How do I appropriately exit a project?

Chris Lunt VP Engineering, Consumer at GetInsured.com

August 30th, 2013

I have gotten involved with at least one startup too many.  I need to cut back on my commitments, and I want out of this one (not that it is bad, but I'm more interested in my other projects).  They've expressed a desire for me to be CTO, and the longer I help them, the more I worry they aren't developing their relationship with the person who really will take the role.  Also, the time commitment is creeping up.  I've told them that I worry I'm slowing them down, and I offered to help find a replacement.  How much time is reasonable to give them?  I've only worked with them for about 3 months, have no equity or pay, and haven't really given them much of my time, but the pressure is starting to increase.  (The responsibility right now is managing the development of a tablet/google-glass based surgery app.)

Daniel Caplin Vice President of Services at WhatCounts

August 30th, 2013

If you have no equity or pay, then you really don't "owe" them anything. Be honest and fair with them and express that you need to bow out but will help them through a reasonable transition period.

Geoff Whitlock Co-Founder and President of Surround

August 30th, 2013

Be honest. The sooner the better. Thanks.

Juston Brommel Growth Strategist & Advisor to CEOs

August 31st, 2013

Stand in your truth - which is your power - and manage their expectations responsibly.

It sounds like you are likely violating a universal principle of mis ownership, or the taking on of others responsibilities.

Regardless, You have already given generously and it is important to honor yourself first and your other/primary commitments.

Great advice already. Perhaps this will help make your decision and plan of action easier.

+ Juston

Michael Barnathan Adaptable, efficient, and motivated

August 30th, 2013

Echoing what the others have said. Let them know your concerns about staying longer in the role, help them get ready to find a replacement, and set a clear deadline at which point you're going to bow out (this is important because if you choose a project milestone instead, you run the risk of the project getting delayed, and ending up in much longer than you planned to be).

Jonathan Bond-Caron

September 2nd, 2013

Strongly agree with Vijay, no agreement, no wages, no equity and you've already committed some time... get out of there.

They should make you an offer you actually deserve. Follow your gut, they might be using you as free labor until they find someone else (as you say). No need for a transition period, some people are highly manipulative, don't feel bad.

Take care of it sooner than later.

Vijay MD Founder Chefalytics, Co-owner Bite Catering Couture, Independent consultant (ex-McKinsey)

August 30th, 2013

I think you all are being too nice.  If you have no agreement, no wages, and no equity, then you're just free labor with no strings.  That can be fun and all and a good way to develop relationships, but shouldn't commit you to anything.

Be firm but nice.  If it all falls apart because you leave, then they didn't have anything in place to begin with.