Founder Fever

Founders tend to think differently (adhoc, creative bursts) than most of their employees (structural, organized). That is ok to a certain extent – a healthy dose of innovation. At times, however, especially young founders – not that mature ones were immune but they’re less prone to it – hit Founder Fever. During these periods founders blossom their creative bursts into a landslide of new todos. Their already short fuse of patience shortens and they start messing with the scrum process and quarterly business plan. Without noticing, they drain resources into brain storming and discussion meetings. They pour topics on top of daily agendas dismissing those as “5 minute tasks”.

The intensity of these periods stems from the combination of

  1. an avalanche of todos
  2. shortened patience for painfully established processes and
  3. dismissal of “normal” jobs
  4. At times, frustration comes into the picture depending on the founders’ characters. That can but not necessarily must occur

Founder Fever is a special case of “shit” (for more information on “shit” that reduces focus follow link) that massively distracts from company focus. On the other hand, it represents a pond of entrepreneurial ooze that wants to be stored for later review. It shackles the status quo in an organization which sometimes is needed for it to review itself.

Hence, aside its negative impact on mid-term company focus, Founder Fever itself is not necessarily always harmful.

What is Founder Fever?


Examples of Founder Fever at work can include the founders returning from an inspiring board meeting or evening among other founders and immediately jamming up the pipeline in product management right before Christmas (usually peak season) or coming up with an idea for an innovative business unit within the company while the existing one(s) struggle to manage with proof of concept.

When does it occur?

Founder Fever usually pops up when founders’ previously packed agendas suddenly clear up (after a financing round for instance) and they immediately immerse themselves into the new found freedom.

How to notice it?

  1. Be receptive: When you as employees are not receptive enough, Founder Fever can cloak itself in the natural innovative nature of founders. Its increased magnitude will not be perceived. Tasks will be carried out, the company overloaded with priorities and as a result its focus dwindles: shit increases and is perceived as “seductive shit” (for more information on reduced focus from “shit” follow link). Counter measures here are then less effective as you’ll be dealing with Founder Fever and not simply seductive shit. Founder Fever needs special treatment. Hence, in order to prevent decreased focus from Founder Fever, it is important to be very receptive to its symptoms. 
  2. Founders agendas clear up: Financing rounds, a new website relaunched, an app shipped or professionalizing the accounting systems are examples after which the agenda of a founder clears up suddenly and the opportunity for Founder Fever increases drastically. Watch out for founders’ agendas clearing up suddenly.
  3. “Brainwashed” founders: Founders are usually exposed to a vast variety of new opportunities every day. They meet other founders, they are invited to conferences and they have board meetings with a wild cast of successful people. Their fuses for new things are ticked off faster to flare up in enthusiasm than for any “regular” employee – after all this is a reason why they started a company. Hence, note when an important event gave rise to an overwhelming and enthusiastic founder returning. It is usually a sign of early Founder Fever.
  4. Good news: Key hires, a record year, a breakthrough invention are all reasons to celebrate…and a reason for the short fuse of founders to be ticked off. All of a sudden nothing (literally) seems impossible and it is time to go to the moon ASAP. This deteriorates the base and origin of its success: rock solid focus! Founder Fever then puts away with exactly what caused the good news (mostly). Thus, watch for founders’ reaction to good or even great news. 

What can founders do?

Ask yourself whether you do want to experience the implications of Founder Fever. If you don’t mind: Move right on.

If you do mind:

  • Get feedback from your colleagues
  • Raise the issue openly to have early warning signals around you
  • Give it a positive codeword employees feel good about using for reference

What can employees do?

Spread this post to your founders and hope for the best. 

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