In the startup world, it isn’t uncommon to see a cofounder fall out of love with their company and leave after only a few months. But when a cofounder is forced out of an apparently red-hot startup, it can lead to further employee departures and instability.
Mike Lee, co-founder of Tapulous and Chief Architect of client software, has been ejected from the company. In a statement to his team, Lee cites “irreconcilable differences” as the reason for his departure:
“So it came to pass that when my Engineering and Design team had irreconcilable differences with where the company seemed to be headed, I was asked to make good on those promises. Serving as the team’s reluctant spokesman was not in my best interests, but honor dictated my actions. I delivered the team’s message, and was invited to resign.”
Lee also makes it clear that the decision wasn’t his choice:
“I’m going to work on my autobiography and come to terms with being ejected from a the company I helped build.”
Given how well Tapulous has been doing over the last two months, what could have possibly led to the conflict?
Lee says that the the cofounders had differing opinions in the direction that Tapulous should take. Lee says he was brought on as an ex-Delicious Monster employee, and was planning to create the type of full featured and well designed app that Delicious is associated with. Conversely, he says that CEO Bart Decrem is trying to steer the company’s apps into the same vein as Slide or RockYou, with a large number of flashy and fun apps that aren’t particularly useful.
While Lee says that he harbors no ill will towards Tapulous, he doesn’t sound optimistic regarding the company’s future. Lee was responsible for hiring a significant portion of the company’s ten employees, and while he won’t be trying to convince them to leave or poach them, he says he wouldn’t be surprised if a number of them leave in his wake.
Lee and his team of engineers were charged with developing FriendBook, the Address Book replacement app that allowed users to swap contact information by physically putting their phones next to eachother and “shaking hands”.
FriendBook was originally supposed to launch alongside (or soon after) Tapulous’s other two apps, Tap Tap Revenge and Twinkle, but has never been posted to the App Store. Bart Decrem says that the app was added to the store, but was soon removed for having too many problems. Decrem says that because of Lee’s departure the future of the app is uncertain. Given how much time has already been invested into FriendBook, Tapulous must have some serious underlying concerns if it would consider shelving the project entirely.
Lee is a well known developer in the Mac community, and formerly worked on the Delicious Monster team. Tapulous has established itself as one of the leading developers on Apple’s still-fledgling App Store, with an estimated 1.5 million total installs across iPhones and iPods. The company’s most popular app is Tap Tap Revenge, which has remained among the top applications in the store since its launch. So far the apps are all ad supported, but the company will soon be releasing paid versions with premium content.
Thanks to Jeff Scott for the tip.