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I wrote the Co-Founder Equity calculator in the summer of 2011. I was getting tired of asking the same questions over and over every time a team of co-founders would ask me for advice about how to split the equity among themselves. There had to be a better way so I coded it.
Five years later, Google stats shows that a quarter million people have tried it out: 250,000 unique visitors. What an amazing milestone!
My inbox shows that I received 250 detailed questions from founders telling me of their unique situation (trust me — after talking to several hundred entrepreneurs, there is nothing unique about your situation — more on that later). That’s one story per week, every week for five years.
In the early days, traffic stagnated at around 300 visitors per week. Nothing to write home about, but happy to make a small contribution and help founders out there who need all the help they can get.
After 6 months, Google started picking up search queries for “co-founder equity”, and traffic rose slowly to about 1,000 visitors per week. In September 2012, the calculator was added to Steve Blank’s Startup Tools for Entrepreneurs. It kept spreading at a moderate pace.
In January 2015, the calculator was featured on +300 Awesome Free Things for Entrepreneurs and Startups, a post on Medium that, it’s fair to say, went viral all around the world. Traffic from the US spiked. Then a few days later, traffic from Russia spiked (someone had done a translation of the original post). And then Brazil. And more countries. When you think that the Co-Founder Equity calculator is pretty much the last link in that post, imagine what traffic the other 299 sites mentioned must have received!
As is often the case, after a spike of traffic, the number of visitors settled higher than before the spike. Many small streams make a big river. The site now receives more than 10,000 visitors per month. That’s almost 10 times the traffic from the first 6 months. Traffic comes from all kinds of sites:
So, what kind of problems did people e-mail me about?
A good chunk of questions followed a similar pattern: “I met this person who wants me to work for them. I’d be doing all the technical work, they bring money and contacts in the industry. They’re offering me 5%, so I tried your calculator which recommended a 60/40 split. What should I do?” If the calculator can help reduce the number of bad terrible no good deals out there, mission accomplished.
Another classic is the “mysterious friend”. He’s a co-founder, but no one can figure out what he does. Typically, he is a very close friend of one of the original founders, mostly tagging along for the ride. He’s been there since the beginning and got a large share of stock. No one else knows why. That’s a recipe for a toxic environment, run away if you can. Otherwise, just like SnapChat, you may end up with a lawsuit.
What’s next? Looking forward to reaching 500,000 visitors. Hopefully it won’t take another five years…