I am fortunate to be a Fellow on the 2018-2019 London cohort
of the Start Up Leadership Program, SLP.
SLP is a highly
selective, global, world-class training program and lifelong global network for
outstanding founders, leaders, and innovators who want to become start up CEOs.
The program began in Boston in 2006 and has grown to 28 cities in 13 countries.
Every year 15-25 Fellows join the program in every city. It is a not for profit
The training program is peer led and on the 4th February
2019 I organised a class for my other Fellows on ‘Cofounder Conflict and
So many initial adjectives spring to mind when trying to
describe life as a start up founder: creative, exhilarating, stimulating, as
well as all-consuming, and challenging.
But one constant feeling is that of chaos, sometimes a
beautiful, gratifying chaos, and occasionally a frustrating and enervating
In the midst of chaos, it is easy to lose sight of the
basics, looking after one’s fundamental needs. Start-up founders forget that we
need to sleep, to eat (that means food, not convenience crap), to drink plenty
of water, to feed our plants plenty of water, to make time to relax, to reassure
our family and friends that we haven’t emigrated without warning.
To avoid the all too common, but dreaded ‘burn out’,
founders need to take care of the most important asset in their business;
here’s looking at you kid.
If we have cofounders to share the chaos with us, inevitably
there are going to be delicate moments. Spending so much time with another
person, or persons, when the pressure to succeed is so great, fuelled by our own
passions, but the chances of actually doing so are so tenuous, can lead to
difficult situations. How these situations are resolved are a huge determinant
in whether a start-up ‘makes it’, or not (at least to it’s 18 month birthday).
The class on the 4th February was divided into two sections.
The first section involved three diverse and experienced entrepreneurs sharing
their personal insights on cofounder conflicts:
First up was Sarah Porter, founder of InspiredMinds.
InspiredMinds is the fastest growing AI tech community and
event organiser. Sarah was recently nominated for female tech entrepreneur
of the year.
Sarah has founded World Summit AI, the largest worldwide AI
tech summit, is a founder of ADA-AI, a worldwide not for profit policy group on
AI, IntelligentHealth a global summit on AI in medicine, a sponsor of the
Afghan all girl robotics team (yes that same team that Trump didn't want to
enter the US), and actively campaigns for women’s rights globally.
Sarah has even been invited to speak by the UN.
During the class, Sarah talked to us about defining the
parameters of partnership from the beginning to avoid potential conflict later.
She mentioned a ‘musketeer mentality’ that needs to be
adopted by cofounders, reminding us that things will go wrong and you need a no
She discussed the importance of ‘knowing your end’; know
what you all want and when along your roadmap.
She advised that as cofounders we must agree upon our
visions and write these down, or discuss regularly.
Next up was Michael Othen, founder of Fusebox games.
Fusebox games make the official Love Island, Baywatch, and
Their Love Island game was number one for downloads on the
app store for a period last year.
Michael previously founded Digicub, a mobile game
development studio responsible for multiple titles and over 3 million users.
Michael talked to the group about how to achieve cofounder
harmony, making a distinction between professional must haves and personal
Vesting stock options
Strong legal advice
A good board
Meet conflict head on
Work with each other’s motivations
Honest, weekly sharing
Clearly defined roles
Trust each other
Our last founder to share her story was Emma Obanye, founder
of Mindful Team.
Mindful Team is a health check and agile retrospective
platform that allows businesses and teams to implement, measure and track a
continuous improvement culture.
Emma previously co-founded, ran and sold music start-up Buddybounce, the
music social loyalty platform that attracted the attention of artists, labels
and brands. Clients included Cheryl Cole, Conor Maynard, O2 and Penguin Random
Emma recently helped to set up OneTech, a JP Morgan
initiative that wants to help 200 female and BAME-led (Black, Asian
and Minority Ethnic) start-ups to grow and scale in London, with the view
to helping 50 companies gain investment.
Emma mentioned how communication and alignment is a
necessity to ensure that you're steering in the same direction.
She reinforced the need to create a framework for regular
communication and alignment.
She advised that retrospectives are a great way to discuss
the good and the bad in a constructive way.
Emma mentioned keeping one’s ego in check.Recognition can lead to the inflation of the
ego. This can lead to territorial rather than collaborative behaviour.
Following this, the second part of the class was an
interactive workshop run by Hannah Holt, founder of Equanimity.
Equanimity is a wellness agency working with highly
professional and experienced instructors across a spectrum of wellness
services. Including yoga, pilates, mindfulness and self development. Equanimity
work with businesses to identify their needs and help implement a program that
will reduce stress levels, relieve back pain and improve wellbeing.
Hannah told us to be aware ofthe physical signs of stress :
Aches, pains, and tense muscles
Chest pain and rapid heartbeat
Frequent colds and infections
We learned about the power of the breath - just one inhale
will change our reaction and remarkably, Just 10 deep breaths can reduce stress
She had us doing power poses at the end-which have been
shown to decrease stress & increase energy. I think I’ll always end my day
with a power pose from now on!
I want to thank everyone involved with this class for giving
up their time to share their pearls, it truly opened my mind; my neck and
shoulders felt looser, and I feel like I’ve got street smarts about me now.