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2023/2024  BA-BINBO1901U  Founder's Dilemmas: Anticipate and Avoid Startup Pitfalls

English Title
Founder's Dilemmas: Anticipate and Avoid Startup Pitfalls

Course information

Language English
Course ECTS 7.5 ECTS
Type Mandatory
Level Bachelor
Duration One Quarter
Start time of the course Second Quarter, Autumn
Timetable Course schedule will be posted at calendar.cbs.dk
Study board
Study Board for BSc in International Business
Course coordinator
  • Christina Lubinski - Department of Business Humanities and Law (BHL)
Main academic disciplines
  • Entrepreneurship
  • Globalisation and international business
Teaching methods
  • Blended learning
Last updated on 14-02-2023

Relevant links

Learning objectives
After having completed the course the students should be able to:
  • Identify which early people decisions can cause problems for founders and their startups.
  • Describe the tradeoffs of involving cofounders, hires, investors, and board members in startups and apply appropriate frameworks to analyze them systematically.
  • Compare and contrast how different institutional environments shape the dilemmas founders are likely to face.
  • Analyze the external and internal factors that heighten the chances that a founding team will splinter or that founders will lose their positions as CEOs of startups.
  • Reflect on their own motivations for becoming involved in startups and understand how those should affect their founding decisions throughout the lifecycle of the startup.
Founder's Dilemmas: Anticipate and Avoid Startup Pitfalls:
Exam ECTS 7,5
Examination form Oral exam
Individual or group exam Individual exam
Duration 20 min. per student, including examiners' discussion of grade, and informing plus explaining the grade
Preparation time No preparation
Grading scale 7-point grading scale
Examiner(s) Internal examiner and second internal examiner
Exam period Autumn and Winter
Make-up exam/re-exam
Same examination form as the ordinary exam
Course content, structure and pedagogical approach

Within high-potential ventures, the biggest source of failure is “people problems”: the tensions among the founders, or between the founders and the non-founders who join them. In this course, we will examine critical dilemmas that span the lifecycle of a venture, regarding the choice of cofounders and hires, splitting the roles and equity within the team, whether and how to involve investors, why and how founders are replaced, and exit dilemmas.


With each decision, we will delve into the potential pitfalls that exist and the ways to anticipate and avoid those pitfalls. Through experiential exercises, we will develop your skills at dealing with a variety of difficult conversations and negotiations that you might face within your startups. From the discussion of case studies that focus on the founders of high-potential startups, we will develop frameworks to guide your decision making.


To provide greater context and understanding of these founding dilemmas, we will tap statistics gleaned from a dataset on 15,000 founders over the last two decades and discuss how different national contexts and institutional environments affect founder’s choices. We will pay special attention to the differences between the US and Europe, and explore how strategies differ and which pitfalls emerge when startups move from one national environment to another.


This course is for students who plan to become involved in new ventures. This involvement can occur in any of the following ways:

  1. As founders of a new venture, now or at mid-career
  2. As early hires, early advisors, or board members in new ventures
  3. As potential investors (e.g., venture capitalists), customers, partners, or acquirers of new ventures

The course is designed to help these potential founders, hires, and investors prepare for the decisions they will face both before and during their involvement with new ventures.

Description of the teaching methods
The course is based on a combination of experiential exercises, lectures and case-based discussions in smaller groups.
Feedback during the teaching period
Office hours.
Feedback on case discussions.
Exam feedback: expectation horizon, best practice answer and frequent mistakes.
Student workload
Lecture hours 20 hours
Workshop/exercises 22 hours
Preparation Lectures 70 hours
Preparation Case-Study Exercises 90 hours
Examination 4 hours
Expected literature
  • HBSP coursepack: Students will be able to acquire the required cases from the Harvard Business School site through the link shared during class/posted on Canvas.
  • Wasserman, N. 2012. The Founder's Dilemmas: Anticipating and Avoiding the Pitfalls That Can Sink a Startup. Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press.
  • Feld, B., & Ramsinghani, M. 2014. Startup Boards: Getting the Most Out of Your Board of Directors. Hoboken, New Jersey: Wiley.


Last updated on 14-02-2023