How to do spot an insanely intelligent person from the one who is just plain crazy? At what moment you decide on terminating further business talks over still trying to find a common ground? Obviously, people have different personalities (and it’s crucial for company growth to hire mix of different personalities). At best, after a first weird encounter you may just assume that that person is an extreme introvert/extrovert (the opposite of you), which used to work in different environment. But when do you recognise, that that person is just out of touch with the reality?
I had that exact problem.
My (then) current tech partner was having serious problems at home. I didn’t see his progress in my app development, but at the same time I knew it would be very tactless of me to insist on pushing with the project. I decided to find a tech partner backup – an additional partner/or replacement (depending on how unfavourable was the situation of my then partner and for how long would he be unavailable).
I’ve replied to two requests to connect via one of the co-founder matching site. First applicant seemed very strong, however he was based in LA permanently and was holding a day job. After trying to collaborate remotely with the developers based in Ukraine and Brazil and failing miserably, I decided I can’t do that anymore. Obviously location wasn’t the only unfavourable factor here but it was time. All of my previous developers were holding day jobs, therefore it was extremely hard to sync even for a weekly Skype sprint videoconference.
I moved on to the second candidate.
The applicant’s (let’s call him Ted Bundy) CV was impressive; PhD from one of the most prestigious London universities achieved in the engineering subject which name I can’t even pronounce. Little commercial experience but from his argumentation why he would like to work on Sailo, you could take his extreme ambition and willingness to learn.
During our face-to-face meeting the next day, things got weird.
Ted was very impatient with me explaining him the vision and wanted to know only how much money can he get from it. I mentioned him about the angel investor interested in investing but explained that the deal terms were not favourable (considerably little ££k for high %% equity + place at board of directors which would greatly limit my and other partner’s freedom to choose the strategy direction).
I explained Ted clearly that I’m going to find and secure the investment on much better terms, once we had a working prototype and some customer traction..
He didn’t listen. He was only repeating that I’m silly for not taking the money and that he should be paid for his time. I asked him then if he is interested in being a tech co-founder / partner or if he is looking only for a job as a developer. He said he wants to be a co-founder AND get paid for his time. I pointed that I’m not getting paid for all the time I’m putting into creating these projects and my opportunity costs are high (I could e.g. do more consulting for a client).
He did not listen.
I thought, there is no chance we can work together if we can’t even establish the foundations. I thanked him for his time and said that I don’t see our collaboration happening. We agreed on having Skype call next day with John included. Although personality wise, both me and John found Ted very weird, but we were happy to work with an additional person who is motivated so we were willing to give him a chance.
However, the very next day I got that email from Ted and things went even more down the line:
I have some reseravations about the sailo app following last nights skype call. I think applying to incubators would be a good idea. I think we need to close funding with your investor and i think i should get paid for doing the app ideally. I dont think John is a very good cofounder and his engineering background is almost none existant. I dont have much on at the minute so i will continue developing the app functionality you outlined but i think our team is too weak at the moment and we need to attract more people. Thanks. See you later. all the best.
I found it very weird that Ted didn’t even work with John yet and he started criticising him. I also found it weird that PhD British graduate is making so many grammar and typo mistakes. I would have not believed that’s he is the person he claims to be if I haven’t had previously checked him on reliable sources (comparing his photos on university site, PhD entry subject etc.).
I find your demands silly and unprofessional. You don’t really seem to be getting how funding and being a co-founder works. The facts are that you are fresh out of your uni, with no commercial experience, just academic background (yes, we have checked your GitHub repo to see your previous code work and it is all academic based code). You value to the market equals almost null and you should value properly the opportunity I am prepared to give you – you need to give something to get back.
Hi, I was just telling you my concerns. Following the interview yesterday I can not see the app getting off the ground. I have mentioned John’s limited engineering experience. I was not filled with confidence. I still think the idea is a good one with payment at the point of ordering. I think we SHOULD be pursuing accelerators and funding as a key priority. I don’t know what the point of having a group call is? To discuss the ‘vision’ because I was not convinced my Ted’s vision. Regarding his programming experience it was extremely limited and he will struggle to do the app if at all. I am used to working with open source software developers who work online and have pride in there work and are fun to work with. I don’t really know how John fits into the team dynamic. You mentioned co-founders. I got into this looking for a cofounder. I don’t think John is a goood cofounder and If he is going to be part of the cofounding team then we need to get some more people on the team such as the investor and/or another engineer because I don’t get what he brings. What is his background? Do you have a c.v?
Kamila You must know that on the day of our meeting I requested Ted to sign NDA (I do it with everyone) prior to giving him access to the Dropbox files (mockups, concepts and other documentation). After I decided not to collaborate with Ted, I disconnected his access to our files un-ticking the option, where the user can keep the files on his computer (=the files would be deleted with the moment I disconnected his account from our folder).
I clearly stated to Ted that I’m not going to collaborate with him and I wished him good luck with finding the right project and co-founder. Now he was telling me that not only he breached the terms of NDA by keeping the confidential materials (he probably copied and moved the files from the dropbox folder to somewhere else) but he was also telling me that he is WORKING on the project, even though I declined it.
I wasn’t responding and the very next day (25/09) I’m getting this:
I thought it’s some kind of joke. I clearly told off the guy that I’m not going to work with him and now he was stating that I will have to pay him for his time. Nice. I needed to respond so I told him once again in non-ambiguous, without a doubt of hope way that I’m not interested in working with him. I tried to keep ignoring him.
Four days passed by and guess what – Mr Bundy became active again: (29/09)
― Terry Goodkind, The Pillars of Creation