It took me two years to accept the fact that I really don't like the person I'm working with. And I don't know what I should do now.
This is a post I'm ashamed about, which is why I'm posting it anonymously; this probably means I'm a bad person. But I feel that I need to talk about this to other people. I feel alone, and... trapped.
Two years ago, I embarked on a project with someone I didn't know, but contacted me through a shared contact, proposing to join their startup project. He'd been working on it for a year already and was looking for a technical co-founder.
He immediately positioned himself as CEO, having lots of previous entrepreneurship experience. He also had a technical background.
Before I accepted the offer, I tried to get an idea of "who" the person was by asking a series of questions about his motivations/approach/vision of work & collaboration, etc. At the time, his answers looked "mostly ok" to me. Still, a few answers worried me a bit. For instance, the fact that he didn't care about the "micro-details", or the fact that his goals seemed centered around generating money/wealth. I didn't question that further, but I probably should have...
On my end, I mentioned that the human aspect of the adventure was really important for me, that I had a family, and that it would remain my top priority, no matter what. I talked about empathy and other values that I care deeply about.
During the first few meetings, his "over-seriousness" made me feel uneasy, but I put it aside, thinking that it was just a facade and that it would go away once we agreed to work together. I was a fool.
He told me more about the project, which I really liked, as it was something I really cared about, and a real problem I wanted to help solve. We also had a number of prospects, so validation seemed ok. He presented the project so far, which looked pretty good from a technical standpoint (seen from the outside). I liked the technical stack, had experience with it, and was mostly in line with the choices. I accepted the offer and started working on the project. To me, it was a dream come true, because I knew I wanted to create products, but needed to find a team.
After a week or two, I realized that the whole solution was really weak. Screens were not doing half of what I saw before, there were bugs everywhere, there was no data model, etc. It was a real mess. So I prepared a plan, we discussed it, and gradually rebuilt/improved the situation. Little by little, I took care of project & product management, created a backlog, made projections, created the documentation, implemented solutions for release management, infrastructure & deployments, security, code quality, dependency management & upgrades, troubleshooting & bug fixing, UI & UX, etc. I basically took care of all the technical aspects.
I've spent ~2.5K hours on it so far. In 2020, we were still nowhere. Development was taking ages, and I realized that I was spending a ton of time helping my co-founder troubleshoot basic issues and fixing other ones that were introduced long before I joined. It took a toll on me. Meanwhile, my bank account was going down.
Now, the product is finally in a state where it can be sold, and we've started running demos to potential clients. The feedback is positive, which is good, but we still don't have a single signed client. Worse is that I really question the value of what we've built so far. Meanwhile, my bank account is dry as a desert.
This alone is a very stressful situation, as you can imagine. It's the consequence of a cataclysmic amount of mistakes. And I'm part of the problem of course. But that's not what stresses me the most. That's only one side of my story.
What's worse is that I have realized that I've spent my time with someone that is way too distant from who I am. I'm easy-going, friendly, empathetic, fun, and a nerdy-geek, and my co-founder is anything but.
His seriousness is what defines him the most. My gut feeling during those first meetings was right, and I should've listened. I've come to the conclusion that he's the least empathetic person I know. When I announced that I was going to be a father once more, his reaction was pretty much like "okay, that is good news. So what's the next point on the agenda?". Each time I talked about taking a week off to cool down and recharge my batteries, he replied with things like "We need to put more pressure on ourselves to move forward". He put pressure in insidious ways at each and every occasion. To me, it was toxic, and I had to protect my well-being at multiple occasions, clearly stating my limits/boundaries.
I've also understood that he's really only there for the money; nothing else. Of course money matters, and I'm the first to understand that, since my bank account is almost empty by now. I even had to pour in some of my savings to keep my company afloat.
Money is not my main driver. I care about the problem space, I care about the solution, and I want to help others. But he doesn't; he doesn't care about the product, or me, or anything else. All that matters to him at the end of the day is: money & fame. It's just startup envy (ie I want a big fat startup generating millions). And it's not something that I appreciate. Maybe I should've quit as soon as I understood this.
He's also the most controlling person I've ever met. Almost each and every time I or our other co-founder came up with ideas, those were judged, and rejected swiftly. Each time I express myself, I don't feel at ease, and psychological safety is simply not there.
Meetings & co-working sessions are also an absolute nightmare. They feel procedural, boring, soul-less, and mostly a waste of time. He likes listening to himself most of the time, talking all the time, and never listening or caring about the other voices.
Finally, our epic series of mistakes didn't even scratch the surface of his ego. He's still as over-confident about everything as he was two years ago.
Like everyone else, I also had to cope with Covid, had to endure a lot of stress during those two years, and I feel more alone than I ever was. Maybe it's a burn-out, maybe it's a bore-out; maybe both, I don't know.
It's been two years now, and I've never felt so distant from anyone in my life. Even distant work colleagues I barely worked with in the past knew more about me and my life than my co-founder does after two years of intense collaboration. He simply doesn't care.
I really don't like bad-mouthing. It's just not me. But I feel like I've partnered with some kind of vampire. Someone who benefits from my skills, and only brings darkness into my life. Stated like this, it's quite horrible... But the truth is that without me, that project wouldn't be anywhere close to where it is now.
I feel like I can't stand the situation anymore, I think about it all the time. If I continue, then maybe there's hope it finally sells, but it means continuing to work with someone I can't stand anymore. I've neglected my family to pour in long work hours, for nothing in return.
I don't know how other co-founding teams are, but I personally hoped for something very different. I'm probably too naive...
Since I wrote all this, I suppose that the only sensical decision for me is to resign; abandon the project, take some time off, and find someone closer to me to build awesome things with. But on the other hand, I've spent so much time and energy on this project that abandoning it now feels like the worst. It means losing everything... But if I keep going, there's still no certainty it'll work, and even if it does, I'll be on board with someone that'll just hurt other people.