Guidelines to cover with potential co-founder to ensure compatibility (avoid complications later on)?

9 years ago from , Design lead at Haiku

Anyone know of a solid worksheet (of sorts) to go through with a potential co-founder to ensure compatibility / division of labor?

I'm about to embark on a serious project and have been hearing over and over to make sure that your co-founder is the real deal. Paul Graham even lists it as one of the major things he looks for in a recent keynote. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0rVpAKziQJA

If no guideline exists, I would very much appreciate any tips in the comments.


  • Tyler WanlassTyler Wanlass, 9 years ago

    Great book on the subject: http://www.amazon.com/The-Founders-Dilemmas-Anticipating-Entrepreneurship/dp/0691158304

    After having had myself great AND horrible co-founders I can share a few highlights I'd look out for / think about:

    1. Are there clear separations of roles? Does each founder know what domain they'll be master of? One bad initial sign is if co-founders all share similar / the same skill sets. This will wreak havoc later.
    2. Who's CEO & how will you split equity? Define this now, not in a few months or when your product takes off. Bring this conversation to a head. If you can't resolve this / get past this you're not a fit.
    3. If you do agree on equity, ensure you have a vesting agreement in place and clear, well defined job roles, all in writing. You want to make sure if some one decides to go AWOL there is clear guidelines for resolving their relationship w/ the business.
    4. Are you both committing to the project in equal capacity? One FT and one PT founder almost never works unless that setup is very temporary. It's too easy for one member to put in way more effort and thus resent their partner. This can often be caused by dramatically differing financial needs. If you're partner has a family, kids, etc they will likely need a FT job and thus can only work on the product PT.
    5. Be sure you really really really like this person in good times and bad. You'll likely spend more time with them than your significant other.

    Some obvious stuff, but it may need to be stated: Talk about what you both hope to achieve and what makes you tick - money or accomplishment. This is usually discussed as the rich vs king situation: http://gigaom.com/2007/12/10/do-you-want-to-be-rich-or-be-the-king/

    Good luck!

    2 points
  • Wes OudshoornWes Oudshoorn, 9 years ago

    I don't have any official checklists, but I would say that you should talk about things that seem obvious that you're on the same page about, but are actually not. These unspoken differences are often more hurting than differences you know about (because you can manage them).

    How does you co-founder see work-life balance? What kind of future do you want to have? Do you want to sell your company after X period or maintain control over it as long as you can?

    You could both make a document on why you want to embark on this adventure and how you want to live and work in 5 years. This will make a lot of things obvious :)

    0 points