Founding a company is one thing … keeping control of it is another.
Sometimes founders can be forced out if the board decides to do so. (That’s one reason why founders have become fond of dual shares and other such protections).
Or, sometimes, founders force themself out, if they get so embattled they resign.
Apple's Steve Jobs: 'Getting fired from Apple was the best thing that could have ever happened to me.'
Steve Jobs was fired from Apple at the age of 30, just 10 years after he started it in his parents' garage. Although he returned as Apple CEO in the late 90s, Jobs said the whole experience was 'devastating' at the time, and he even thought about 'running away from the Valley.'
But it turned out to be a blessing in disguise, he said during his Stanford commencement speech:
'I didn't see it then, but it turned out that getting fired from Apple was the best thing that could have ever happened to me. The heaviness of being successful was replaced by the lightness of being a beginner again, less sure about everything. It freed me to enter one of the most creative periods of my life.'
During his time away from Apple, Jobs created two other companies, NeXT and Pixar, and became a family man. He explained:
I'm pretty sure none of this would have happened if I hadn't been fired from Apple. It was awful tasting medicine, but I guess the patient needed it.
Noah Glass is one of Twitter's cofounders no one knows about. He was pushed out of the company back in 2006, but is still credited for coming up with the name Twitter.
In a 2011 interview with Business Insider, Glass shared what it feels like to be erased from Twitter history:
'I was not in the story, which in some ways was difficult to deal with in the beginning, since it was a massive labour of love and a massive labour to get it created.'
But Glass seems fine with not getting enough credit, because at the end of the day, it's all about the product:
Twitter is a phenomenon and a massively beneficial tool and it's incredibly useful and it helps a lot of people. I realised the story's not about me. That's ok.
Sandy Lerner was one of the cofounders of Cisco, the networking equipment company now worth over $US140 billion.
But she's no longer part of it after losing control of the company to a management group led by one of its earliest investors, Sequoia Capital's Don Valentine. She was fired from the company shortly after Cisco went public in 1990.
In a post on Inc Magazine, Lerner reveals the whole experience was 'devastating,' especially the way investors treated her and her cofounder Leonard Bosack, who also happens to be her ex-husband. She wrote:
'When I was fired, it was devastating. I spent years crawling out from that. I did not understand an investor could be an adversary…I always thought that if someone invested in your business, that meant he or she believed in it. I assumed our investor supported us, because his money was tied up in our success. I did not realise he had decoupled the success of the company from that of the founders.'
Groupon's Andrew Mason: 'I love the way press headlines simply refer to me as 'Fired CEO.' Oh well, a step up from the prior descriptor, 'Music Major.''
Groupon cofounder Andrew Mason has always kept a good sense of humour, and his happy-go-lucky nature is well-reflected in his comments about his firing too.
His resignation letter in 2013, still considered one of the most charming goodbye memos of all time, is a good example. He wrote:
'After four and a half intense and wonderful years as CEO of Groupon, I've decided that I'd like to spend more time with my family. Just kidding - I was fired today.'
On a more serious note, he continued:
'If you're wondering why... you haven't been paying attention. From controversial metrics in our S1 to our material weakness to two quarters of missing our own expectations and a stock price that's hovering around one quarter of our listing price, the events of the last year and a half speak for themselves. As CEO, I am accountable.'
Getting fired is a tough thing to recover from for any type of employee. But Mason seems to have found a way to deal with it, as he tweeted just two months after his resignation:
'I love the way press headlines simply refer to me as 'Fired CEO.' Oh well, a step up from the prior descriptor, 'Music Major.''
Facebook's Eduardo Saverin: 'I only have good things to say about Mark (Zuckerberg), there are no hard feelings between us.'
Saverin is one of the cofounders of Facebook, who held the CFO position in its very early days. After a series of disagreements over how to fund the company, Saverin was eventually pushed out of the company by Mark Zuckerberg.
After almost a decade of founding Facebook, Saverin finally opened up about his relationship with Zuckerberg in a 2012 interview with Brazilian magazine Veja.
'I have only good things to say about Mark, there are no hard feelings between us,
... He always knew that the only way for Facebook to grow was to maintain its central idea, that of people truly presenting themselves as they are, without nicknames or pseudonyms. That's Facebook's biggest strength, what allowed us to transform it into an instrument of protest, like what happened in Egypt, but also in an instrument of business, not to mention a way of naturally connecting with friends.'
Before Elon Musk became Tesla's CEO, there was Martin Eberhard who cofounded the company with Marc Tarpenning in 2003. Musk, who was the largest investor, eventually took over the company, but Eberhard apparently wasn't too happy with the way things turned out.
Eberhard wrote in a blog post in 2007.
'I am not at all happy with the way I was treated. And I do not think this was the very best way to handle a transition - not the best for Tesla Motors, not the best for Tesla's customers (to whom I still feel a strong sense of responsibility), and not for Tesla's investors.'
He went on to talk about companies that kept its founders in non-CEO roles, like Google, implying Tesla should have done the same thing too. (At that time, Eric Schmidt was still CEO of Google.)
'Larry and Sergey over at Google are prime examples: they still drive the vision and technology of the company, and still define the public image of Google. But management of Google is now in the hands of seasoned professionals who know how to run and grow the company far beyond Larry and Sergey could have.'