My close friend and I have undertaken a Machine Learning project with the potential to generate some amount of income. Both of us are technically competent and when collaborating everything runs smoothly and we have no issues.

The problem I'm having is that my colleague and I seem to have vastly differing levels of commitment to this project. This is not surprising, given he is still an undergraduate and I have recently graduated - I feel as though being unemployed is making me hungry for this project to succeed and am not afraid of putting in late nights developing and bugfixing.

What is bothering me is my partners lackadaisical attitude to the project: one example is him pushing an update that breaks a critical data collection script and then go AWOL on holiday for a month leaving me to fix his code!

I have had to learn other programming languages simply to bugfix his work on such occasions and this has consumed the vast majority of my time spent on the project, leaving me feeling utterly drained and demoralized. He has repeatedly promised that he will dedicate more effort into the project (this has been going on for months) and yet I see no change in his behaviour.

How do I take ownership of the situation give him the ultimatum of:

"If you're going to be in this with me I need your help, otherwise I'm happy to finish this project on my own"

without coming off as abrasive and potentially losing a valued friend?


Startup partner is doing more harm than good to our project and I'm losing my mind

  • It sounds to me like he's proven his lack of commitment and you should consider terminating the relationship. This sort of situation is very common in entrepreneurial relationships, and it can be much worse than this. If you have some kind of a legal agreement in place then it can be more challenging. Also challenging is the problem of dealing with who owns the IP after you split. You may effectively both own it and thus if you wanted to carry on then you'd need to fork the code. – robbpriestley Aug 25 '20 at 22:42

I just went through this, although they actually did nothing so it was easier than you having to clean up their mess. I let "nothing" go on for five years and when I finally confronted him, he suggested I buy him out so he could "focus on other things". Paperwork is finishing now and I've never felt better.

Don't let it drag on. You can tell them what you need from them in order to keep things going. If they can't/won't in a measurable way, then figure out something creative and reasonable. As you know, your friendship will be worse if you resent him. Once it's over you'll be glad you figured it out.


Easy. Just follow this pattern.

  1. You give a fair value of the time that contribute to the project. Let's say 15$ per hour, you should agree on that.

  2. Then, if you are both in the pretty same amount of commitment (some put in more hours but costs less per hour, etc.), everything is ok.

  3. If your range of contributions is more than an agreed threshold, let's say 20%, the other person has to contribute within 3 days e.g., or just give you this money back.

It's fair. It's simle and it's unbiased. If person is not committing, then you are reducing his share in your startup per his amounts due.

One day you either will be partners, or he will lose his share.

  1. In order to track that create some general worksheet, and just track your commitments.

Just be fair and open. If you don't solve this issues that would cost you now about 1k, it will cost you millions later. Trust me. It will.

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