Founders are the most important people in a startup. Getting the right team does 50% of the job in a startup. After all, founders are the first set of people who will be executing the idea thereby setting tone, work ethics and culture for a startup.
Fight and Rebellion among co-founders will lead to the ultimate demise of a startup. Things will not be hunky-dory all the time. There may be trouble in paradise. Almost most of startup failures can be traced back to infighting among co-founders.
How many co-founders is a good number?
Two is the ideal number. Three is OK. Anything more than three has disaster written all over it. Some can argue that there are companies with seven co-founders etc. But those are exceptions.
Less the number of founders, higher is the success of a startup.
Where can i find my co-founder?
These days there are options to find co-founders through websites, meetings related to startups etc. Ideally, it is better to find a co-founder in your personal friends circle or professional colleagues (whom you are friends with or get along professionally).
Why? The same way why you do not marry someone just like that. You get to know each other better by dating. You, finally decide whether this is the person who you are ready to spend rest of your life with.”As with all matters of the heart, you’ll know when you find it”.(clichés! I love them).
Co-founder is the person whom you are going to spend the better part of your day, probably, better part of your career. If you share a history with your co-founder, that will be perfect.
Expectational Equilibrium – Define your expectations from your co-founder
There would be basic ethics or principles or values that you stand by and those are the ones you would want to be uncompromised in your startup. (Do not say that you don’t have any ethics/principles/values. “If you don’t stand for something, you will fall for anything”). Then you have to find a person who shares your ethics/principles/values. It need not be the case that he/she should be an exact replica of you. You can differ on so many things but you have to be on the same page on those that matters. So setting up an expectational equilibrium between founders is the foremost job.
Founders should complement each other
You cannot expect your co-founder to accept every views of yours. If so, there will be no progress at all and your startup will be caught in a quagmire.
Co-founders should have complementing skills and together as a team, it becomes complete. You should try to thrive on the strengths of each other and not on the weakness.
If one guy is a product guy, other guy can be a sales guy or a marketing guy. It is not that you should look for a MBA in Sales or Marketing. A product guy with good business acumen can be that guy. In a startup, people who juggle between things are your guardian angels.
Though complementing at technical/business skill set level is a must, it would be better if you can personally complement each other. Because, on a personal sector, startup is a roller coaster ride (you will do this merry ride from heaven to hell and it often happens within span of hours). Founders will have to go through a lot of things together.
Sit down and decide together on values for your startup and answer some difficult questions
A startup is very much a living person and it will not survive without a value system. Co-founders will have different values but together as team, you have to define a value system. This will go a long way in taking a startup forward.
Co-founders should sit together and answer some serious questions (though it is seldom done)
a) Why am I doing this startup?
b) What do I want out of this startup?
c) What are the ethics/principles/values that my startup should have?
d) How many years of life will I invest in this or how many years of my life am I ready to ready to invest in this?
e) In a startup, you are not going to make money for quite a period of time. How will I financially sustain during this time?
f) How do I bootstrap the startup? Where is the money going to come to run my startup?
g) What is the equity split? It is not needed that founders should have equal share in the company. Equity allocation have to be reflective of the effort, time, investment and skills
h) Will I go all the way or will I quit in between? It will be a treason if you quit in the beginning just when you encounter your first difficulty. You should try to go all the way.
i) What are the “nice to haves” and “must haves”?
…. so on and so forth. But you get the drift.
Respect and Trust
If you cannot respect or trust a person, then do not (I repeat. DO NOT) partner with that person.
Respect and Trust are two important cornerstones of a startup, for that matter in any relationship.
Do you love money?
Run away from anyone who says money is evil/bad and they are here for some nobler purpose of serving people. Having a thought of serving a noble purpose is just fine. That alone will not suffice. You are here to build a business that eventually will make money.
Only if you love/respect money, you can make money. This does not make you an evil capitalist. You can always be a capitalist with a heart.
Trust me. This is from the school of experience.
Do not settle
Do not zero in on your co-founder just because time is running out or you do not see a better one in the horizon. You can take all the time you need. This is akin to marriage.
Assume that there is madness in the way a prospective co-founder thinks or acts and you are attracted to his/her orbit. You do not have to say yes unless you see a method in the madness. The point is “Without understanding well, do not say yes”
Parting of founders or Breakup or Fall-out or whatever
If the writing is on the wall, then it is bound to happen. By try to do it amicably where everyone is civil. You have to respect the contribution(by settling the equity game once and for all) of the ‘outbound’ person in effort, time, investment and blood. After all, it was his/her child as much as yours.
Re-Post : https://medium.com/i-m-h-o/bb776e3e19ce