How do I choose the right co-founder?
Every Dungeons and Dragon team must have several different characters to be effective: The fighter is the raw brawn, the mage supplies firepower, the rogue bypass obstacles for the team and the healer keeps everybody alive. Your company’s core team must have all of these — packed in two people: your co-founder and yourself — in order to cross the startup dungeon alive and reach the treasure you seek. Choosing the co-founder is critical, since mistakes in this field will cost gravely as the company expands. So how do you choose a co-founder?
History taught us that the magic number is 2: a couple of founders tend to run a startup better than a 3-man team (Jobs and Wozniak, Brin and Page, Gates and Allen — the list goes on and on). Also, nobody can run a successful startup alone (you think of Zuckerberg? Well, he had 4 co-founders). Some companies works with a larger founding team, but the statistics points at 2 people.
The co-founder must be somebody you know, because the two of you will undergo major hardships, disagreements, failures and break lots of sweat before you’ll succeed. If you know how your counterpart act under pressure, you’ll be a more effective team.
The co-founder must complete your skillset. The basic startup structure is “one person is great at building products, while the other person is great in selling them”; keep in mind that some products will require a co-founder with very strong technical background and a wide knowledge base. So in short, just pick a person who is awesome at what you’re not. You should try to avoid people who are superstar, all-around experts and pick somebody with more particular abilities.
The co-founder must be somebody whose motives align with yours. Do you want to make millions, while your counterpart wants to disrupt world economy? Or maybe, just to become famous? The motives won’t show right away, but will eventually be discovered. Therefore, you must make sure that the co-founder and you are in it for the same reasons.
There are a few character attributes that every co-founder must have: Integrity, enthusiasm and wits. You must choose a partner who won’t cross you or leave you hanging, you must pick somebody whose energy levels are off the charts — and you compromise on intelligence; your team will need some massive problem-solving skills.
In Samurai Incubate, we see a startup’s team compilation as a very important attribute when investment is considered. A strong, well-balanced team is likely to overcome hardships, push forward and solve problems better than a team led by a single superstar. Such view is shared by many investors, so you better optimize your team compilation before moving forward with funding efforts.
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