How to avoid business partner bust-ups

What's the quickest way to bust up with your best friend? Start a business with them. Sad but all too true.  During our talk on June 1 at Shoreditch House, Clever Boxer founders Alan and Simone rounded up the best advice from successful entrepreneurs on working with start-up partners. 


Choose the right people

”I’ll tell you where Innocent and Graze got it right: the business partners. Innocent started with three, Graze with seven. It’s a lonely job as a solo entrepreneur.”

Anthony Fletcher, CEO, Graze


It's not just business

“If the founders develop irreconcilable differences, the company becomes the victim. Complementary skills sets matter, but how well the founders know each other and how well they work together matters just as much.”

Peter Thiel, co-founder, PayPal


You can fly solo

“I can be so flexible about how I structure my time. If I was working with somebody else, I’d have to do so much work on the communication aspect.”

Madeleine Moxham, solo founder, MOXHAM


Get a pre-nup

“If you go into business with someone it’s like getting married without the advantage of make-up sex. So setting up the equivalent of a pre-nup is a good way to go.”

Pip Jamieson, founder, The Dots


Discuss the vision

“It doesn’t have to rack up hours-worth of legal expenses. Just make sure you talk about the big picture and sit down every few months and re-evaluate.”

Nikhil Shah, founder, Mixcloud


Be clear about responsibilities

“We didn’t write everything down, it was just an understanding. We’ve revisited it several times, and talked about how to divide up future profits and responsibility. I had a rotten experience with a former company where we didn’t sort out a partnership agreement at the beginning, and we should have done.”

Marcus Webb, founder, Delayed Gratification


Channel the arguments

“My cofounder Tim and I disagree all the time. We drive each other crazy, but at the end of the day, we find value that our different opinions drive us to have important conversations about our business.”

Stella Garber, founder, Matchist


Be brutally honest

“Any disagreements that we’ve had have been down to miscommunication. Whether that’s inadvertent or not, it means a lack of transparency. No business partner is actually psychic.”

Alan Rutter, co-founder, Clever Boxer



“Working with business partners is just like a relationship: there has to be give and take. If you go into a startup thinking you’re going to quit your job and have this amazing, independent journey, you’re going to fail.”

Nikhil Shah, founder, Mixcloud


If it’s over, it’s over

“If you are behind the 8-ball and see your team as a key constraint, you should do something about it. Don’t wait for an investor or someone else to do it for you.”

Simeon Simeonov, founder, FastIgnite