How to Deal with Startup Founder Resentment

Gabe Zichermann
5 min readAug 26, 2022
Photo by Anastasia Shuraeva: https://www.pexels.com/photo/sea-man-beach-couple-7539498/

Startups are a breeding ground for resentment. And no one is more resentful than a high-performance founder.

Whether it’s a co-founder who didn’t put in quite as much time and/or money, an employee drawing a salary while the founder scrapes by, an investor getting a too-good deal because of market timing, or customers/media getting the credit for “discovering” the company — founder resentment is real, and often just below the surface.

If your goal is to exit your startup with your mental health still intact (and your wallet full), you’d be well served to check in on yourself and your resentments, and work through them now. Moreover, a little effort today may help preserve your relationships with those key folks for later. Here are a few reframing models my coaching clients and I have used to reset our attitudes of resentment.

Allow Yourself To Have Your Feelings

Resentment, jealousy, anger, frustration are all feelings that are valid. They may not always be feelings that are helpful or useful to express, but their existence can only be denied at your own peril. Stamping down real emotions doesn’t make them go away (a lesson I’ve learned the hard way), but rather makes them even more salient and likely to become explosive. If it’s helpful, create space each week for you to feel your feelings, and write them down somewhere secure.

Confide in The Right Person

Startup founders shouldn’t — as a general rule — express their resentment directly towards their target. Rather, you need a trusted confidante, mentor, therapist or coach to speak with about this. Do not vent to your investors or anyone otherwise aligned with the company, as this may impact their view of your stoicism or ability to work with others. You need someone who is only in your corner and that can listen to you calmly without riling you up even further. This is critical because your resentments are probably rooted in true events and at least partially justified — you don’t need more fuel thrown on the fire. The goal is to get them out there so they don’t fester and explode in the wrong direction, but without amping them up either.

Reframe Your Beliefs

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Gabe Zichermann

Author and Public Speaker on Gamification, The 4th Industrial Revolution, the Future of Work and Failure. More about me: https://gabezichermann.com