Choosing A Minimally Viable Co-Founder

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Choosing A Minimally Viable Co-Founder


If you're starting a company, one of the most important decisions you'll make early on is the selection of a co-founder. Some might advocate just “going it alone” because finding a great co-founder is hard and fraught with risk. It is hard and it is fraught with risk. But going it alone is harder — and riskier. Startups are very challenging and having someone to share the ups and downs with, to be a great sounding board for ideas and to just help get things done is immensely valuable.

One additional thought: I'm an introvert. I don't enjoy being around people very much. If you're like me, the notion of just doing something all by your lonesome might seem appealing. And, it is — but I think it's a mistake. Even for introverts, having someone on your side is useful and funsuperhero duo

Another consideration is speed, captured well by this African proverb: If you want to go quickly, go alone. If you want to go far, go together.

So, you might be wondering: “Hold on there! As a startup don't I want to go quickly? Isn't it all about speed? Why should I wait to get started…I should go NOW!”

These are reasonable sentiments.  Great entrepreneurs have a proclivity for action. I'm not suggesting that you stop everything and spend all of your time on the holy quest for the perfect (and mythical) co-founder. I'm suggesting that part of what you're doing should include being on a deliberate lookout for her. And, I'm saying that when you find someone that is awesome, resist the temptation to worry too much about things like dilution and control and what-not. If it's the perfect person, none of that will matter. Back to the African proverb. Yes, you want to go as quickly as you can, but what's more important is going far. You want to build a company that attracts amazing people and solves important problems. A company you can look back on and be proud of. There are very few experiences in life that can match that feeling.

So, I'm going to assume for a minute that I've convinced you (or you were already convinced) that a co-founder is a good idea.

Choosing A Minimally Viable Co-Founder

1. You trust them and they deserve to be trusted. Not just in the “he won't cheat me” sense, but in the “if I'm being a dolt, she'll call me on it” sense. And in the “even when I can't be there, he'll keep my interests in mind” sense. By the way, as it turns out, this need for trust is not an abstract thing. During the course of your startup there will be many occasions where you are vulnerable and dependent on the integrity of your co-founder. You want to find someone that is constitutionally incapable of screwing you.

2. They have to be brilliant at building or selling. They're exceptionally good at building something people want or they're exceptionally good at selling something people may not know they want yet. And by exceptionally good, I mean, they're one of the best you've ever met. Also, I mean they're good at of one those things not just good at convincing you they're good at hiring people that are good at those things. You don't want someone that can manage [X] but actually do [X]. Example: You don't want someone to manage product development or even the better sounding “own” product development. You want someone that can actually do product development. Same with selling.

Related note: In my opinion, marketing can be selling. If you find someone that can “sell” by simply writing exceptional content that pulls people in to your business, and then writing great copy on a landing page that converts them to customers — that's awesome, and it counts. Being brilliant at selling doesn't necessarily mean talking directly to humans and selling. It means getting customers to pay you money.

3. They’re committed to the company, not just the current idea. Anecdotal data suggests that as fantastic as you may think your idea is, your idea will likely change. A great book to read is “Founders at Work” by Jessica Livingston. It's a great collection of stories from some great entrepreneurs and you'll see a recurring pattern. Even spectacularly successful startups ended up changing their idea along the way. If your co-founder is married to a specific manifestation of an idea, trouble will brew when the company is no longer pursuing that exact idea in that exact way. You need a co-founder that's committed to the cause — and committed to you.

4. They are likable. You and others enjoy spending time with them. You’re probably going to be spending more waking hours with your co-founder than you are with your friends and family. (You might even spend some non-waking hours with them too — some founders I know sometimes dream about their startup. No, it's not weird at all.) So, it’s imperative that you like the person and enjoy spending time with them. If you dread having meetings with them. If you can't have a 4 hour dinner with them. If you can't see yourself locked in a room with them for a weekend. There's something wrong. Beware. Another reason that them being likable is important (outside of the “life is short and you want to maintain your sanity” argument) is that it's imperative for others to like them too. Future members of the team that you're trying to recruit. Maybe investors. Maybe customers. They don't need to be cruise-director level nice, but if you join forces with a jerk simply because they are dazzlingly brilliant at something, you will likely fail. And it won't be fun. Don't talk yourself into it.

5. They do stuff, not just think about stuff. They do a lot of stuff. They do whatever is needed to move the company forward. This includes unpleasant things. This includes banal things. This includes things they didn't go to MIT or Harvard undergrad for (like ordering pizza). Startups are not just about the fun stuff. Not just about the building and the selling and the late nights cranking. At some level, a startup is still a business. It exists in the physical world, and as such, it often requires doing boring things (like opening mail and paying bills and such). You should try to minimize that ugly stuff as much as you can, but any task should not be beneath any of you.

6. They crank and grind. They are not working under the delusion that there will be work-life-balance in the startup. There are two kinds of co-founders in the world. The kind that work maniacally, just like you do, and the kind that you're likely going to resent someday. I also don't think there's such a thing as a part-time co-founder. Sure, there are people that are willing to help you in the early days. Maybe they're just wrapping up their day job and figuring out how to exit and come on board full-time. That's fine. But they're not a real co-founder until they're fully committed and cranking.

7. They're reasonable, rational and realistic. A surprising number of startups die because one of the co-founders gets some weird notion in their head. Causes vary. Sometimes it's ego. Sometimes it's insecurity. Sometimes it's greed. Sometimes it's just pure schmuckiness. Whatever the cause, the situation becomes toxic creating much unhappiness. Remember, competition is much easier to contend with than co-founder conflict. One way to address this issue early on is to have some of the hard conversations up front. A good place to start is my article on the questions co-founders should ask each other. Have those discussions early. Even though you may not get to closure on all of them, it'll give you a sense for how you both deal with difficult situations. And, be prepared for some surprising reactions/responses to those hard questions.

That's all I've got. I know I've set a pretty high bar for what I labeled as a “minimallly viable” co-founder. There's a reason for this. If you get it wrong, you can get a bunch of other things right and you'll still likely fail. If there was ever a time to be selective and spend some calories — this is that time.

What do you think? Any other criteria you'd put in the “bare essentials” bucket? Any positive or negative experiences you've had with co-founders?

Posted by Dharmesh Shah on Wed, Oct 05, 2011


This is great advice. To me things are more likely to work out than not. For when they don't, read when to fire your co-founders. Then it would help to have an agile founder agreemeent.

posted on Wednesday, October 05, 2011 at 12:33 PM by Simeon Simeonov

100% in agreement that a cofounder is someone who is willing to go full time and more. I think they also have to be willing to go 100% before there is money or even any traction. 
A cofounder is not someone who waits for funding, profitability, or hedges their bets by keeping a full time job or working on other start-ups. 
Great post!

posted on Wednesday, October 05, 2011 at 12:34 PM by Andy Cook

This is a solid list. Probably the perfect checklist for a co-founder I've seen. 
I'd like to add one more based on my own experience. Co-founders have to work in the same space. It is easier to get stuff done when you can talk about it really easily all day and night long.

posted on Wednesday, October 05, 2011 at 12:39 PM by Rishi

I totally agree that someone isn't a real co founder until they work full time on it. It's so hard to iterate when work's being done part time.

posted on Wednesday, October 05, 2011 at 1:06 PM by Pavan

Nice list Dharmesh. The "part time co-founder" especially struck a note from my experience where I had to part ways with the co-founder. Nice to see you covered that. 
I'd like to add that along with believing in the idea and you, the co-founder also has to have a good balance of optimism and ready to try things that may not eventually work. Startups is all about optimism and especially in the early stages there's little room for pessimists - not to be confused with the 'voice of experience'.

posted on Wednesday, October 05, 2011 at 1:10 PM by K Vichare

I would add 
8. They have a knack of surprising you in a positive way. They always deliver more or something new. 
They also need to be critical when needed and have the guts to disagree with you.

posted on Wednesday, October 05, 2011 at 1:17 PM by mark stephens

Excellent article. It's timely for me, as I'm facing this predicament right now. This checklist is exactly what I needed. Thanks!

posted on Wednesday, October 05, 2011 at 2:31 PM by Patrick Poon

Great thoughts, I agree wholeheartedly. I would also add that "co-founder beliefs should be aligned." Let's say your start-up intends to ship something social. Having a co-founder who only thinks about revenue models from the start is probably not a great fit whereas a co-founder who believes that focusing on building a great product and user experience in hopes of gaining traction in order to reach scale is likely a better fit. After all, no point in obsessing about revenue if you don't have the user base to monetize.

posted on Wednesday, October 05, 2011 at 2:57 PM by Andrew

1- they should definitely stab you in back. 
2- Even if you like them and they do the above, there will be a point when you start to dislike them. 
3- At-least should have a professional code of conduct!

posted on Wednesday, October 05, 2011 at 3:08 PM by mkh

Great article. Dealing with those sort of things myself right now, many of the points struck a note.

posted on Wednesday, October 05, 2011 at 3:10 PM by Dominic Tarn

Exactly the advise I should have been give with my last start-up. I made a bad choice for co-founder and wasted 6 months waiting to activity that never came and then finding a way to have him exit the business. It killed the company. 
Great advise. Every single entrepreneur out there should read this. Period.

posted on Wednesday, October 05, 2011 at 3:11 PM by Prem Gyani

I would add that you have to be able to communicate and work through issues. This is different than #4 that you just like being with them. You will never see 100% eye-to-eye with your co-founder and tough decisions will need to be made. Is this person someone you can have an intense discussion with, disagree with and yet you two can still work together to get to a solution that you both support?

posted on Wednesday, October 05, 2011 at 3:12 PM by Carrie Requist

Excellent advice, thanks.

posted on Wednesday, October 05, 2011 at 3:13 PM by JayInAtlanta

The title of this article doesn't make sense... it sounds like you're looking for someone who will just barely get by. That's what minimally viable means.

posted on Wednesday, October 05, 2011 at 3:16 PM by Andy

That's a great checklist. Even then, the question is, where is the most likely place to find a co-founder. Too many people do not meet the criteria above. ;-)

posted on Wednesday, October 05, 2011 at 3:19 PM by Andres

Perfect advice in every way. It is, however, like looking for the holy grail. Unfortunately, I have yet to meet this perfect person.

posted on Wednesday, October 05, 2011 at 3:22 PM by Robert

This could be a great check-list for any type of small team that you are putting together.  
In many respects, a founding team is like a marriage and you have to treat it that seriously.

posted on Wednesday, October 05, 2011 at 3:26 PM by David

Brilliant and works the other way as a set of criteria for a co-founder looking for people they can work with and support effectively. A

posted on Wednesday, October 05, 2011 at 3:28 PM by Andy Heath

I would add that that the co-founder have similar exit timeline and dollar amount. i.e. if one person wants to flip for $1M as fast as possible and another wants to build a large company with a $25M valuation this could cause problems.  
If you are in the DC or Philly area we are hosting free Co-Founder matching events. 
Also next month we'll have a (free) online matching service up too. 

posted on Wednesday, October 05, 2011 at 3:30 PM by Shahab

Great list! I would add "compatible pace" to this list. You touched on moving fast, but if one person wants to move fast and the other is more methodical, it creates constant tension. I was just advising a founder on this very subject who had picked a co-founder that just wasn't up to running at her speed.

posted on Wednesday, October 05, 2011 at 3:41 PM by Barbara Tallent

Excellent advice. Every start-up entrepreneur should read this article. It is no nonsense and to the point. It's not enough to start a business with "your best friend", they have to DO something, take consistent action, share the vision and be able to move the company forward in positive ways.  
One other aspect - I think the founders have to have similar "risk tolerance" and there needs to be clear decision-making rules agreed upon, especially when partners disagree.  
Another basic area, besides making and selling the product/service, someone needs to mind the bottom line and make sure the company is capitalized correctly.  

posted on Wednesday, October 05, 2011 at 3:49 PM by Barbara Leuin

Great points, I agree with every point you in particular, is brilliant...the point about being committed to the company, not just the idea. It is often necessary to change your product or even business model in mid-flight and you someone that gets this. A few things I'd add--Find a co-founder that has strengths in your area(s) of weakness. If you are a mad scientist technologist, find a seasoned business executive to provide the adult leadership. Also, if possible, a co-founder that has a great personal network, but somewhat different from yours (this is desirable, not required). When your looking for funding,'ll need all the friends you can get.

posted on Wednesday, October 05, 2011 at 3:51 PM by Gary Rowe

thanks for laying out the co-founder proposition, you've hit the most salient points Darmesh. I would add to this one of the greatest elements that a "partner" can bring to the table, a balance of those things which are not your own strengths. Find someone who does what you do not like to do and let them help you get it done. This can result in brainstorming to make an idea or a product or even the direction of the company better then you ever envisioned by simply rounding out what you might have thought was already perfect. A good co-founder/partner will add to your collective whole (not detract), they make you better without changing the balance of power within. While I consider loyalty one of my guiding principals in partnering, it cannot be the sole reason for joining forces. Partnering is a lot like a marriage and you will be tested in ways you never thought possible. I'm an extrovert, I love the creative process and really enjoy working with and around people. I need a partner in my work-life however finding the right one is a difficult and time consuming task; prepare yourself (with the information above) so you will know them when you meet them! Much appreciated info. Darmesh.

posted on Wednesday, October 05, 2011 at 3:56 PM by Brian Allman

You really should change the headline. As noted by "Andy," the implication is sarcastic, such as "how to hire a fool who will crash your business." What you mean to say, I think, is "What are the minimum criteria for a viable co-founder."

posted on Wednesday, October 05, 2011 at 4:15 PM by Michael Bloom

Great post and great comments, thanks!

posted on Wednesday, October 05, 2011 at 4:16 PM by Harry van der Veen

OMT -- perhaps an adder to your list. In my experience, you (and the business) will be much better off -- both in the sprint and the marathon -- if you figure out your needs and objectives first, find a partner (co-founder) who shares at least part of your vision, and you work together to build a business model, identify the technology opportunity, push the economic envelope, think about personalties, company names, etc. Do it together. Do it with intensity. Make sure you are clear and not "pulling your punches" just to be nice.  
If you get this clarity up-front, then there is a very good chance that you will develop a real partnership that has lasting value. But the clarity and agreement will serve you well through raising capital, hiring staff, distributing equity, and solving customers' problems.

posted on Wednesday, October 05, 2011 at 4:27 PM by Michael Bloom

Yes, this is a sound contribution to start up thinking. Using basic values mapping tools like the Hermann Brain Dominance Inventory (mad title !) can play a part too.

posted on Wednesday, October 05, 2011 at 4:27 PM by Alan Clayton

Well said! This is the best summary of the skill sets required for startup leads I've ever read! 
I wish I had seen it before starting our sales and marketing automation solutions company company. Would have helped me identify my own weaknesses more quickly. 
As for selecting a partner, given this great list of requirements, the challenge then becomes determine a potential partner's fit with the requirements. 
Not all of these are easily identified. 
How do you feel about using personality profile testing in this situation?

posted on Wednesday, October 05, 2011 at 4:31 PM by Craig Klein

Excellent list. My question is: when your "bestfriend since the 5th grade" isn't an option, and you're left going to "find a co-founder" events, how do you test someone against these points? Gut, plus a long-term contract, plus references, plus...?

posted on Wednesday, October 05, 2011 at 5:04 PM by Corey

Would be great if she cooks too! :) 
Man, any tips on where do you find these sons of gods?

posted on Wednesday, October 05, 2011 at 5:04 PM by stan

Great list but bottom line is that most of us who have actually done things HATE HATE HATE having partners......and the main thing is simple...what do they bring that the partner and ONLY that specific partner can bring that YOU need.. Otherwise your list works best for choosing a wife. LOL

posted on Wednesday, October 05, 2011 at 5:08 PM by kevin jackson

It really is a minimum for a successful co-founder relationship -- which is why successful co-founder relationships are so rare in the real world. 
It doesn't really help to take an attribute that has a high correlation to the top 1% of any field and try to replicate success based on that attribute, because to use the pop-culture term popularized by Malcolm Gladwell, they are outliers. 
Expecting a good co-founder relationship to be a pre-requisite of a good startup is as silly as expecting a successful comedian to be black or jewish.  
Or to pick a more relevant analogy -- that a tech founder must have thick glasses and a dorky haircut. While there is a correlation that technologists are geeky, putting glasses and a sweater vest on a stock MBA and then giving him a bowl haircut won't make him the next Bill Gates any more than pairing him with someone he really gets along with will.  
Working with friends is more enjoyable though, and working with people you hate is likely to lead to conflict. 
But the truth is that if you wait for a good partner, you'll probably never get started because you'll never find the minimum viable candidate (who also happens to want to partner with you). And despite the myth, even famous partnerships aren't always all they're cracked up to be. As Gates & Allen or Jobs and Wozniak. 

posted on Wednesday, October 05, 2011 at 5:23 PM by Aaron

Kudos Darmesh to you for your insightful rock-ribbed schedule of core attributes you that you believe imperative to making a partnership work. I’m inclined to agree with all of them”. 
The only, and I mean “only” concern I have with the points in your guidance is that, well, I, much like you and – the great majority of your other readers here – aren’t like everyone else, in fact we might as well be a different species from most everyone else, including, I in my experience, the “ideal co-founder”. 
Now forgive me in advance if you and I are in complete agreement on this, I’ll stipulate to the potential for packet loss in this semantical transfer of ideas; and it might come down to this: when I read co-founder in your article, I thought /think “partner”. I’m curious, do they mean the same to you? 
I ask this because I’ve consistently found that if we’re fortunate enough to “choose” the right type of co-founder (by all your definitions above), then it’s my experience that – much like the point you made with regard to “being committed to the company, not the idea” – the onus is upon us be committed, and not just to the idea of a partnership, but committed to the actual partnership with that co-founder. 
In my humble view, that commitment recognizes in advance that we’re both human, neither perfect, and should I, for instance, trip-up fiercely in the devastating aftermath of a first love lost; or should you, for example, leave for two months to compete as a bachelor on Temptation Island…well, that’s when the other, in the absence of his partner, pulls as hard as they can, but does so with a smile on their face, because they know that it just as easily could have been him enduring or celebrating the many trials and tribulations of life, and they know that when their turn comes, you’ll be there to cover them totally, with no fear of absence or decay. That’s the only way I know how to both work and heal or celebrate properly. 
Darmesh, I’ve never had an “equal” relationship in my life at any given point in time, nor have I ever successfully predicted which acquaintances or friendships would graduate to become of paramount importance to me; that is of course with one significant exception: the relationship my partner and I forged deliberately, and with three core provisos: 
1. We do absolutely everything in business together until we sell our core holdings, and we split every dollar, every remaining share 50/50.  
2. We agree on our core philosophy with respect to appreciating the value of others, as well as the potent impact generous equity options can have in leveraging the talent of those smarter and more experienced than us. 
3. We issue two classes (or “series” if you’re a Sub S) of stock, 100 series-A Voting, and the other 10mm in series-B Common (non-voting) stock.  
We agreed instantly and wholeheartedly on each, took our 50 shares of A, and never once needed to test our deliberate deployment of MAD (mutually assured destruction)..hell, we never even had a fight in 12 years of an intense bootstrapped startup, on through to a sale that took in the high $10’s of millions. 
I count myself to be among the most fortunate men in the world where this matter is concerned; that’s not to say however that we weren’t seriously tested and strained…we were brutalized; but in every scenario we always had each other, and I wouldn’t think of having it any other way. 
Christian Hunter 
Austin, Texas

posted on Wednesday, October 05, 2011 at 5:35 PM by Christian Hunter

These are great tips. I would add that finding a partner is business is like finding one in marriage. It is very difficult to do, but once it happens things just fall into place.

posted on Wednesday, October 05, 2011 at 5:45 PM by JoAnna Levenglick

It's a great piece of advise, but I would disagree with first part of African proverb. It's no longer true that one would go quick alone. Alone is hard, exhausting, and frustrating for the fact that you are not going as quick as you want to, because you cannot do all by yourself.

posted on Wednesday, October 05, 2011 at 6:06 PM by Siri

This is a great beginning for start ups and professionals alike. 
In my business, I help companies by providing working capital. Regardless of size, companies who are growing need the security of a cash flow that is essential. 
If this seems right for you, you may just drop me a line or email me. I can discuss this in a very confidential way so that you could benefit from this service.  
Thank you for your time. 
Warm regards, 
Tom Rowen 
Renaissance Capiral Development 
Box 623 
Lynnfield, Massachusetts 01940 

posted on Wednesday, October 05, 2011 at 6:13 PM by Thomas Rowen

Google+ is not yet available for Google Apps accounts!!

posted on Wednesday, October 05, 2011 at 7:20 PM by David Keenan

Consider the skillsets that will be needed to grow your organization and choose a partner with strengths you may not have.

posted on Wednesday, October 05, 2011 at 10:10 PM by Stan

Reminds me of an old saying: 
I'd rather be in a bad deal with good people, than a good deal with bad people.

posted on Wednesday, October 05, 2011 at 10:22 PM by Doug Strahm

Great Article Dharmesh, 
I would like to just add some other very important traits in a co-founder. 
He/ she must be a self starter who is able to shed the ' employee mindset' when they join a startup. 
One who supplements your skill set. 
One who has the ability to follow and lead in equal measure. 
Most importantly one who is willing to develop additional skill sets along the way. At one time I had an HR professional as my co-founder and he in addition to his HR responsibilities also led a Sales vertical and did a brilliant job. 
A co-founder over time should become your ' good friend'. 
One should chose them as carefully as you a life partner. 
Great stuff.

posted on Thursday, October 06, 2011 at 12:11 AM by John

Excellent blog. I have learnt a hard way in my previous start-up's experience  
I would say knowing negatives of the partner upfront and having the patience to convert negatives of the partner into growth of business is what is needed. 
Need to find co-founder who can compliment on every action you take.

posted on Thursday, October 06, 2011 at 12:36 AM by Raghu

You nailed it ! 

posted on Thursday, October 06, 2011 at 1:09 AM by Bharat Lohani

Best thing is just don't look for the co-founder at all. If you manage to find someone.

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For further information, or to register for the Bootcamps,  

posted on Thursday, October 06, 2011 at 2:02 AM by Chris Jefferies

Thanks for the great insight. However, I'm still not convinced that getting co-founder is good and all. It might work for some people, but I just don't feel right about it.

posted on Thursday, October 06, 2011 at 2:40 AM by Pasar Dana

Excellent article! I have bookmarked this page so I can read it each time I get tempted to find a co-founder.

posted on Thursday, October 06, 2011 at 6:50 AM by Viktor Brešan

Great points Dharmesh. I would agree with all of them. I would also add: 
1. Know specifically what they can bring to the table: skills, contacts, $ etc. It should be something that is critically to the forward movement of the business and which complements your own resources. 
2. Someone that you have had conflict with and resolved it - several times preferably. If you know going into a partnership that you can work through conflict without damaging your relationship, that builds confidence and trust.

posted on Thursday, October 06, 2011 at 7:09 AM by Susan Jones

Great article and so true. I have found that trust and work ethic are two huge themes in co-founder relationships, both of which you highlight here.  
I have had outstandingly positive experiences and somewhat negative experiences with co-founders but every case is a learning experience. Personally I always prefer to work as a team and so will probably have a co-founder in every enterprise. Your tips here as well as in your article on questions to ask co-founders are spot on and will be used. 
Thanks for the insight.

posted on Thursday, October 06, 2011 at 7:24 AM by Dan

Excellent points. Number 1, "You trust them and they deserve to be trusted" cannot be over emphasized. I'm sure many people do not realize that this includes calling you on something when you are wrong. We all need someone to hold us accountable. Integrity in something that needs to be there for everyone working at a company.

posted on Thursday, October 06, 2011 at 7:56 AM by Chris Sinclair

Wow, you guidance really resonated with me, both as a founder and a co-founder. 
As a founder, I allowed principle and critical staff positions,e.g., Vice President of Engineering, to be part-time. That didn't work at all. 
As a co-founder, I undertook the job working part-time and that didn't work at all either. 
I have one more thing to add to your list. As a co-founder, I became disenchanted with the company because the founder made critical decisions without talking to me before he announced those decisions to other employees and investors. To give you some idea of the magnitude of those decisions, they included fundamentally changing the product and even the name of the company. 
When he continued to do this after a private discussion between us, I left and dissasociated myself from the company.

posted on Thursday, October 06, 2011 at 8:37 AM by Mike Harrison

"They are not working under the delusion that there will be work-life-balance in the startup." 
Quote of the day!!

posted on Thursday, October 06, 2011 at 10:49 AM by Mohammad

Great article - Thanks

posted on Friday, October 07, 2011 at 7:29 AM by JMD

Great article and advice as usual! 
Does anyone have any advice on where to find potential co-founders that are in the same or a similar industry? I have no idea where to even start. 

posted on Friday, October 07, 2011 at 11:09 AM by Megan Roche

I would add that you need to be careful of selecting a person primarily based on what you know if them only as a friend. If you've never worked with them, don't assume you know their work ethic. I got burned on this. The statement that the co-founder must do, not just think a lot of stuff is the point I have been trying to make. I think you need to assess whether your potential co-founder has an entrepreneurial aptitude and risk tolerance. Discuss specifically what each of you will contribute to the relationship in the case of "doing" things. I agree that the part-time co-founder doesn't work; however, if the are working, they can be expected to offset their work contributions with monetary ones.

posted on Friday, October 07, 2011 at 4:22 PM by JJ

Great article.  
1) Having co-founder(s) IS like a marriage, however, sleep in separate houses. To save money on office space, I lived with a co-founder and we operated out of our SF apartment. I would have rather worked in a garage than been around him 24-7.  
On the other hand, I shared an apartment with a possible partner for 3 weeks on a international business trip and being around him 24-7 for a short period of time made me realize that it wouldn't work. 
2) Co-sign all bank accounts 
3) Read this book for tips on managing relationships with co-founders (or just about anyone): Crucial Conversations <>

posted on Saturday, October 08, 2011 at 12:01 PM by Anil Rathi

Yes, making a decision to have a Co-founder, selecting and staying in the Entrepreneurial game can be a huge challenge. This article provides a realistic checklist to choose a minimally viable co-founder. Thanks for sharing.

posted on Saturday, October 08, 2011 at 12:35 PM by Lalitha Brahma

Thanks for great tips.  

posted on Saturday, October 08, 2011 at 3:21 PM by Tatiana

I totally agree with your list! It's like you described A to Z my co-founder, loved your post! Thanks!

posted on Saturday, October 08, 2011 at 4:58 PM by Sarah

Nice site. Good info.

posted on Sunday, October 09, 2011 at 3:38 AM by kim

D - Two words: Bra Vo!

posted on Sunday, October 09, 2011 at 11:48 AM by John Maloney

Truly excellent article that captures the key points of finding a good co-founder. Great title as well. Thank you so much! I have shared with all the entrepreneurs I know.

posted on Sunday, October 09, 2011 at 5:00 PM by Jill Bromund

This is an excellent 7-key list of the traits expected from a perfect co-founder, but one should note that a real person that perfectly meets all 7 criteria does not exist. 

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posted on Thursday, October 13, 2011 at 1:07 AM by cheap north face

agree. so the road can be long till you find the right person.

posted on Monday, October 17, 2011 at 8:05 AM by jinan

They are passionate about the success of the business. 
They focus on the results. 
They are better at making decisions and delegating 
They are best at hiring and hire only the smartest 
They are customer oriented 

posted on Saturday, October 22, 2011 at 9:23 AM by Thomas Oppong

Very nice statistics! It’s interesting to see where this will all take us in a few more years. 

posted on Friday, October 28, 2011 at 8:03 AM by Ankan

Very good post. I agree with all of these items. I have had the same co-founder on several ventures and based on our relationship i would like to add one item.  
8. They bring a different skill set to the table than you do. Having someone as a partner that has a different mental model and different skills to you will be invaluable. Although we generally gravitate towards people that think similar to us if we look for co-founders that think differently or have a different view on things this will help to avoid the pitfalls of group think. Having co-founders that bring different skills to the table, will help spread out the diversified work of a Start-Up.

posted on Friday, October 28, 2011 at 11:14 AM by Don Tarinelli

your point wise description is very good skill. Keep Updating

posted on Monday, October 31, 2011 at 6:01 AM by Ankan

It is nice blog and very useful

posted on Monday, October 31, 2011 at 6:02 AM by Ankan

What do you think about using your spouse or partner as a co-founder? I work with a lot of new start-ups who are run by a husband and wife. There are some tax advantages to this in certain states, but imagine having to deal with dividing up your stuff AND your company in the divorce!

posted on Thursday, November 03, 2011 at 12:57 PM by Becky

Great post and even good to review before getting married. I've had an AWFUL co-founder experience and decided I would never have a co-founder unless we were eating from the same table every night.

posted on Monday, November 07, 2011 at 7:49 PM by Deveda

Very good article . You are absolutely correct. 

posted on Tuesday, November 08, 2011 at 7:07 AM by Ankan

Nice Site..good information..

posted on Tuesday, November 08, 2011 at 7:10 AM by Ankan

its great and the concept of 'this is the minimum' is solid, but the title implies that you can accept someone who has all these qualities - while you can (and should) put out a minimally viable product you should never accept a minimally viable co-founder.

posted on Sunday, November 13, 2011 at 4:38 PM by Ryan Scott

and would do I find such co-founders?

posted on Tuesday, November 15, 2011 at 4:18 PM by SV

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