Founders · Technical co-founder

Finding Cofounders: What are the key questions to ask?


October 27th, 2014

We all know about the importance of finding the right cofounder. There are couple of items that I have noticed coming up more often when startup folks talk about cofounders:

1- Complementary skills

2- Similar goals and passion

People often emphasize on how its critical to look for people with complementary skills to our own, and have a clear understanding of the each person responsibilities to get the company going. Simply put: one builds, one sells.

At the same time founders (mostly suggested 2 people, however, that is another discussion) must have the same goal and passion, for instance if one founder is all about building a consumer product and the other one is interested in an enterprise product, that will be a recipe for disaster.

What else do you think or have heard as the key questions that cofounders must ask before starting their journey?

David Gold Mar '20: New project. 1,000 customers and profitable. Before: Helped scale saas $1M to $75M ARR

October 27th, 2014

If you have not done this before, simply knowing the questions to ask and the answers to hear will not guide you in a useful direction. Go with what you know.

No match up will be perfect, but no matter what, at some point down the road you will learn the questions you should have asked and the boundaries you should have set.  You just need to experience it.

Start small and slow to see how things go. Ramp up the time and resources you are investing.  During the process you will learn a lot about yourself and the person you are going into business with.

P.S. sorry for the font change. FD needs to work on their mobile.

Jessica Alter Entrepreneur & Advisor

October 27th, 2014

We get this question a lot so I did a blog post I agree side projects and working together are vital, but do not assume a mock project covers all the bases there are real issue to talk about and I'd broadly define 4 categories:
1. Personalities and Incentives
2. Personal Priorities
3. Working Styles and Culture
4. Roles and Responsibilities

Varun Mehta CEO of Disqovery

October 27th, 2014

Not all of these questions need to (or should be) asked on your first meeting.
  1. How much time are you willing to commit now? How about 6 months from now?
    1. Manage expectations from the get-go on both sides.
  2. If you need a salary, how much would it be? How soon would you need it?
    1. Help you make decisions on this candidate and also your own financing strategy.
  3. How can we figure out if we like working together before 'committing' to a relationship?
    1. Even with vesting it can be hard to fire a cofounder after you've signed agreements. Both of you need to try each other out first.
  4. What do you hate doing?
    1. Complementary skills are one thing, but founders wear many hats. It can be more helpful to think about what each of you 'hates' doing, and hopefully you both hate doing different things.

Chris Carruth VP/Director. Strategy | Business Development | Operations | Product | Solutions

October 27th, 2014

All these are worthy of discussion and consideration by the founders. I would add a very important one- what are the ethics and values that will be the cornerstone of the business going forward? If there is a disconnect in these areas it will bleed over into anything else that happens in the life of the company. 

This is really a tough topic to dig into between people, but based on personal experience at more than one company, ethics and values differ between coworkers, between managers, between subordinates and managers, between CXX and direct reports, etc. This task is not about judging but understanding when the going gets rough will these survive or will they be sacrificed to keep the company alive, secure a sale, lock in an investment, maintain a lifestyle, support an ego, and the list goes on.

This is important and it will come back to haunt you if not addressed early on.

Jason Green SVP Global Operations at Gravity4, Visionary Entreprenuer, Open Source Enthusiast, and Gamification Pioneer

October 28th, 2014

You should ask about their financial situation in more depth.  Do they have debt? How much? Are they living beyond their means?  This is important because it shows if that other person can hack it if the going gets tough. Can the person survive without a paycheck for 3,6, or 12 months?  This will help you make a decision regarding a co-founder.

Matthew Tomaszewicz Director - Technology (Ai) at Capital One

October 27th, 2014

Decision hierarchy or process. The final decision has to stop with one of the cofounders or there needs to have a predefined process for arriving at a final decision... or less optimal, division of functional power.