Photo: Capitaldigitale via Flickr
On Sunday, Naveen Selvadurai announced he would be leaving the company he co-founded, Foursquare.”I feel I’ve done all I can do and I’m moving on,” he wrote.
“I realise that I have a desire to do something new.”
The announcement makes it sound like Selvadurai chose to leave Foursquare, now worth $700 million.
But that may not be the case.
A source who spoke with Selvadurai during his final discussions with Foursquare says Selvadurai feels pushed out – pushed out by his cofounder Dennis Crowley and the Foursquare board of directors.
Selvadurai told the source he was financially “screwed” when he was forced out too.
It’s unclear how Selvadurai was financially damaged. When an employee leaves a startup, their salary stops and stock options stop vesting.
The severance was complicated enough that Selvadurai had to bring in a lawyer to help.
“[Selvadurai] tried to fight it,” says this source. “It was a contentious thing. He was pretty f—ing upset.”
A second source familiar with the situation tells us Selvadurai’s departure wasn’t a simple firing or a resignation: “These things can be very grey.”
Why would Foursquare push Selvadurai out, if that’s what really happened?
We don’t know.
But one source tells us Selvadurai and Crowley “hadn’t been getting along” for some time now.
Another source close to Selvadurai tells us he has, for a while now, felt lost at Foursquare and he has been frustrated about his role.
“Foursquare has a CEO; that job is taken” says a source briefed on Foursquare’s founder divorce. “Might Naveen be happy about that or not, I don’t know. I can see that as being hard.”
Selvadurai worked hard to make Foursquare what it is today. But Foursquare has always been Crowley’s dream. Crowley has been working on this company in some form for years, even before iPhones or his first startup Dodgeball existed.
Selvadurai, Foursquare PR, and Crowley declined to comment.
This is normal.
Cofounders and early employees at hot startups go through tough separations all the time.
Take Zynga, for example. When Mark Pincus realised employees with significant stock options were “resting and vesting,” he gave them an ultimatum: get to work or get fired.
Jack Dorsey, who some have called the next Steve Jobs, was pushed out of Twitter. The board didn’t feel he was ready to be CEO.
During Facebook’s early days, Eduardo Saverin wasn’t pulling his weight and Zuckerberg forced him out, diluting his stake in the company along the way.
The exception may be Google’s Sergey Brin, who heads “special projects” while his cofounder, Larry Page, runs the company as CEO.
When cofounders do stick around, it’s often in non-operating, lower-profile roles. Yahoo’s David Filo still works in a cubicle, even though he’s a billionaire. Apple’s Steve Wozniak never wanted a say in running that company.
A source close to Selvadurai can’t imagine him being happy with a role like Filo’s.
“Naveen is a proud guy and a real entrepreneur — someone who probably wouldn’t want to remain in a situation that wasn’t fulfilling for him,” says a source.
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