“Founder’s disease” is not a medical condition, but describes a problem that many new companies experience. A founder might be able to handle most of the responsibilities of a small company, but that founder might be incapable of delegating responsibility in a rapidly growing company. The founder’s management deficiencies can be the “disease” affecting the company’s health.
The term “founder’s disease” has been cited in print since at least 1991. Similar names include “founder’s trap” (cited in print since at least 1981) and “founder’s syndrome” (cited in print since at least 1983).
Anil K. Gupta
Rubenson, G., & Gupta, A.K. 1991. The founder’s disease: A critical re-examination. Frontiers of Entrepreneurship Research. Wellesley, MA: Babson College.
On Your Own:
How to start, develop, and manage a new business
By Robert D. Hisrich and Michael P. Peters
Homewood, IL: Business One Irwin
Not understanding the vision during the turmoil, they suggested that Olsen had succumbed to “founder’s disease,” unable to handle the demands of operating a mature company and unwilling to step down.
New Venture Creation:
Entrepreneurship for the 21st Century (4th edition)
By Jeffry A. Timmons
Burr Ridge, IL: Irwin
George C. Rubenson and Anil K. Gupta, “The Founder’s Disease: A Critical Reexamination,” Frontiers of Entrepreneurship Research: 1990, ed. Neil Churchill et al. (Babson Park, MA: Babson College, 1990), pp. 177-78.
8-14 October 1997, Santa Fe (NM) Reporter, pg. 9, col. 3:
“There’s something called Founder’s Disease—when a person doesn’t know when to let go,” she said.
(Lorraine Goldman, director of Santa Fe Partners in Education—ed.)
Process and Management
By Ken R. Blawatt
Scarborough, ON: Prentice Hall Canada
Many new companies acquire what is referred to as the “founder’s disease, the ‘diagnosed’ inability of the founding CEO to grow in managerial and leadership capability as rapidly as the firm’s size and further potential grow.”
Grantmakers in the Arts
Helping Founders Succeed
Published in: GIA Newsletter, Vol 10, No 2 (Fall 1999)
Susan Kenny Stevens
Through the years, like someone who knows she is predisposed to a certain disease, I have read everything I can get my hands on to avoid “founder-trap,” “founder’s syndrome,” “founder’s disease” — all those negatives that characterize how one person can so thoroughly and single-handedly hold her organization back.
Effective Nonprofit Management:
Essential Lessons for Executive Directors
By Robert L. Lewis
Gaithersburg, MD: Aspen Publishers, Inc.
First, the board will have to deal with the symptoms of what we in the nonprofit world call “founder’s disease.” This refers to the old veterans of the agency trying to hold to a certain, previously held course no matter what the consequence internally (how it affects administrative and programmatic functions) or externally (what it means in possibly obsolete service to the community).
Three Clicks Away:
Advice from the Trenches of eCommerce
By Michael Drapkin, Jon Lowy and Daniel Marovitz
New York, NY: John Wiley & Sons, Inc
A colleague of ours calls that “founder’s disease.” Rarely does a single individual have the skills needed to start a firm from nothing, make it grow, achieve success, and manage it as a multibillion-dollar firm.
Wales Online (UK)
Beware of deadly founder’s disease
Dylan Jones Evans, Western Mail
Dec 28 2005
These personal qualities, often so important in driving the business forward in the first few years of existence, may eventually become a brake on the development of the firm and can change the job of leading the company from one of fun and joy to one of burden and responsibility.
Academics have a term for such behaviour, namely “Founder’s Disease”, where those people who have started the business are unable to adapt to the needs of the growing organisation.
Entrepreneurs With ‘Founder’s Disease’ Will Make Any Investor Run Away
James Price, University of Michigan|Aug. 7, 2012, 2:13 PM
Founder’s disease is widely considered a total turn-off by outside investors, A-list talent, and in-demand advisors and board members. Why? Because companies led by such founders inevitably remain small. Success tends to be constrained by the founders’ capabilities, and by the fact that their attitude scares off talent and capital.
By contrast, “disease-free” founders do what’s right for their business, not for themselves. They focus on bringing in the best and smartest capital. They relish taking advice and counsel from the pros. They’re not threatened by surrounding themselves with people who are smarter than they. And they focus on growing the whole pie, not on the size of their proportional slice. By creating a successful whole, good entrepreneurs create a virtuous circle with a vibrant work environment, engaged customers, and strong returns for their investors and shareholders.