How to totally F**K up a startup company

by KingRoyal 44 replies
Good evening friends, thank you for taking the time to read my questions, it’s a big one and any serious responses are highly appreciated. Let’s get started.

More than a year ago I was approached by an individual who asked me to partner with him 50/50 in a company that tailors real estate marketing services to Realtors. The idea was solid, the concept was pitch perfect for investors, and I knew I could bring to the table skills that he couldn’t, and he could bring to the table skills that I couldn’t. That’s in fact what makes a perfect business partnership. My responsibility was to build the website and to complete the automation of our software so that we could effortlessly support as many clients as we needed to. His part was to sell the crap out of the business so that we could grow. He is an amazing sales person at heart and all he has to do is sell and forget. Sell the client, once they signup I take care of the rest.

Six months went by and I finally had the pre launch product in place and we signed a few realtors up with our company. The reviews were awesome. Note: My partner is a real estate agent himself and has only signed two members up with our business who happen to be part of the office he works in. He uses the service for free. Once the product was launched he stopped selling it, he hasn’t made more than three phone calls to other Realtors that he knows, and all he wants to do is run Facebook ads and that’s it. He claims that if Facebook doesn’t work, nothing will. Come on, any business owner knows you need more than one channel of sales to be successful. Ill call my partner out on his laziness and then he begins making more and more promises that he will be better, and that he will donate several hours a day to his part of the deal. What do I get in return? Nothing. Its now been more than a year. A year of doing EVERYTHING, and now that its ready to sell, he isn’t holding up to his word.

Here is the problem. I recently got married to my wife on June 6th 2015. I live in Wyoming, she lived in Pennsylvania. She moved to Wyoming so that I could focus on this business, however, now that she’s here and my partner is doing nothing im not able to move forward with my business career. I feel devastated because I uprooted my wife from her own habitat, a man should move for his woman, we did things in the opposite order. I feel horrible that I am being held back by my business partner and have nothing really to show for asking my wife to move here. My wife has been seriously supportive, but man, I still feel like crap.

To top it all off, a few weeks ago I had been meeting with a woman who was willing to provide seed capital for our business which is awesome. My partner wouldn’t even go to the meetings UNTIL a decision was to be made. The third meeting my partner and I met with our potential investor. My partner laid back in his chair smacking his gum and pretty much tried to own a conversation he had never been part of. Story short, we didn’t receive the investment. I’ve reproached him about re-approaching this investor and now he says he doesn’t think we’re ready. How can anyone thing anything when they have absolutely no involvement in the company? It blows my mind. Im tired of having a partner in business who only does something when he’s pushed. When I push him he says I’m being irrational or unfair. This is not a real partnership. I feel like he did his job. His job is to sell. He sold me on an idea and now hes not holding his part. I’m going to lose all of my work if I walk away. I have more than 250,000 lines of code written, only to be lost.

Guys, my wife makes more money than I do which is fine by me. What isn’t okay is that im working so hard on something and getting no return not due to failure, but due to a lazy partner who honest to God shouldn’t have his hand in business in the first place.

What do you suggest? Can I get rid of him? Or should I just tell him to screw off and go do my own thing, restarting everything I did, and explaining to my wife that she pretty much moved to Wyoming for me to restart business.

Thanks for any input.
#main internet marketing discussion forum #company #startup #totally
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  • Profile picture of the author THK
    I would ditch that partner and find new one (since you need someone to sell). If possible, get some feedback from 3rd party realtors (someone that is not your friend) to get some idea about how good your idea/software is.

    All the best.
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    • Profile picture of the author Rooso
      Do you have papers drawn up saying he has ownership of the code you have written?

      Do you have a buyout clause in your written agreement?

      Was a company ever formed and filed with the state?
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      • Profile picture of the author onegoodman
        Originally Posted by Rooso View Post

        Do you have papers drawn up saying he has ownership of the code you have written?

        Do you have a buyout clause in your written agreement?

        Was a company ever formed and filed with the state?

        This is a good place to get started, I hope that is all written down.

        You made the first mistake by not really estimating how serious is this partner. If he dragging himself back, probably because he making more with less.

        You will need to figure a way to replace him ( buy out maybe ), the fact that the startup is not in a place where can negotiate is very helpful as you can buy him out pretty cheap or get someone else to do so.
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  • Profile picture of the author Regional Warrior
    Hi King

    If you post this in the Off Marketing section of the forum you may get way better answers there, as some of the Warriors in there have business like yours and like most sub forums on here they don't look in the main forum they stick to there area mostly.
    Offline Marketing Just asked the Mod to move it for you if you are not sure
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    • Profile picture of the author Jason Kanigan
      Originally Posted by Regional Warrior View Post

      Hi King

      If you post this in the Off Marketing section of the forum you may get way better answers there, as some of the Warriors in there have business like yours and like most sub forums on here they don't look in the main forum they stick to there area mostly.
      Offline Marketing Just asked the Mod to move it for you if you are not sure
      Agreed...the people in the Offline section are more focused on this kind of business and these arrangements.

      @OP: If you don't have a contract with your "partner", then you should be free to move on.

      It's been a year+ and the other guy has done nothing to help. Well past time for you to cut the cord and move on.

      Sounds like you are able to run this thing yourself, and you certainly sound like you have the commitment level necessary for it.

      Facebook ads are NOT the answer. Having conversations directly with realtors is. FB ads are an expensive "nice to have", and if they don't work you've thrown that cash away--cash which is precious right now.

      You'll have to take on the sales duties but from what you're saying I think you can do it.

      Can you go back to your seed investor, tell them you've ditched your deadweight "partner", and are they interested in working with just you now?
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      • Profile picture of the author KingRoyal
        Originally Posted by Jason Kanigan View Post

        Agreed...the people in the Offline section are more focused on this kind of business and these arrangements.

        @OP: If you don't have a contract with your "partner", then you should be free to move on.

        It's been a year+ and the other guy has done nothing to help. Well past time for you to cut the cord and move on.

        Sounds like you are able to run this thing yourself, and you certainly sound like you have the commitment level necessary for it.

        Facebook ads are NOT the answer. Having conversations directly with realtors is. FB ads are an expensive "nice to have", and if they don't work you've thrown that cash away--cash which is precious right now.

        You'll have to take on the sales duties but from what you're saying I think you can do it.

        Can you go back to your seed investor, tell them you've ditched your deadweight "partner", and are they interested in working with just you now?
        Im still currently thinking about what to do. I could go back to the Seed Investor, yes, however the other downfall is that she has connections to my partner outside of this business, so is it really a good idea.
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        • Profile picture of the author Jason Kanigan
          Originally Posted by KingRoyal View Post

          Im still currently thinking about what to do. I could go back to the Seed Investor, yes, however the other downfall is that she has connections to my partner outside of this business, so is it really a good idea.
          If you formally cut the ties with the sales guy, then yes I think it's fine.

          You have nothing to lose: the worst she says is "No Thank You." And then you know for sure.

          You are then "You", on your own, and she will see you as that value. Then you'll find out if she's concerned about ability to sell, or not.
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        • Profile picture of the author agmccall
          I would just leave the business . If I own the code I would just make a new site with my own domains hosting and autoresponder. Then I would just delete everything from the current domain.

          I would then see if your x-partner would like to be a client to use the service.

          Do not get another "partner", just hire sales reps to get you clients

          al
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          • Profile picture of the author KingRoyal
            Originally Posted by Jason Kanigan View Post

            If you formally cut the ties with the sales guy, then yes I think it's fine.

            You have nothing to lose: the worst she says is "No Thank You." And then you know for sure.

            You are then "You", on your own, and she will see you as that value. Then you'll find out if she's concerned about ability to sell, or not.
            Originally Posted by agmccall View Post

            I would just leave the business . If I own the code I would just make a new site with my own domains hosting and autoresponder. Then I would just delete everything from the current domain.

            I would then see if your x-partner would like to be a client to use the service.

            Do not get another "partner", just hire sales reps to get you clients

            al

            Thank you for your suggestions
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  • Profile picture of the author Everychance
    Um what the hell does he think he's doing, ditch and rid your self the headache��
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  • Profile picture of the author BIG Mike
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    • Profile picture of the author KingRoyal
      Originally Posted by BIG Mike View Post

      The answer you're looking for largely depend on what written and oral contracts you may have in place with your partner. I'm not a lawyer and if such contracts exist, you're next step would be to contact one.

      I feel your pain - I've been in that position a few times and while a partnership might start out great in the beginning, they can easily and unexpectedly fall apart.

      I'm assuming you're a developer (programmer), so the first lesson to take away from this is always retain ownership of your code as well as any servers it may be running on.

      That said, I'm also assuming you've got the code, so pending the contract issue, you're probably better off starting over on your own. A the previous poster mentioned, rebrand brother!
      Its 4 AM here now, I've not been sleeping well and my wife is at work so I decided to go ahead and just get up for the day. I woke up to a text from my partner explaining that he doesnt have the time for this business like I say he should. (considering every startup deserves all your attention in order to get started, just my two cents). Anyhow, I can buy him out and that includes the domains we are using, I dont think I would need to re-brand as we don't have a brand as it is since he hasn't really done anything.
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      • Profile picture of the author edmltw
        Be really cautious when buying out his shares. I had a friend who has been trying to buy out his partner's shares for over a year, but words are cheap and until today, he has not be able to make his partner sign the forms. He started incorporated a new company name and moved all existing systems to the new company, leaving behind the previous name as an empty shell.

        You are your own product's best salesman. Everyone else is simply faking till they make it. All the best man, stop the "he-might-bounce-back" mentality and cut him off cleanly in every work aspect.

        Ed

        Originally Posted by KingRoyal View Post

        Its 4 AM here now, I've not been sleeping well and my wife is at work so I decided to go ahead and just get up for the day. I woke up to a text from my partner explaining that he doesnt have the time for this business like I say he should. (considering every startup deserves all your attention in order to get started, just my two cents). Anyhow, I can buy him out and that includes the domains we are using, I dont think I would need to re-brand as we don't have a brand as it is since he hasn't really done anything.
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        • Profile picture of the author KingRoyal
          Originally Posted by edmltw View Post

          Be really cautious when buying out his shares. I had a friend who has been trying to buy out his partner's shares for over a year, but words are cheap and until today, he has not be able to make his partner sign the forms. He started incorporated a new company name and moved all existing systems to the new company, leaving behind the previous name as an empty shell.

          You are your own product's best salesman. Everyone else is simply faking till they make it. All the best man, stop the "he-might-bounce-back" mentality and cut him off cleanly in every work aspect.

          Ed
          The "He Might bounce back" advice is solid. I've admitably have been doing this for quite sometime now. Honest to God I think the best thing for me to do is take the idea of the product and build it for another yet similar industry. It just pisses me off that I got my wife to move 2K miles from home for this, and now its pretty much gone to shit.
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  • Profile picture of the author aspire7
    This is a sad but not uncommon story. Some times people don't understand just how much people have to sacrifice for the success of a business.
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  • Profile picture of the author nocturnal911
    Since you wrote the code and you own it, i would ditch him and find an awesome marketer. You can find good marketing experts here too.

    "Different people will have different mindsets." You might be working soo hard because you wanted to grow, and some people just stick with what they have. So just move on, and find a decent partner.

    Good luck
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  • Profile picture of the author PPC-Coach
    If he's that lazy and not involved, fold the business. Take your code and start a new site without him. Don't bother buying him out. Don't give him a thing. Seems like the guy is not true to his word and will most likely continue to make your life hell.

    Dump the site, fold the business and then reopen under a new name, new domain, new everything but your code.
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    • Profile picture of the author KingRoyal
      Originally Posted by PPC-Coach View Post

      If he's that lazy and not involved, fold the business. Take your code and start a new site without him. Don't bother buying him out. Don't give him a thing. Seems like the guy is not true to his word and will most likely continue to make your life hell.

      Dump the site, fold the business and then reopen under a new name, new domain, new everything but your code.
      Im thinking about doing this. I just landed a meeting with an investor in a couple of days to discuss this idea
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    • Profile picture of the author ripsnorta2
      Originally Posted by PPC-Coach View Post

      If he's that lazy and not involved, fold the business. Take your code and start a new site without him. Don't bother buying him out. Don't give him a thing. Seems like the guy is not true to his word and will most likely continue to make your life hell.

      Dump the site, fold the business and then reopen under a new name, new domain, new everything but your code.
      If he has a legal partnership, the code assets will also belong to the partner. Just dumping him, taking the code, and starting again could result in a major legal headache. Is this guy likely to sue? Is he vindictive?

      Based on the behaviour you describe, I'd be very careful.

      As I see it, you have two choices. Buy him out. Or walk away and start again with some other idea.

      Doing the second gives you a perfectly clean slate (unless you have some legal commitment to keep going and then his behaviour in court could be seen to be an abrogation of his side of the partnership.)

      The thing about ideas, is that they are a dime a dozen. And heaps of startups get to the stage where they pull the plug before going live. It's disappointing to do all that work, but starting over isn't such a bad thing either since you learn a lot on each attempt.

      Edit:

      I might have missed it, btw have you spoken to a lawyer? Do that before you do anything else.
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  • Profile picture of the author MeelisM
    Pick your cofounders carefully.

    Probably one of the most important and influential events in the history of your company

    MeelisM
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  • Profile picture of the author Mehdib
    Personally I am sad to hear about it and it seems there was a time you had something going on, I would suggest to take a look at legality of the issue before doing anything that might not be well thought out. See if he can claim for stuff.
    Starting from scratch is not easy and you know that, but there is also the possibility that even if you get seeding what would stop him from screwing it over?
    Update us on the outcomes though, wish you good luck buddy
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  • sounds unprofessional. I wouldn't go near it myself.
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  • Profile picture of the author PrettyJenny
    Sorry to hear about your co-founder but it's great that you are meeting potential investors. You've got a lot of good advice here and I think ripping it off and starting new seems solid, and it's not even brand new as you've already got the know-how and some development during the last 6 months. Beware of any previous agreements that you have signed with your co-founder though to ensure that there's no clause that prevents you from starting something similar.

    Good luck and keep us posted!
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  • Profile picture of the author leilani
    If you are feeling this way, If it won't get you into any legal hassles, I would say make a backup copy of the code, delete it from the computer and leave.

    Life's too short to let this situation take over your life. Totally not worth it. Trust that you can do better elsewhere without the stress.

    Your wife needs you. All of you, not who you are right now, consumed with what is going on at work.

    I believe your business should serve you and your lifestyle, not you serve the business.

    Just sharing.

    Expect Success,

    Leilani
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  • Profile picture of the author Freebiequeen1999
    OP knows what his agreement was/is and the legalities....we are speculating till then

    IMHO you do need to get away from this guy...what assets did he contribute ?

    You may be able to strike a deal to let him use the software and let you take the ownership and move on down the road..that is what I would do....at bottom line it sounds like he wanted to use the system himself and he probably had some pie in the sky idea of selling it...or that it would "sell itself like hot cakes"

    He may be a good real estate salesperson but maybe not so focused on a smaller ticket item like software JMO. Good luck
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  • Profile picture of the author PBScott
    The code is yours, he doesn't understand it anyhow. Cut him loose, and get a new salesperson. Take down his free website while you are at it.

    Offer him a small amount for his shares, or just walk away, whichever gets you away from him the fastest. Guy sounds like a narcissistic sleazebag.
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  • Profile picture of the author KingRoyal
    Thank you for all the words, guys.

    Agreement wise, we JUST formed a LLC after year of product development AND after two months of product launch, so thats a terrible mistake on my side. So before then it was all promises by mouth, now its on paperwork. As soon as the LLC was made he bailed. Soo, that really messed me over.

    I think im just going to take the concept of what we were trying to do and am going to apply it to a slighty different market. Might be worth a shot and I might be able to find investors for it.
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    • Profile picture of the author startefl
      Hey

      I've had some experience of start ups, and business gone bad too.

      1- I'd check where you stand regarding IP on whatever it is you created. I would hate for you to be successful as this guy comes sniffing around again

      2- the guy is poisen so forget about him as soon as you can. Start ups need energy, positivity and a can mentality

      3- once your clear of this guy, go find another partner. This niche is huge, can your product be rolled out nationally? There are lots of sales experts in this niche. Find another and let them earn their way in. before they get shares they have to bring sales

      4- dont go to investors. Wait until you've some sales first. With some solid sales you can go and ask for some money to scale up... Totally different conversation and you'll give less away

      That's my advice but I wouldn't give up in this niche because it's huge
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      • Profile picture of the author ZephyrIon
        Originally Posted by startefl View Post

        Hey

        I've had some experience of start ups, and business gone bad too.

        1- I'd check where you stand regarding IP on whatever it is you created. I would hate for you to be successful as this guy comes sniffing around again

        2- the guy is poisen so forget about him as soon as you can. Start ups need energy, positivity and a can mentality

        3- once your clear of this guy, go find another partner. This niche is huge, can your product be rolled out nationally? There are lots of sales experts in this niche. Find another and let them earn their way in. before they get shares they have to bring sales

        4- dont go to investors. Wait until you've some sales first. With some solid sales you can go and ask for some money to scale up... Totally different conversation and you'll give less away

        That's my advice but I wouldn't give up in this niche because it's huge
        Yea don't go to inves
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  • Profile picture of the author JohnnyFanta
    It's like all people who don't understand marketing or IT, they think it's all a waste of money and it's "their idea" that is the money maker.
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  • Profile picture of the author gene438
    Before I would start over and try to apply the same technology to a different market, I would take down the current "Free" site that your partner and his buddies are using. What is his reaction when the site goes down....does he contact you to fix it? Is it that valuable to his operations that it brings him to the table?

    If I move on, I make damn sure he and his buddies aren't benefiting from your hard work...


    other than that, It's like by Grandpa says, "Experience costs money"...learn from it but more importantly....move on
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  • Profile picture of the author yukon
    I would have shit canned the guy just for being a lip smacking gum chewing dolt in front of a potential investor.
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    • Profile picture of the author KingRoyal
      Originally Posted by yukon View Post

      I would have shit canned the guy just for being a lip smacking gum chewing dolt in front of a potential investor.
      Man I almost ended his life during that meeting, it was so bad and disrespectful
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      • Profile picture of the author Rooso
        Can you 'break' the current code so the soon-to-be ex-partner won't have an asset when the LLC is dissolved?

        I think your most viable path is to project a new launch one year out. Wipe your hands of this event and start anew. Write code from scratch and take this opportunity to add features or security that my have not yet been introduced into the previous program.

        This can make it a completely new idea and prevent a greedy ex-partner from seeing dollar signs in a few years and trying to cash in crying IP violations.

        Usually the wording in standard LLC formations is general and vague. This can work to your advantage or ...could leave a huge door open. If you aren't confident on what legal recourse your partner has available I think it would be worth a couple hundred bucks to have an attorney who is familiar with IP law to take a look at the agreement.
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        • Profile picture of the author KingRoyal
          Originally Posted by Rooso View Post

          Can you 'break' the current code so the soon-to-be ex-partner won't have an asset when the LLC is dissolved?

          I think your most viable path is to project a new launch one year out. Wipe your hands of this event and start anew. Write code from scratch and take this opportunity to add features or security that my have not yet been introduced into the previous program.

          This can make it a completely new idea and prevent a greedy ex-partner from seeing dollar signs in a few years and trying to cash in crying IP violations.

          Usually the wording in standard LLC formations is general and vague. This can work to your advantage or ...could leave a huge door open. If you aren't confident on what legal recourse your partner has available I think it would be worth a couple hundred bucks to have an attorney who is familiar with IP law to take a look at the agreement.
          Thanks, I currently have a lawyer looking at it right now
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  • Profile picture of the author nlanda
    I agree with agmccall...cut your losses, start over, and hire a sales force. You'll be much better off and happier, too!
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  • Profile picture of the author bradcoin
    Glad to hear this seems like it is going the right direction!

    Cut the ties as amicably as possible. Get it signed and official. And move on! It sounds like you have the right energy and commitment, and that you can probably do a better job of selling than you give yourself credit for.

    I think you should get your story straight and go back to the investor with a true account of where you are at and the decision you made with your partner. If anything, telling that story the right way should give your investor MORE confidence in your ability to grow your company and succeed - you have to be able to make the hard choices.
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    • Profile picture of the author KingRoyal
      Originally Posted by bradcoin View Post

      Glad to hear this seems like it is going the right direction!

      Cut the ties as amicably as possible. Get it signed and official. And move on! It sounds like you have the right energy and commitment, and that you can probably do a better job of selling than you give yourself credit for.

      I think you should get your story straight and go back to the investor with a true account of where you are at and the decision you made with your partner. If anything, telling that story the right way should give your investor MORE confidence in your ability to grow your company and succeed - you have to be able to make the hard choices.
      I just sent him a message saying I forfeited the business. I ripped the code out of the software I made and im starting new. Fist and foremost, thank you everyone for the suggestions, insights, and input. I love how this community can come together.
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  • Profile picture of the author JamesDean07
    1. Go to Upwork.
    2. Hire A V.A from a 3rd-Tier Country. Tell her/him to scrape Google and Yelp for Phones and Addresses of Realtors in your area.
    3. Hire some BAD-A** Cold Callers.
    4. Give them the list and have them sell the software. If not, then set up a meeting and sell it yourself.
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  • Profile picture of the author David Beroff
    KingRoyal, I just saw the following thread, and thought that the two of you might have some synergy together:

    http://www.warriorforum.com/main-int...onth-saas.html
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  • Profile picture of the author showtime07
    Perhaps your situation is karma for you coming on here scamming people on seo/backlinking jobs.

    If you'll recall, I hired you do some backlinking for me. Things started off good, until after about 1/4 of the links were built, then you totally disappeared. No replies to email. No response on skype, No reply to PM's on here. You simply took my money and ran and hid out for a while.

    Kamra's a bit*h, John.
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    • Profile picture of the author professorrosado
      I am quite surprised that no one has recommended that you speak with a lawyer! Other posts have as much to do with business as with the law (because you learn about business law in any business course) and you get a parade of "why ask legal questions on an IM forum?" posts. LOL!

      This issue requires you to seek out a business lawyer's advice because this can come back to haunt you later depending on the agreements you guys made to each other from the beginning.

      So if you are asking forum members to advise you as to what you should do, there should be no course of action you take without a lawyer showing you where to step next.
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  • Profile picture of the author iVlog
    Nothing can ruin a business like a bad partnership. Cut your losses now, before the business is ruined.
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  • Profile picture of the author Angshuman Dutta
    Call me whatever you want, but I always believe that No Two Men Are Created Equal.

    Screw the red philosophy. Seriously no two beings can never be equal and that's exactly why partnerships fail.

    Not saying prtnerships are meant to fail but the described situation is pretty common and it all starts with someone overestimating his abilities and the other partner readily accepting that.

    That's what your fault is. You are good at your job but wanted a big brother and left yourself at his mercy (...no contracts etc.)

    Dump him and start over. You will make more money trying to make money than persuading this lazy a** to participate in an investor meeting.
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