Co-founders are usually not equal. In general there is one person who takes more equity and leads the team yet many investors and incubator programs want to see co-founders. I get it. When you are solo there is an echo chamber in your own head and people want to see a team. You really do not want to lean on someone who is part of the company to discuss how to deal with investors or managing the group. The team is great for a brain storming strategy around the vision but it stops there.
Why many companies co-founders part ways is simply because as companies evolve the expectations of that co-founder are not met due to their expertise not being needed anymore or what they were supposed to manage is not essential at this time. Why pay that salary give them that stock if you are going to need to hire someone who fits the needs of the company when cash and stock is tight.
The most important thing is divorcing amicably. It is not easy but in the long run makes for a better working environment and I do believe never burn your bridges. I have seen many boards fearful of getting rid of a founder or getting rid of a co-founder because the team will leave or it will kill the company. What usually happens instead is the team lets out a sigh of relief because they are just as frustrated if not more than the investors or the co-founders. I firmly believe that if you are honest and transparent that people know that it is not working out. They might not want to but at their gut they know it.
As our lives become more blended between our personal and business lives the parting of ways becomes even more difficult. When you spend 24/7 with someone in a start-up you end up as friends. It is hard not to.
There is something to be said for that quote in the Godfather, “It’s not personal sonny, it’s just business.”