Finding cofounders

Is co-cofounding (cofounding each other) a good idea?

David Austin Relentless problem solver and innovator.

January 18th, 2016

For lack of a better word ... if there is one please advise ... co-cofounding, where two independent founders each with their own startup project, but with complementary skills ... does it make sense to cofound each other, or is there too great a risk of under-founding one or both startups that way?  

Are there other things to watch out for?

Could it perchance be remedied by adding more people, or will that just become unmanageable?  

I guess this is kind of the same idea as a startup studio except startup studios have a ready-made team and a structure in place to balance the projects.

On the plus side, it seems like an option for skilled bootstrappers, especially if batching responsibilities improves work efficiency.  Also a good way to minimize risk, by spreading it out between 2 projects, or perhaps even more.  If one looks less promising over time then that founder can perhaps increase equity in the others by shutting his down and focusing more on the other(s).

Sridhar Rajagopal

January 18th, 2016

It really would depend on each startup, what its scope is, how inter-related (or not) each startup is to the other. 

You are right that there is a definite risk of under-founding one or both startups. 

Typically, there are too many things to be accomplished in a startup, which is one of the main reasons you are looking for a cofounder anyway, to help with complementary skills. In the case of co-cofounding, as you put it, you are dividing your time and thought processes between two different and competing ideas. 

In your limited hours in a day, which one would you be (or should be!) most focused on? Your own idea! And the same holds true for your co-cofounder. 

A better structure would be to help each other out (with reduced expectations of how much time and effort each would be putting into the other endeavor). If one project has more traction than the other, one of the co-cofounders may be tempted to drop their project that is not gaining as much traction, and focus all their efforts on the other one. 

In that situation, you would become cofounders in the true sense. 

It doesn't make sense to split your time completely between two projects - both are going to suffer. 

Each project is a like a person that wants to share the same cake - your time. If you are spreading it out over multiple projects to minimize risk, you just end up giving each project a smaller piece of the pie - instead of one project feeling satisfied and full, each project is going to feel hungry - I don't think you are minimizing risk in that case. 

Better to validate your idea with full focus and *then* move on to a next project *if* the business potential or customer need of the project does not pan out. 

Just my 0.02.

David Pariseau

January 18th, 2016

I agree with Sridhar, a startup typically gobbles up every resource you have and is still starved for more.   It's often so challenging to get one to work (evidenced by the high percentage of failures) that trying to do a couple at the same time just seems like a recipe for disaster.

The only caveat I can imagine is if you have no idea which of these ideas is the likely winner.  In that case, it may be worthwhile spending some time on both of them in order to validate one or the other in order to decide which of them to do, or at least which to do first.


Kaustubh Prasad

January 18th, 2016

In addition to the responses above, would like to add that it would probably depend on the stage of the business too. At an idea or early stage, where you want to validate and test the idea, and with two people complementing each other, it might work - especially if you take it as a dating period for the co-founders. But when you start development and the pace of development becomes important, it might be killing both ideas by not putting 100% in either. I don't think there are any rules here, but just my opinion.

David Johns Providing experienced entrepreneurial, educational choice and non-profit management consulting.

January 19th, 2016

I find I agree with all the input however I would not rule this out.  I believe it would come down to common goals/mission and chemistry between the founders.  I'm big on partnership and this seems a good way to achieve a good partnership if the fundamentals are there.

David Pariseau

January 18th, 2016

I thought the question was can you get a founding team (2 founders) to attempt to run two startup ventures doing something significantly different concurrently with the same team.

Rob G

January 18th, 2016

I think it sharing expertise makes perfectly good sense as long as both parties are clear on the parameters.  I have done it informally and on a few occasions with technical founders/teams and it has worked well.  In my case the format was more a barter/exchange of time 1/1 and as needed VS on a continuous basis, but still it has worked well. 

Andrea Macario CMO / Co-founder

January 18th, 2016

there's obviously no right or wrong answer. for me, i've been struggling juggling between 2 startups (working in both with the same partner) i felt the sum of my 2 outputs was maybe ok in terms of checking the boxes but well below the quality that is needed to actually figure out a sustainable business, attracting the best talent, telling the best story externally and the other millions of micro and macro things you need to do, and i'm now in the process of focusing completely on one of the two from an operational contribution perspective and onlyncontribute with strategic thinking to the other one as shareholder. I know I can pull off two (or seven...) jobs / projects / etc. and still be good when measured in the context of a business that exists and has been already figured out, and I also know that I can do something and a startup. but a startup and another startup proved to be a much tougher cookie. If I had to do it again and I had no choice I would allocate my time more strictly and almost rigidly between the two.

Eyal Feingersch

January 18th, 2016

I'd like to add to the original question:
Can someone provide relevant success/fail stories?

Jim Bowes Promoting and producing sustainable natural-media techniques

January 21st, 2016

It could be done but there are some pretty big ifs I would consider such as; if the two people are very unique and can put their egos aside. Otherwise, there will inevitably be resentment if one company takes off and the other does not. If you can establish very clear roles and responsibilities for each co founder for each company and if the risk and reward is equal to all. Starting a company is very difficult and will consume you. Starting two at the same time might just kill you. There are only so many hours in a day. Personally I think finding the balance would be quite difficult. But again, if it were the right two people anything is possible.

David Pariseau

January 20th, 2016

I agree with your thoughts and think that would be the path most likely to give you the best chance of success with your venture(s).