This is my story of how I lost ownership of Unifide, my second company.
I began my entrepreneurial journey in 2015 with Spawt, a Foursquare for Food. Spawt was my first full-time venture as a naive, fresh graduate. Like every virgin entrepreneur hopelessly hooked to startup porn, I believed with every bone in my body that Spawt will be the next big thing. Of course, if I am onto the next best thing, I have to include my best friend in the venture. What could go wrong?
Kian Wei was my buddy from secondary school, and he joined and has worked in ST Engineering as a grunt software developer. We chat every night, and it was fun because he was the only other programmer I knew in real life. And I will tell him about Spawt, and how with the remarkable $25,000 that I had raised from Crystal Horse, I would be able to hire him for a few months and together, as buddies, we will build the next big thing.
Then Spawt failed. (Who knew two engineers in a startup would be a bad combination?)
But it was ok. We were brothers, we would build another company with 50/50 equity split. Except that this time, we NEED to make money from day one.
Having paid for my expenses as a freelancer building websites for small businesses, I decided that this will be it. This was the plan -- to build websites for businesses and charge a hefty recurring fee for the use of our awesome CMS that I will build. We will be day hustlers, night owl programmers. Our leads will come in via the automated emailer that I will build and crawl emails with.
We were programmers, and I figured that we would learn how to sell. But we were not designers, the last missing piece. So I prowled Temasek Polytechnic (TP) design show, and there I found Jamie Low, a fresh graduate from TP. Right off the bat, I made an offer of $3500 because I admire talent.
With that, Unifide, my second company, was born.
For months, three of us toiled. We took calls, we had meetings, we designed and we built. And we made significant traction, and accrued a monthly recurring revenue of up to $15000. Our company's bank account actually had zeroes in it. And it was our thing.
Then slowly but surely, Kian Wei started coming to work late. Our day begins at 10, and Kian Wei will be here at 11. Then 12pm, then 2 pm... He took fewer meetings, and he played more games in the night. But there was always one thing Kian Wei did for sure. He came to work and had lunch with the team, for which had grown to 5 at this point.
"Lunch?", he'd ask. I never went because I have to build a business! That 1 hour of mindless chatter can be used to get more customers, to write more code, to get better at programming. Besides, I had Kian Wei, my 50% co-founder whom I can trust to take care of the team.
The late-coming issue was a thorn under my skin, and his sales volume slipped to 40% of what I bring into the company. Something was seriously wrong. And for the umpteenth time, I talked to Kian Wei: "Dude, this is not ok." And he will always follow up that he is clocking the hours. No, it has to be about the discipline.
If you do not come in on time, how do you expect your staff to come to on time?
I believe in discipline, I still do. (Same reason why I am penning these stories daily)
Then for the last time, I was done. It was 2, and Kian Wei wasn't here. It just was not fair. Why do I work so much harder, get paid the same, but he gets to sleep in till the afternoon?
So I took him downstairs, and I said, something must change, or I will go.
And he said coldly. You can go. Jamie will follow me anyways, and we will take all the clients with us.
I was taken aback. Goddamn.
I couldn't think, and I didn't think. Fine, I said. And I added that Kian Wei could have the company. Because I honestly believe that the company will die without me.
A few days later, he gave me documents to sign over all my equity and gave me half of what the company had in the bank.
It is 2019 today, Kian Wei and Jamie have left Unifide to join other startups. Jamie has left her boyfriend and got together with Kian Wei. And for years, they have enjoyed the fruits of the recurring income of the clients I had gotten for Unifide.
Today, I try to have lunch with my colleagues as best as I can. And I no longer do 50/50 equity splits.