CTO · Cofounder

Experience or chemistry? What is better to look for when finding a co-founder?

Brendon McNaughton Founder & CEO disrupting the $63.7bn art market

April 9th, 2018


One potential co-founder I have know for years, have worked with him and he has a decent amount of relevant experience. We are friends, I trust him and I think he can grow to be a great part of the founding team. I am considering him for a co-founder COO role.


The other potential co-founder has 25+ years of very relevant industry experience but we don't know each other too well. We have met a few times over Skype and he has provided great insight but we have no mutual friends or connections other than one engineer that has connected us. Considering him for a co-founder CTO position.

My gut is telling me to have the trustworthy friend join as COO then the two of us can vet the potential CTO... what does everyone think? Chemistry or experience?

Dan Hubbard Founder, www.FocusedAgility.Solutions/

April 12th, 2018


When it comes to roles, other than yours, diversity of opinion and thought style is the most important.

No two customers are the same. Your customer-base, no-matter the market or segment, is diverse. So too should be the management team launching or scaling a business or brand.

Several years ago, when I started my first company, I sought out a handful of thought leaders that could challenge me. I paid them fees to essentially "sit" on my board. Ideas were pitched by myself and my portfolio managers, and those thought leaders dissected each idea as was aligned with their particular skill-set.

Today, I do much the same thing. We convene a Portfolio Investment Board (a term I borrowed from another company) twice, monthly, and that PIB examines MVPs for go, no go, or more proof status.

Mr Meddlesome Cofounder, interested in Hacking Humans using process (design)

Last updated on April 10th, 2018

How about a simple model for both cofounders and employees:

values first, aptitude second, specific skills third

from Sam Altman

Lane Campbell Lifelong Entrepreneur

April 10th, 2018

Chemistry is very important. Do you really need a COO though? Maybe start with them as an advisor and see if you need a full co-founder to help with operations.

The CTO role sounds more important but it'd be best to put them on a vesting schedule if you haven't worked with them before.

Alok Kankanawadi Cofounder, B-Ciwill Constructions

April 13th, 2018

I believe in Chemistry rather than Experience. With equal chemistry each cofounders can learn together and can be experienced by sharing many things. All of above cofounder is experienced or with good chemistry, you should believe him. Thats the main thing you should consider. Close your eyes, ask your heart then you will choose the right one.

ArLyne Ph.D. Diamond Associates: Consultants to Management - Transforming Individuals and Organizations by cooperative interaction

April 9th, 2018

CHEMISTRY Experience can be acquired. how the leaders interact with each other if far more important to building an organization than any specific talent. Experience can be bought - chemistry is either there or not there

I always look for personality and style fit when helping my clients in the executive hiring process.

Shaun Lindbergh Founder and CEO MOBILISE!, a community network.

April 10th, 2018

Chemistry Plus (you can always hire experience). I am busy writing a series of articles on LinkedIn about finding partners. Here is an excerpt from Part 1. I hope you find it helpful.

Having been in numerous partnerships in which some have worked well and others not at all, I believe there are two key things required for a successful partnership,

  • A solid Foundation, and
  • A clear Vision

The foundation is comprised of four key ingredients;

  • Values,
  • Skills,
  • Competencies, and
  • Work-ethic.

In the same way that the right ratios of cement, sand, stone and water are mixed together to form a solid concrete foundation, so too must the right ratios of Values, Skills, Competencies and Work-ethic be mixed together to form a solid foundation for a successful business partnership.The Vision is a combination of two things,

  • What we want to achieve, and
  • How we want to achieve it.

There is a wonderful proverb that says, “How can two walk together unless they are agreed?” But, it’s not enough to simply agree on the direction; for example, at some point you will also need to agree on the speed at which you want travel because going at a different pace is, for all practical purposes, the same as going in different directions. It won’t work for very long.

Vision, Values and Strategy.

So building a successful partnership is not just about finding someone with the right skills and competencies but also finding someone who is aligned with your Vision, Values and Strategy; what I call the VVS.

Curt Sahakian Attorney

Last updated on April 9th, 2018

"My gut is telling me to have the trustworthy friend join as COO then the two of us can vet the potential CTO... what does everyone think? Chemistry or experience?"

1. No startup needs a real COO unless there is something seriously deficient with the CEO. If you have a COO, outsiders will want to know what his real role is. Whatever his title, your COO needs a functional role that you can explain to outsiders.

2. Why would you not invite both people?

This is going to be one of the easier decisions you are going to be facing. It would seem that if you are struggling with this decision, perhaps you really need to recruit a board of advisors.

Todor Velev Managing Partner, EEI Network

April 9th, 2018

There few aspects to consider: 1. Why do you need a co-founder? You need a friend next to you, or you have no money to pay for certain skills, or you feel you need somebody to help you define your business model and value proposition. Answering this question will define your selection criteria. 2. You said the second guy provided great insight. This is probably the most important quality you may need for your startup. The problem is, you are probably not ready to start implementing your businesses idea if in a few Skype sessions the guy provided great insight (see question 1). 3. How do you plan to reward your co-founder (s)? Outright ownership, or stock options based on time vesting, or based on milestones? The answer to this question may help you reduce uncertainty and risk of getting people onboard. Hope this helps Todor Velev

Shanthi Rajan Entrepreneur, Leader, Visionary

April 9th, 2018

What are you looking for in a cofounder - trusted confidant and friend or a reliable and knowledgable partner to help build your company. Chemistry is important. But is not relevant if the person does not compliment your skill set. You said the CTO candidate had valuable insights. This is very critical for a startup. Why not take the time to get to know the CTO candidate more?


April 10th, 2018

Experience can always be acquired.... and while Chemistry seems the right option. I feel the rationale for finding a co-founder is simple – it is good practice to find a genuine peer who exhibits potential and that can challenge and support in equal measure. It is also something that investors like to see.