free form natural that the more attention they both get the more glaring the comparison.JLMwww.themusingsofthebigredca…

          5. LE

            ran into him on two occasions in Vail and had a delightful convo with him both times. He is a charming person in real life.Famous people need to be charming. I am remembering the time that my mom ran into Jay Leno. What a prison that must be. You can’t have anyone think you aren’t nice lest they spread they had a bad experience with you or you were an asshat.Watch the PBS on Netanyahu. I started last night got only 30 minutes into it. You will love how they portrayed him and Obama. Noting the difference in what bibi has achieved to get to where he is vs. Obama.

          6. JLM

            .My new son-in-law’s stepdad (deceased now) served in the same commando unit as Bibi and his brother. I have gotten some incredible insights about Bibi. He was a stud from the beginning.When my new in-law mom goes to Israel, guess who she meets with and who arranges for her pick up?When her husband was being buried, she got a call in the hearse from Bibi. Comrades in arms are for life. It is a very tight bond.He is a charming guy and guys like that who have done dangerous shit are very humble because they understand how fragile success and failure can be.He is a natural leader but he was trained to be a leader. When our President was smoking choom, Bibi was smoking shitheads. Bit of a difference.JLMwww.themusingsofthebigredca…

          7. LE


          8. LE

            My uncle served in the Israeli Military before coming to this country (my Dad came straight to the US from Europe). Anyway Uncle told me when I was growing up in the 60’s/70’s “you can’t reason with the Arabs the only thing they understand is getting hit over the head” (translated from broken english). The family business was importing giftware from Israel. American’s bought more of their “chazarei” when there was conflict and wars. The factories would get bombed and I was always hushed when news about Israel was on the radio literally “shut up” (those were the days and the type of parenting).That said this brainwashing religious shit (on both sides) is the root of all evil no question about that. Middle east and in this country.

          9. sigmaalgebra

            For the Arabs, that Islam stuff is 100% of all they know, believe all there is to know, is all they want to know, and all they ever will know. It runs everything in their lives.Then, presto, bingo, on each Friday ambitious Mullahs, is there any other kind, have a great audience to get more power. We’ve now completed our complete treatise and exhaustive course on Arabic culture.

          10. sigmaalgebra

            PBS? They can’t do THAT! Don’t they know where their budget comes from? Besides, it wouldn’t be current PC!

          11. Tom Labus

            Trump doesn’t say anything so it’s easy to just babble . I won’t let him take out the garbage

          12. JLM

            .Lucky break for you, Tom. He’d probably screw it up, no?He is a good family guy, no? Look at the peacefulness and trust on that baby’s face. He knows he’s in damn good hands.JLMwww.themusingsofthebigredca…

          13. sigmaalgebra

            You have point. But, what politician says more? What politician gives more details — say, on his Web site and in his books on politics?Issues? “Trump doesn’t say anything”? Well, let’s see: (1) Stop illegal immigration, including by building a wall. (2) Deport present illegals. (3) Temporarily block nearly all Muslims from entering the US. (4) Do severe negotiations of trade deals to get decent balance of payments and make more stuff in the US; thus, help put a lot of the current 95 million US adults back to work. (5) Get the economy going again fast enough to raise tax revenue enough to fix the VA, save Social Security and Medicare, fix our infrastructure, rebuild our military, get people back to work and paying taxes, and pay down the deficit. (6) Get the economy going so fast it is justified to lower tax rates — also simplify the tax code. (7) Throttle the EPA’s nonsense. (8) Largely disband the Department of Education and return K-12 to local control. (9) Get rid of Common Core. (10) Be pro-immigration, e.g., start to work down the 1 million or so backlog queue of legal applicants. (11) As in the examples in his campaign, the Wolman Skating Rink, and his business, get more work done, faster, with higher quality and effectiveness with much less money spent. (12) Do go to Israel. (13) Bomb the shit out of ISIS. (14) Don’t try to police the world, e.g., have China and South Korea give that NK twit a reality check. (15) If NK gets “transportation”, take action to keep us safe. (16) Watch the US mosques. (17) Support the police. (18) Try to get along, e.g, with Russia and Putin. (19) Reverse the Iran deal. (20) Repeal and replace Obamacare. (21) Tweak the tax code to have US companies bring home the money parked overseas. (22) No more W-style massive waste of precious US blood and treasure on absurd foreign adventures pursed with outrageous incompetence.There’s likely more, but I’m just typing quickly here and need to type in some TeX this evening.So, maybe your claim “Trump doesn’t say anything” may not be fully correct?So, okay, maybe Trump is not just what each of us would want. But maybe he’s the least bad, and by a wide margin.Think of the good part: We will have maybe the best looking First Lady in US history! And she’s a total sweetheart.And, Trump is good enough at getting people to follow him that he will be able to get things done, e.g., even the many obvious, common sense things we’ve not been able to do. He seems sincere. He can’t be bought. His run is costing him a lot in time, money, progress in his business, and in his family life; the White House will be a big step down for him in life style. To do this, he has to care, and likely about more than just his ego and brand. It’s clear he’s been thinking seriously about the POTUS for a long time, hoped Romney would win, and finally decided just to do it himself.Competence? Maybe competence is important. Want competence? Okay: From a standing start, by the time of the first debate, he already had the poll numbers to be in the center of the stage, and there were a lot of people on that stage long in politics, including in campaigns for POTUS. Did I mention competence?Competence? The media? Trump sees that the media seriously hurts the country and campaigns by pushing out total nonsense in their attempt to get eyeballs for ad revenue. Well, Trump has the media behaving, like formerly naughty first graders now in a class with a very experienced, very severe Nun with a ruler that gets used.Competence? All the Republican candidates criticized O for his speech of tears. Trump was smart enough to claim that the tears were real but that the ideas were wrong. Smart cookie.More competence? Well, maybe the best pundits have some competence in politics, right? Well, since all the pundits were wildly wrong about Trump’s chances, clearly we have to conclude that Trump has more political competence than any or all of the pundits. Right? He is so competent that none of the pundits could understand what he was doing even when it was right in front of them — what he was doing was like an advanced grad course in the Birch and Swinnerton-Dyer conjecture when all the pundits were still in grade school learning to add. In political smarts, Trump is way, way over the heads of the pundits, GOPe, other politicians, etc. Trump’s a bright guy, a smart cookie.Competence? His rallies where he uses no notes, rambles with wildly broken syntax, has no TelePrompTer, uses just fourth grade vocabulary, is bombastic? His rallies are huge, exciting, successful — ’nuff said?I love to see a man work. Nearly all politicians would make me cry, if I would cry. Trump makes me sit up and notice someone doing a darned good job.We’re lucky to have him. It’s been a long time since we had such a good opportunity. Let’s not blow it.

          14. panterosa,

            You and @jerrycolonna:disqus are cracking me up.

          15. sigmaalgebra

            From all I’ve been able to tell, she’s a 1000% total sweetheart. What’s that, five languages? Went from work visa, flying home to get her passport stamped, green card, then the full path to full citizenship.She will be a First Lady we can all be proud of.

      2. Mario Cantin

        Let’s put it this way, you wouldn’t last too long on Victoria Secret, but you certainly make philosophically refreshing podcasts that are soothing to the psyche, if that’s any indication of the type of conferences you run. So no ski pass would be needed for me *if* I were the CEO of a startup with co-founders.

        1. jerrycolonna

          Ok. Ok. I get it. I’ll take that as a compliment. 😉

          1. Mario Cantin

            It was certainly meant in a tongue-in-cheek way and as a compliment. My wife is Buddhist and so I dig some of the Zen stuff, as an aside.BTW, that was an ‘inverted’ shit sandwich, ha ha!

    2. JimHirshfield

      Colorado Kush

      1. jerrycolonna

        Now, now. None of that.

        1. JimHirshfield

          Mellow the harsh ;-)PSA: I don’t do drugs. Stay in school.

    3. Lawrence Brass

      Footage from last year’s bootcamp… from “Right Said Fred” :-)Now I understand the 9K.

    4. sigmaalgebra

      > sex it upWhat’d you think was mostly just what the heck we’ve been talking about here?Uh, hint, maybe the rooms come with, i.e., SOs discouraged!Uh, maybe what happens in the Rockies stays in the Rockies, unless it itches after you get home!

  10. Travis Millman

    I’m all in favor, but recently came across Opportu (, which appears to be what is perhaps a less powerful, but more scalable approach to addressing the same challenge/opportunity.

  11. JamesHRH

    Its an idea that reaches a very limited part of the problem. Most poor co-founder relationships are what keep the company from raising money.90% of people Gerry could help will never have the 18-27K to go to Colorado.Not that he shouldn’t do it.

    1. jerrycolonna

      I hear ya. This why we do the podcasts and peer groups (podcasts are free and Peer Groups are relatively low cost). My wish that everyone could get the support they need. I feel uniquely blessed to be able to help entrepreneurs in this way. I try, as best as I can, to make this work as accessible as possible.,

  12. Joe Cardillo

    It’s on the Reboot site, but worth mentioning that folks who want to get a feeling for the work in the bootcamp, go check out the podcast (listened to it for the last year, and it’s great).

    1. Dan Putt

      Thanks Joe!

  13. kevando

    I’d love to see something like this prior to starting the company. Take 5% of a non-existing company and put 2-3 potential founders through a rigorous weekend and determine if they’d work well together.

    1. jerrycolonna

      I LOVE that idea.

  14. JoeK

    I’m curious as to whether the organizers would be willing to accept 9k worth of convertible notes, with a cap of say 13.5k, assuming that they truly believe that the investment will drive growth and increased value for the attendees’ businesses. Talk about putting your money where your mouth is!Or is it cold cash only?

    1. LE

      Seems to me if you want to cut that deal contact the organizers directly. The business model of taking $9k cash vs. having to decide if the terms (that multiple people would propose) are worth it are vastly different and obviously have added complexity. No way (on a gross basis) they would want to take on that work unless they had bulk unfilled slots or rooms. On a single attendee basis of course anything is possible I guess.Or is it cold cash only?They aren’t the risk taker with your business, you are.

      1. jerrycolonna

        Thanks for taking a look at this in this way. Yes. Gosh. As a former VC I really wish we could take equity in lieu of payment for coaching. There are structural reasons we can’t…we have costs associated with the Camps, for example, and those folks don’t take equity in lieu of cash.But, more important, the whole question–and trust me we grapple with this all the time as we see a lot of companies grow over time and would be wonderful to have owned a piece before they took off–is challenging.My personal belief is that taking equity in lieu of cash sets a potential conflict…an internal conflict for the coach. The client’s needs must always come first. Always. And I don’t trust my wily, scared ego. I worry that the coaching I deliver–or that anyone delivers–will be tainted by fears of the loss of value of the equity.I know others feel differently but this is how we reconcile this potential conflict.

  15. LE

    “how are we going to afford $9k per person to do this?”That’s $2250 per day. Plus airfare of course.And co-founders don’t like to talk about it because they are afraid that their issues will freak out everyone else; their employees, their investors, etc.But then:My answer is the company should pay for it if it can. And if your investors aren’t in favor of you making this investment in the partnership that drives the business, then they don’t have their priorities straight. So how does this not freak everyone out? Of course what matters is how soon the need to do this comes up. 6 months after an investment is not the same as 4 years later obviously.

  16. DJL

    This looks really cool. On a related note, I am looking for some guidance on how to handle equity distribution when you are bringing on “new” co-founders. (Already stressful!) We have a solo founder (100% owner) who has already invested many hundreds of thousands of real dollars and hours of sweat equity. Now we want to expand the team before we get funding (so no external valuation point). What is a fair way to bring on new people before any outside funding? I’m sure there is an AVC post somewhere about this – but I cannot find it.

  17. James Ferguson @kWIQly

    This one is an outlier IMHOIf an investor thinks potential founders need to pay $9000 per founder to avoid conflict, deal with conflict, or lick each others wounds after conflict, or whatever – question the investmentIt is a tough thing defining a team and it takes a long time. The process of smoothing off sharp edges is at times painful, it is not artificial and it pays off in many ways.- You can become a team through this process (but you cannot buy this is a cosseted environment where there are no financial , client or production pressures to deal with)- You learn trust- You will become better at expressing your self and understanding and hearing the perspectives of others.You will learn to value a well-defended wrong position (the devils advocate)It takes time – I believe you cannot buy this.I do however belief some young or dysfunctional teams may need root-surgery so a better team can emerge. But if you think up front you are investing in a team that needs this – perhaps think again.

    1. JLM

      .Trust and role definition is the key to team building.In the most elite military units, everybody knows their job. The officers command. The NCOs run it.I recall being told by a very senior NCO one time, “Your job is to command and stay the fuck out of the way. We all know our jobs. Sir.”The “sir” was a little late in coming.It was very good advice.JLMwww.themusingsofthebigredca…

      1. James Ferguson @kWIQly

        Agreed – I would add that trust is earned when consistent results are delivered regardless of pressure. X tries to do Y – implies X can generally be trusted but may failX does Y (given a fair wind on Tuesdays) implies X is untrustworthyX does Y (regardless of personal cost) implies X will deliver Y or die tryingI like working with X’s of the third kind whenever Y matters

        1. JLM

          .Yes, everything is based on experience. I remember walking in and taking over a screwed up military unit or a business turnaround.It takes time to build trust and then it just all clicks. It is a thing of beauty.I love my country. I do not trust my government.This is what Trump is tapping into. An all time low in trust for the body politic and the gov’t.How do folks overlook his bombasticness — they are inclined to trust a guy spending his own money.Churchill said of Gen George Catlett Marshall — “I trust him and I will always trust him.” They won a war together.When FDR couldn’t get the revived draft through Congress, Marshall held a meeting at the Army-Navy Club and got it passed by a single vote. The Congress said, “I trust Marshall. I don’t trust FDR.”Big lesson there for us today.JLMwww.themusingsofthebigredca…

          1. James Ferguson @kWIQly

            I think we see eye to eye on trust and experience however as an outsider to the US looking in at Trump my feelings are broadly….1) The man is an utter clown (- and so potentially dangerous)2) I as a European would fear knock on effects of US foreign policy globally but hope and believe he must be wholly unelectableAs for US domestic policy – the man is a bigot which can only do harm.The lesson – financial success and sanity may be correlated but are clearly not causally related.

          2. JLM

            .The man is many things but a “clown?”NO, that is unlikely. Not even close.He is an overachiever in a crowd of underachievers. He is a sword wielder in a bunch of paper cut men. [He is not yet my guy for the presidency, mind you, but I refuse to see him through a lens held up by his detractors.]We are at an all time high on bullshitters in American politics and even the least significant “doer” is going to get some good play. Jim Baker, Henry Kissinger — where are you guys?The muscle workmen in the election booth, who delivered the historic 2014 rebuke — a wholesale repudiation of all things status quo and the delivery of the House, Senate, statehouses, state legislatures into the hands of the Republicans — to the Democrats that the President seemed to have missed, is going to pour out to support this man. Even the unions will break in his direction.The man commands, through sheer force of personality, the entire American media to such a magnitude that he literally has 90% of all the air time focused on him. A trick worth mastering. A phenomenon that is being studied in schools of political science as we speak. Many of the others are single trick ponies buying the little air time they are getting.I cannot imagine any country in the world becoming more fearful given the inconsistent, amateurish, and unsuccessful performance of American foreign policy during the last 7 years.I am fearful of American policy, promises, follow through. I love my country. I do not trust my government. They are neither honest nor competent. A very dangerous combination.The utter chaos in the Middle East, the re-emergence of Russia as a power in the Middle East (having been banished by Kissinger since 1973), China’s resurgent belligerence, a nuclear tipped North Korea, and the jug fuck that is the likely to be nuclear Iran — what could possibly be worse?The alienation of Saudi Arabia, the matchup of Iran v Saudi Arabia, the disaffection of Israel? There is not a messkit in the world in which America has not shat.[I have notably not mentioned either Syria or Libya, please take notice.]Honestly, whose ankle has the US not pissed on?It’s going to be fine though. Trust me.JLMwww.themusingsofthebigredca…

          3. LE

            People have a hard time understanding Trump but if you know his history and what he has done it all makes a great deal of sense actually. You just have to put it in context. No he is not going to sound smooth and reasonable like a honest network news anchor (Brian Williams?). Or the guy who does your accounting. Why? Because he has never had to be that way. Unless he had to for some specific reason so it put money in his pocket. And since (and this is super important) people want something from him (a contract or employment) they will put up with anything and everything that he says. [1] You’ve had employees, right? I don’t mean the type that work for these startups I mean the type that don’t. If you call them into your office to wax about this or that they would listen to what you say for, what, 10 hours, right? And if you have to piss they will wait until you come back and let you continue. It’s almost as if they really like you. Same as a guy I know who said his friend listened to Dustin Hoffman until 5am and didn’t want to say “I have to go to bed”. Same thing.Anyway, many business owners, that is people who have built their own company from the ground up (and the size doesn’t matter), are used to being able to say whatever they want whenever they want with impunity. The only thing they typically care about is when what they say has an impact on their pocketbook. As such of course they are not going to stand there when they have to sell something and insult someone. But around employees, vendors, or the electrical contractor it’s “loose cannon” time.The only question I have is this. Do all of the talking heads and politicians actually think that Trump has as little judgement as what they think comes out of his mouth shows, or do they realize it’s all nearly an act?Here are the choices:a) They believe him (so they are stupid)b) They don’t believe him so they are using it to make sure he loses (in which case they are “as bad” as he is.[1] The best was the media trying to show his inconsistency about what he said about Clinton’s affairs or about Hillary. He said something like “of course I said that it’s good business” Normals sat there astounded at the simplicity of that statement!

          4. sigmaalgebra


          5. LE

            What did you think of Clinton and Monica?What do you think of a guy who is running the world who actually thinks he can have sex with a young girl and that she won’t tell anyone and that it will never get out?Or John Kennedy who “dodged a bullet” with that intern he passed around as a sexual favor (nice, eh?) to his aides by “taking a bullet”. [1] “Here have sex with her” (literally). Truth stranger than fiction.[1] Meaning if he hadn’t been assassinated we probably would have found out about that sometime in the 60’s most likely.

          6. James Ferguson @kWIQly

            It seems there are no limits. Many that abuse power seem to even revel in the revulsion they can engender,or at best not to fear it.As in “Hey, look at me, I can do this!”They are sad and inadequate in my view for that. Because they have no notion of accountability or of a greater good (whether Spiritually, or in lieu of utilitarian or rights arguments)What do I think of it?1) I am horrified but less and less surprised .2) I do not think it is political party or culturally specific3) I look at the individual victims distinctly from the external effectsSo (If I may assume your *facts* without judging ), the young girl or aides in question are victims (at some level), but may bear some responsibility if they are willing or publicity seeking victims.The fact that the monsters that do such things are accepted as political leaders implies to me that either the public do not care, or do not know. Sadly I think it is often the former.When caught they should be punished in exemplary fashion.The repercussions of doing otherwise is one of setting new lows in public standards (as in “if he can, I may”)Where hatred/evil is deliberately done or preached (as it seems to me Mr Trump does, whether as a means to curry favour or through ignorance) I have little faith in the “earthly powers that be” to redress the situation – I speak here generally for “Western pseudo democracies”Our courts fail us, our police fail us, our educators fail us and our politicians and bankers fail us.They do this because we fail ourselves.Eliminating hatred and corruption starts at home – We are not perfect, but can openly hold our aims to do better, we can encourage others to do the same. And we can to the limit of our moral authority oppose those who do otherwise.Practice what you preach. expect others to preach what you practice, and do not be lead by foolishness or evil.

          7. sigmaalgebra

            Relax. Trump is terrific. He does take a little getting used to and thought.And early on at least the US media had fun criticizing him. E.g., the media strained to show pictures of Trump looking like a tyrant or clown. But now school Principal Trump with a ruler has hit enough media knuckles to get the media to start to behave. E.g., else he won’t appear on their shows, and their ratings and ad revenue will go way down, especially as Trump appears on the shows of competitors.”Clown”? Early on, much of the US media painted him this way.”Bigot”? Not at all. But early on Trump got tens of millions in free publicity making statements, that sounded like he left his brain idling with his mouth in gear, that, if distort a little, did sound really bad, in some cases like he was a bigot. But those statements by Trump were beautifully phrased; they were red meat bait for the media who eagerly, with glee, took the bait, hook, line, and sinker, distorted Trump’s statement a little, and got to scream that Trump was this and that bad thing. Nope. Instead Trump just got a lot of free publicity.E.g., Trump said that McCain was not a war hero? Nope. He said that commonly McCain was regarded as a war hero because of his time at the Hanoi Hilton and that being a prisoner is not enough to be a war hero — and that’s likely quite true. And Trump also said that McCain may be a hero. Well, McCain was a hero and has the medals to prove it, and, yes, at least one of the medals was given for some of what he did while at the Hanoi Hilton. The context was a Luntz interview where Luntz stated that McCain was a war hero because of all the years he spent at the Hanoi Hilton, and for this Luntz statement, really quite wrong because being a POW is not enough to be called a war hero, Trump responded.As is frequently the case, what Trump said was phrased much less precisely than some deep theorem in advanced pure math. There are some advantages for him in his ambiguous phrasing. Bet if you got a contract from him, there would be no ambiguous phrasing.Trump never said that all the Mexican illegal immigrants were rapists although much of the media so claimed. His syntax was mangled, but the most fair interpretation was that he was saying that some of those immigrants were rapists. But Trump’s mangled syntax makes for especially effective bait for the newsies who, then, leap to distort what Trump said or clearly meant to get a big story, fame, eyeballs, and ad revenue.Trump could lose if he went into the convention with not enough votes just to win. Then the GOPe deal making could start. Then the GOPe could pick someone other than Trump and, thus, likely give us President Hillary. I don’t believe that the GOPe wants President Hillary. They would dream of President Cruz, and Cruz is a very bright guy but not a very good politician, but he is so far right he would piss off at least 80% of the voters, and even the GOPe knows this.Then there is what Trump said about Carly’s face. But the quote was in a long interview in Rolling Stone, and to me Trump’s statement sounded like some men’s locker room joke.Is Trump against women? GOTTA be kidding. Look at his actual track record, wives, daughters, employees.So, Trump wins unless someone beats him. So, who’s going to beat him? We need a name, and actual name, of someone already in the race. Noname riding down from the hills on a horse, or NoneOfTheAbove, won’t do. But there is no name — none of the candidates has a chance of beating him on his way to the White House. E.g., one on one, Trump will knock Hillary into the nickel seats.The Trump rallies? Sure, he uses fourth grade vocabulary and gets SRO crowds up on their hind legs, actually has to calm down the crowds that might get too excited. So, he gets lots of big, really happy crowds — he should seek something else?Warning: What you’ve seen of Trump so far IMHO is not all there is of Trump. He is already changing, becoming less bombastic, calmly explaining why he calls people “stupid”, is looking much more calm and reasonable, keeps emphasizing that being tough is not enough and have to be smart, and is looking more Presidential. And he can continue to change between now and the nomination and the election. IMHO, he will change to look fine, not bombastic or clownish at all.All the pundits said that Trump was a clown, etc. and would lose. All the pundits were wrong. Thus, we have to conclude that Trump is smarter than all the pundits. Trump is one smart cookie. Don’t underestimate him.Sure, he’s the least bad, but he’s by a wide margin the best we have running. We’re lucky to have him. Besides, we’re going to have Mrs. Trump as First Lady — a 1000% total sweetheart we can all be very proud of.

          8. Tom Labus

            But the current GOP is only interested in treason nothing productive

          9. JLM

            .This is an extremely reasonable comment and one likely to elicit an intelligent and equally reasonable response. As a chap who has traveled with the GOP on occasion, I can assure you that there is no treason afoot. In fact, most of my ilk have been willing to defend the country and to ensure that you have an unfettered right to make such utterances.I did not speak to the GOP but as an aside, the GOP really doesn’t exist when you have 15 candidates (may be off by a few) particularly when there is such a fractured vision amongst the various factions. There are a lot of partiers but not “a” party just yet. Lindsey Graham to the contrary.That will change as the participants all coalesce around a candidate and this is why there is a nominating process — to find a candidate and to allow the candidate to formulate, refine, communicate, defend, and perfect their personal style of governance. Maybe even formulate a bit of policy around the important issues of the day.This is a good thing and an experienced hand would not expect the GOP to have a “one size fits all” notion of things until there is a single candidate. And, we have the first few primaries. That will happen soon enough.Don’t worry, it is not perfect but it is pretty good. We will get the President we deserve. We always seem to.JLMwww.themusingsofthebigredca…

          10. sigmaalgebra

            Nice or better.

          11. sigmaalgebra

            Yes, but I still wish that early in the morning on 12/7/1941, Marshall had just picked up the GD phone and made a long distance, person to person call to Admiral Kimmel and General Short and just TOLD them that there was very strong evidence that the Japanese would attack at 8 AM Hawaii time.Then Halsey and Co. might well have sunk some of the six Japanese carriers, maybe most of the ships would have been out to sea, the bombers would have been scattered and/or hidden or on the way to bomb the Japanese carriers, the US fighters and anti-aircraft would have been manned and ready, and we would have taken seriously the radar signal we did get, and also the submarine detection. And the new B-17s on the way could have been directed to one of the out of the way airfields. One GD phone call. GD.

  18. Salt Shaker

    Shrinks have made a killing w/ couples therapy, so yeah, why not. Not sure if there’s a form of post bootcamp follow up, via Skype or whatever, but there should be.Edit: Success=learning + behavioral modification.

    1. Dan Putt

      We agree! Follow up is critical to carry forward the experience. We do follow ups in many forms including coach-led discussions between past participants (basically an alumni version of our peer gropus:

  19. LE

    Questions for all of the investors who read this, VC or Angel.Do you want to know about problems with your founders? Do you want to know the dirty laundry? What if someone (that you know that is working with them) knows this info. Do you want them to tell you? Is this the type of nitty gritty that matters to you or would you rather just sweep it under the carpet and hope that it all works out?

  20. JLM

    .Friction is created by roles of co-founders rubbing up against each other. You actually WANT this friction. It creates warmth and energy. You want to have the company’s vision challenged and refined. That takes friction to smooth things out.I had a partnership, very successful partnership, with a co-founder for 13 years that was a raw startup and went to the paywindow and disappeared. In those 13 years we had one disagreement with two issues.He complained that I wore shorts to the office (ex-banker type) too often. I complained that he was MIA with a divorce and another company he was running.We worked it out in about ten minutes. I stopped wearing shorts and we re-cut our equity deal. Direct. Face to face. Adult.I find this problem of co-founder issues being almost always grounded in role recognition. I used to give new hires a very detailed Basis of Employment — 15-20 pages sometimes.Then some months later I would ask them, “Tell me what you think your role is around here?” I would not allow him/her to refer to the Basis of Employment document. [I would, of course, have read it because I do my freakin’ homework.]When there were problems it was ALWAYS about the definition of the role — mine or theirs. But the Basis of Employment doc fed into the Performance Appraisal system and the company’s strategy/tactics/objectives. Twice a year that stuff was reviewed and modified. It was a dynamic document.If you want to sort out roles, define them. If you want to reduce friction, investigate from whence it comes and it will likely come from a gap or a burr in that role definition.Talk about it before it comes to blows. Tension is normal when people are moving fast. It is normal. You want tension.Go to the mountains with Jerry? Sure, if you’ve got $9K to burn. It’ll be fun and the guy is a guru. But you may want to try the cheap, one burrito solution first.I was a CEO for 33+ years and it worked for me. It will likely work for you.One more thing, if your car engine makes a funny sound — don’t buy a new engine as your first stab at fixing the problem. Same kind of thing.JLMwww.themusingsofthebigredca…

    1. John Pepper

      I’ll supply the burritos.

      1. JLM

        .I will eat the burrito. Only one.JLMwww.themusingsofthebigredca…

  21. LE

    pragmatic wisdom, hikes, meditation, yogaQuestions for Jerry (or anyone else). Can you explain the benefits of mediation and yoga relative to founders that are in conflict? (And to a lesser extent, hikes?)

    1. Richard

      Ego. Insecurity.When people laugh at you, can you relax? When people point at you, just relax. Smile and accept it. A mother has no ego. Whatever the children say, she accepts. If they kick , does the mother get perturbed? If you are unperturbed, you have conquered the ego. Ego is just a feeling of having a wall between you and others. There is no wall. You belong to me and I belong to you. You are accepted the way you are. Naturalness is the antidote for you. Be spontaneous! Ego cannot stand spontaneity. Ego wants to present everything properly and prepare beforehand. Children are so spontaneous. They make mistakes. Never mind making mistakes. Just be like a child. Anybody can say anything about you.Sri Sri Raveshankar

      1. LE

        I’d need more detail than that.

        1. Khalid Halim

          I am one of the four partners at Reboot and let me try and answer your question. I remember early on in work with Jerry (he was my coach and mentor before we became partners) I told Jerry, “It is just too hard for me to sit still and meditate.” He gave me a great definition of meditation which I use to this day. “Meditation is the practice of paying attention to the current moment on purpose.” This is why you follow your breath, it is happening now (or at least I hope it is). This relates to cofounder conflict because often times the conflict comes from playing out imaginary future scenarios in your head that give you anxiety which you then project onto your cofounder instead of exploring your own anxiety and the fear that just snuck up you point to your cofounder and blame them for something. Jerry teaches a great framework from Non-Violent communication to deal with this. But if you can’t pay attention to the current moment on purpose then you can’t actually notice you are anxious and you act from that anxiety in less than ideal ways. Now this will serve founders in many other areas of life as well. At least that is just our theory.As for the hikes it is because there are three fundamental systems you can use to change your current state, new thoughts, new emotions or new movement. They all come into congruence with one another so if you have a negative thought, it is hard to have a positive emotion and a powerful physical stance, they all usually fall inline with each other. If you want to get your thinking moving get your body moving. This is why people praise “the walking meeting”. We actually use the hikes as partner walks where we pair people up and they discuss a certain topic. It is a powerful exercise, so powerful we even do it in the winter camps when it is below 20 degrees outside.Hope that helps.

          1. LE

            Thanks for the detail. All of the above (with a little polish and perhaps a bit more simplistic (Ny Times style in other words)) needs to be on your website. Would suggest headers as such:”Why Yoga and Founders”?”Why Hikes and Founders”?…and so on.Was a question that I had (not that I am a potential attendee, I’m not) so I’m sure others reading the site might think the same. (Especially at this high dollar amount). Might also suggest something similar to “what to tell your investors” or “investors read this” etc.

  22. brendangbaker

    I’ve seen my girlfriend and a handful of trusted friends go through this. An an outsider observing, it seems to be incredibly effective.

  23. Francois Royer Mireault

    Thought of the day: a free/cheaper version should exist for music bands too 😉 similar dynamics in the founding members.

    1. Dan Putt

      Francois – I agree, great idea!

  24. sigmaalgebra

    First paragraph — NO SHIT.Good work, Fred.For a generic description, just a perfect description of what I encountered. I have to conclude that for such a clear, succinct description, Fred saw a lot of cases.So, from Fred’s first paragraph, clear I wasn’t the only one encountering just such co-founder problems, am not the Lone Ranger in that situation.That paragraph is definitely a keeper. Thanks, Fred.Co-founder Business Case Study #1I saw the problem to be solved, conceived of the first good solution, invented and wrote up the crucial, core original applied math, with a good technological barrier to entry, designed the server farm and software architecture, doable, efficient, scalable, reliable, wrote out the schema for the SQL database, designed the Web pages, and got going on writing the software.One day I suggested to my co-founder, I’ve no experience writing Web site server side front end software but you have. For the server side back end software, that is for the applied math and is essentially just some scientific-engineering software, where I have a lot of experience, and implementing the applied math, that I derived and documented in TeX.So, with this division of experience, how about we have a similar division of the software writing. How about you work on the front end and work toward the back end, and I work on the back end and move toward the front end. When we meet, we will test the code, go live, and make money.He didn’t want to do that. Instead he wanted us to cobble together just a simple prototype, get it running on AWS, go for a big chunk of equity funding, locate in Silicon Valley, have nice offices, hire lots of supposedly obsequious, brilliant grad students from Stanford, have a nice corner office with great furniture, big windows, and a clean desk, have 2-3 layers of secretaries, young, drop dead gorgeous, in tight, short skirts, mostly doing their nails, and start the good life, say, with waitresses in the Silicon Valley restaurants.So, my co-founder attempt failed.Then I became a solo founder and now do have all the code, as originally conceived, apparently ready for production.The WorkSo, as a solo founder, I had to do it all.The main problem writing the code? Poor technical writing from Microsoft documenting their .NET Framework, e.g., find, download, read, abstract, and index 5000+ Web pages of mostly .NET and SQL Server documentation mostly from Microsoft’s Web sites, especially their MSDN. Right: At 10 pages a day we’re talking 500 days. Yup.There was also a cubic foot of books, mostly from Microsoft. Not very well written books.Another biggie problem: SQL Server installation, configuration, and management: Too easily that software got sick, wouldn’t run, wouldn’t repair, wouldn’t uninstall, wouldn’t reinstall. So, I had to reformat my boot partition and reinstall, configure, etc. everything, more than once.The work particular to my startup? All fast, fun, and easy, basically just as I expected. Piece of cake.The Web page design, my first? Sure, just make very simple, routine use of some links and some single line text boxes. CSS usage? Simple with no external CSS files involved, client side or even server side. For fonts and colors, go to some high end Web sites, use some color pixel picker software, and borrow. Gee, can’t patent a 24 bit number, right?Model, view, controller (MVC) Web site design? Never could figure out what the heck that was or the point of it — the documentation was clear as mud. Ignored it.Right, no check boxes, radio buttons, multi-line text boxes, except for the ads no clickable images. No pull-downs, roll-overs, pop-ups. No Ajax. I didn’t write even a single line of JavaScript although Microsoft’s ASP.NET gave me a some lines of standard JavaScript.No use of cookies. No user IDs or passwords (for now).Ads? Places for just the two standard sizes, W x H, 300 x 250 or 720 x 90 pixels.Designed the pages with one sheet of paper and a soft pencil. Each Web page is exactly 800 pixels wide with both horizontal and vertical scroll bars. All the layout is just explicit and from just tables. Each page sends for about 400,000 bits, and the pages send and load really fast.Piece of cake.For the users, really easy UI. Should be easy to use on any device that can show 800 pixels of page width, and could get by with only 300 pixels of width. Anyone with a smartphone, even some seven year old in Thailand who knows no English should be learn or even figure out how to use the English language version in a few minutes.Sure, needed a Web site session state store. Okay, that was some routine use of object instance de/serialization, TCP/IP sockets, and two instances of a standard collection class. Piece of cake. No problems. Blazingly fast. From timings and memory usage, efficient enough that a $1000 server in a mid-tower case could keep session state lasting for at least an inactive hour for a quite significant business.The SQL Server schema? Dirt simple. E.g., some clustered keys. No foreign keys. Just a few tables, each with just a few columns. The tables used essentially just as key-value stores. E.g., no joins. Only light usage of SQL Server.Main lesson: Keep the work simple so that a solo founder really can do it.Otherwise, I needed just to write some code for the math — and that code is just one more case of scientific-engineering software I’ve written for many years, back to my software for my Ph.D. and more.Co-founders? Nope, not interested, not now.Spending $9K in the Rockies? Might be fun, but I can’t believe it would have helped the co-founder situation I encountered.And now from Fred’s first paragraph here, for just a short, generic description, a perfect description of what I encountered, where I conclude I was not the Lone Ranger here, I have to conclude that, however pretty the Rockies might be, it looks like we’re talking “fuzzy, bunny play time” and not getting real problems solved for getting real work done. For $9K, the 9 PM cheese fondue and white wine followed by the Sacher Torte und Kirschwasser should be really good. And for the daily lessons, just skip those and take some hikes in the rockies to build up a good appetite for some really good Boeuf Bourguignon oder Sauerbraten mit Spaetzle und so weiter.Instead, there is the A16Z thing about the potential of $1 billion dollar companies (IIRC, actual worth, not just some wacko valuation with a term sheet in 10 three ring notebooks each 2″ thick) from solo founders.Fred just put 1000 long, coated, ribbed nails in the coffin of the value of co-founders. Nice work.Besides, the CEO needs to know his business, e.g., as in writing the code.

  25. ShanaC

    I wish I had this early on. Sending it to some people.

  26. Satyajay Mandal

    Hi FredI think that you should load the education section if you don’t have anyAnonymous

  27. Dorian Benkoil

    Fred, when did the comments in here become a place for all these personal jousts?

  28. Ryan Eat World

    It’s difficult to gauge because a team should have varying personalities with different skill sets – can’t have all technical co-founders or all non-tech co-founders. Different backgrounds means founders’ opinions are going to clash at some point.From what I’ve seen, the best teams are those that have worked together in the past and trust each other’s expertise.

  29. Peter Van Dijck

    “And if your investors aren’t in favor of you making this investment in the partnership” -> this brings up a question. Would investors really be involved to the level of approving or complaining about a 20-30K spend? (I have no experience with having investors.) That would seem overbearing, no?

  30. jerrycolonna

    Thanks Willy. I appreciate the kind words. We do offer something we call Peer Support groups…they’re facilitated and moderated by a coach and are much, much more accessible than individual coaching or the camps. That said, the camps aren’t just for folks who’ve got problems. I think folks find dedicating the time to defining the structure of their relationship as well as “being fierce”–as I like to say–and talking about the stuff that people don’t normally talk about (like, “Who decided that X should be CEO and Y should be CTO?”)–is incredible helpful.To the latter point, we have an exercise where we have people tell each other their version of the “origin story.” You’d be shocked–as they are–at the different versions of our a company comes into being. You’d not be shocked by the tension that can come from people holding different origin stories.

  31. jerrycolonna

    Oh no apologies necessary. YOUR larger point is spot on. One of my mantras is that there aren’t enough mentors, elders, and coaches in the world. Entrepreneurs have to help each other. That’s why forums like this, which Fred created but barely manages, are so important. I love how the AVC community looks out for each other. Sometimes with a fierce love but always looking out for each other.