How to leave a startup respectfully

by Interesting_Goat. Posted on Sep 15, 2020    68    18

Hey everyone! So I have been working for a startup for around a year now. I was brought on a few months after they initially raised. I was brought on to help with marketing and specifically social media as an independent contractor.

Throughout the months I helped organically build an audience for their marketplace, and we experienced a good amount of success. I have worked remotely the entire time, and was in school also. I put in a lot of effort, and helped actually build something which was cool, and inspiring.

But over the recent few months my work has become less and less involved. When I first joined the startup I played a bigger role with planning, ideas etc. During this time I started building up other streams of income, (I had a lot of free time with covid, which helped). Also more recently, another person was brought on who kinda took the position/responsibilities I would have grown into. Now currently, this startup brings in 10% of my income, but like 20-25% of my time. And I’m still just an independent contractor.

Basically I am spending a lot of time at this startup every single day, I’m not staying because of the money, and I don’t see myself in a position to grow further in this company. How do I respectfully leave? I’ve never really quit a job before, I want to have references for this experience also though if possible, I don’t want to leave anyone in a bad position. Any advice would be appreciated, thanks



You sound like a quitter to me. Wouldn’t want you anywhere near my project that’s for sure


By getting some profit from the start-up 🚀

codeboss911 1

just kindly tell them how you feel and give them generous notice time if they need it, like 2 to 4 weeks notice up to them so they have plenty time to adjust and keep good contact and relationships with them overall.

Timoat 1

My friend had a similar situation, and he eased out of his position by breaking the news that he wanted to quit, but didn't leave the founder in a boat without paddle. They decided that he would work 2 days a week for a month, to ease the transition for the next guy. People leave and move on to other things, the founder should respect and know this, but you dont want to leave someone high and dry, if they have been good to you.

JadeGrapes 1

If you were on my team, the info here would be good enough to part on good terms.

Mature/experienced leadership should expect that there will be a certain amount of "natural" turnover.

Maybe something like this:
"Hey , thanks for meeting with me. I just wanted to touch base and let you know I'm planning to roll off this project around .

I've really enjoyed working with you and the team, I'm very proud of the growth I've seen... and it feels like this is a good time to tie off my part here. My other projects are just needing more attention right now, I'm happy to stick around until ____.

I can do a knowledge transfer before I leave if you have someone handy as my replacement. Otherwise I obviously warranty my work, and would plan to be available to answer questions for an extra 30 days after I roll off. I'd love to stay in touch, would it be okay to use you as a reference client?"

StoneCypher 1

You're an independent contractor, one contract is taking 3x the time for money, and they just hired you out of your spot

"Hi, it seems like you've hired someone to handle my space, and this money isn't really making the time, so I decided that at this rate I won't be continuing. I'll give you another several weeks to help you convert to the new guy."

Mobile_Trouble 1


mauro0x52 1

I have a long career with startups, including having my own, and I simply love the environment and culture.

A few years ago I joined an early stage startup with only 10 people and shitty salary. But the product and the founders were really attractive.

However, in 3 years the company grew a lot. They made some terrible hires and lots of decisions I disagreed.

I was very close to founders but one of them I had lots of disagreements along the way. The good thing: our relationship was always sincere, and I always made sure to express my opinion. Leaving was emotionally hard, because we became real friends, but at least I could be frank and direct.

I gave 2 months notice, enough to train the next person. They also gave me a nice farewell party, and I'm still I touch with them. They gave me a good reference without any hesitation.

But honestly, having someone's reference does not really matter if you can prove your experience and skills.

realdanknowsit 1

Talk with the owners and share your concerns and see what happens. At a minimum you should be asking that your income matches your efforts, but you should also tell them your thoughts on the role you would like.

As a CEO I can tell you we do not read minds, unfortunately.

rehehe 2

I'd suggest:

  1. Understand what your contract says about termination and ensure you comply
  2. I assume you don't have equity and are being compensated at an hourly rate. If you're hourly rate elsewhere is so much more profitable then decided on an hourly rate you'd want to continue with them.
  3. Explain the situation and give them a menu of choices - 1. you are replaced in a mutually agreed timescale. 2. They agree a new hourly rate with the same responsibilities, 3. they agree a new hourly rate with decreased responsibilities, or 4. they compensate you with a combination of hourly rate and equity.

    Ultimately this empowers them to make the best decision for the business and you get one of 4 outcomes you'd be happy with.
bubblride 3

What do you want exactly?
Do you want to stay a contractor? (Define KPIs, increase your fee, find other contracts)
Do you want a full-time job? (Quantify your achievements, find 3 fields/projects that might boost KPIs, pitch CEO for a full-time position)
Do you want to work somewhere else? (Quantify your achievements, ask for referrals)

gregs2000 3

Similar situation as yours. I'm currently building a side business while employed at a startup. I want to leave but I need to make sure I have enough income coming in first. So a few more months.

This may shed some fresh light onto things... If you have built viable side income streams, then perhaps your calling is being an entrepreneur, not an employee. In that case why worry about references and resumes ever again?

Quitting is common, especially after 1 or 2 years. Just check your contract and see how much notice you need to give. For me it's 2 weeks.

But do leave on a good note. Just tell them you are grateful for the experience and opportunity but you feel it's time for you to do something else.

rehehe 3

I also find when you hand in your notice that telling people you're happy to extend the 2 weeks notice by a week or two if needed for the transition helps (if you don't have a hard start on something else).

It immediately shows you still want them to succeed and takes a bit of pressure of the person you're telling (who is probably panicking as they are reworking a lot of plans in their head). Once it's had time to sink in after a few days they haven't taken me up on my offer 95% of the time.

AdamKyleWilson 8

Tell your boss exactly what’s in this message. It’s “show business” not “show friends”... any decisions you make about business should never effect anyone personally unless you make it personal. Keep it professional and state your case professionally and they will have nothing to do but act professionally back, thank you for your service and wish you well in your new endeavours. Otherwise they’re pricks and f*ck em anyways.

seedfr00t 12

You wanting to take a separate path shouldn't exclude you from getting a proper reference. It sounds like you will be successful no matter what, just go for it

Honest-Artichoke-203 66

Have you thought about discussing things over with the CEO? You can explain how you feel and you might be surprised by the outcome.

It would certainly help with gracious leaving and recommendations because you were honest and discussed your thoughts before making the final decision.
But if you're still valuable for the company there's a very good possibility that the CEO would try to keep you and offer more money and/or growth opportunity.

You have nothing to lose but it would help either way. That's my 2 cents as a startup CEO myself. Good luck!

P.S. I assume you have access to the CEO. If you don't, it's still worth trying this with your manager.

ChristopherGS 12

This. If you're planning on leaving anyway, why not just see if they can sort you out with something more attractive? Keep it honest and respectful - if they're not willing to pony-up then you can walk away knowing that you gave it a decent shot.

One important point: make sure you frame the discussion around what value you add and could continue to add. Angling purely around your own interests will be far less effective