Posts by Malaak Mimouni

March 12, 2024

Going 50/50 On Your Startup? Common Pitfalls to Consider

The Future is Uncertain

Equity, or ownership, is a company’s most expensive and most valuable asset. When splitting ownership, it is important to keep in mind that no one knows what the future may hold. You might expect that if you and your partner have equal ownership, that your work, time, or financial contributions will be equal. The reality, however, could be very different. You may end up bearing more of the workload than your co-founder and still have the same equity split. As the startup grows, each of your commitments and life priorities may change and your share of the equity split or your partners’ may no longer be representative of each of your contributions to the company. 

Founders also have different ideas about the types of contributions they will be making, and this vision changes over time as the company grows. Some may envision taking an active role in daily operations and management, while others want to handle marketing, and some may prefer a more passive style of investment. It is important that the split in ownership be reflective of these styles. It takes time to understand these differences and how to work with them, and most startup founders do not have that degree of familiarity with each other, thus making a 50/50 ownership split a risk. Startup founders that negotiate longer are more likely to decide on an unequal split, as they have been able to discover and address important differences in their expected contribution levels.

Higher Chance of Splitting Faster

Another risk with a hasty 50/50 ownership split is that it can lead to your startup falling apart fast. Compared to founders who took the time to establish a well thought and calculated equity split, those who neglected to have this discussion and chose to split equally shut down their companies significantly faster due to a fallout amongst the founders. This also applies to startup founders who are related to each other- they are more likely to spend less time negotiating equity, and in turn are also more likely to share equally and end up splitting faster. The consequences and tension of an ill established ownership split can be devastating for a startup. 

More Difficulty Bringing in Investors

A major consequence of implementing an equal ownership split is that it makes bringing in investors a lot more difficult- equal splits are sometimes seen as a sign of bigger issues within the startup. Investors tend to pay attention to the way co-founders divide ownership because it tells a lot about their experience level and engagement within the company. They may find an equal split to be impractical, and see it as an inability to negotiate seriously within and outside the company. Teams who quickly establish an equal ownership structure may face significant difficulty in raising their first round of financing, either in reduced ability to raise or in lower average valuations.

Stalemates on Key Issues

An equal ownership split between startup founders means that both partners have equal control and voting power. This inevitably leads to deadlocks and an inability to move forward on key issues, which at best could end up stalling the business. These stalemates can easily be avoided by having one founder maintain majority control, even through an almost-even split. This ensures one founder has majority voting power when it comes to important business decisions. Startup founders need to be able to compromise and negotiate for the good of the company.

Conclusion

Making these decisions can be overwhelming. Lloyd & Mousilli can help you implement the right ownership split for your startup. Our firm has the experience necessary to set your company up for success.