Younger founders are often pressured by mentors to find a co-founder shortly after launching a new business. There is a lot of research that proves that having two people working on building a company from scratch gives you a much better chance to be successful. But have no doubts on this, deciding to start a business with someone is like getting married. You are going to be with this person for a really long time. You need to insure you have the same goals, values, priorities, and vision for the business, or your founder marriage will end with an ugly divorce.
I learned the challenges of partnering with a co-founder on a prior business I ran. I joined an existing company to be the day-to-day business leader, but the distribution of work and the ownership stakes were not equal. This created problems in my interactions with my co-founder, and the trust deteriorated rapidly. In another business I ran, we split the equity equally, but resentment popped in when not every founder was pulling their weight each day. Like a broken marriage, I am sure that I’m at least half to blame for any problems that came out of these situations.
So how do you avoid these types of problems? The best founder pairings tend to come when the people have worked together for a long time before launching a startup. In those cases, you should have a great understanding of each other’s strengths, weakness, values and more. If you decide to partner with someone you have less history with, spend the time upfront to hammer out the details. How will you divide the work? Who makes which decisions, and which ones need to be unanimous? How much time will each of you dedicate to the business versus outside activities? How will you split the equity and any cash flow that comes in?
You should also understand that like many marriages, not all founder pairings will work forever. It’s helpful if you spend a little time upfront thinking about what a break-up would look like if one founder is not getting what they need out of the business. What happens to their equity? Do they still get a say in the running of the company? My main advice here is don’t rush into a co-founder relationship for the wrong reasons. Make sure you have found a true life partner that you are willing to work closely with for the next five to ten years.
Thanks for reading today’s post, I hope this helps you find a great partner for your new business adventure.