A lot of things kill startups. A lack of traction, difficulty fundraising, and conflict between founders are obvious, but very real, problems. Although traction and fundraising are mostly driven by the startup itself, founder relationships are typically driven by expectations and communication.
For most startups, distance is a recipe for disaster.
In this way, startups relationships are surprisingly like romantic relationships. Long-distance relationships tend to implode due to a lack of communication; this is true for startups as well.
"Did they push the new code? Did they send the conversion emails to our new customers? What have they been doing? Are they even working?"
So, how do you make sure your startup doesn't blow up due to long-distance? Here are 3 tips:
1. Stay in Touch
This is probably the easiest thing to do, that's most often forgotten. Stay in touch and actually update each other on your lives.
Figure out what strategy works for your team — maybe it's a 10 minute "morning stand up" via Google Hangout, maybe it's emails, maybe it's a long phone call at the end of a crazy day. Find what works for you.
If you're not sure where to start, think about how your team communicated when you were all sitting in the same office. Find a way to imitate that.
Sometimes, all you need to do is talk — even if it's just about cats.
2. Be Honest
Some people don't do well when they don't have checks and balances. Personally, I fall into more "rabbit holes" when I'm working by myself.
It's important to be honest with teammates, especially when they drop the ball. Long-distance startups aren't the place for passive-aggressive hints and bitterness — in fact, this is probably the leading cause for founders blowing up at each other.
Be honest and don't explode at each other.
3. Don't Just Criticize
Although this sounds counter-intuitive given the last tip, it makes a lot of sense. When you call your co-founder out for dropping the ball in real life, you'll (hopefully) hug it out or grab a drink together. Share the positive with the negative. If the only thing you do is complain, you'll likely build resentment.
Take the bitter with the better; you're on this road together, as a team.
Has your startup tried long-distance? Let me know on Twitter (@sebfung).
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