Finding cofounders

What are good questions to ask a potential co founder?

A Hunt Looking for a co founder with fintech experience

March 18th, 2021

Should I conduct an interview and request a copy of their resume? Should I ask them to sign an NDA/ non compete? Any questions you think might be good to have answers to?

Paul Garcia marketing exec & business advisor

March 19th, 2021

I love this question! It's perfect for this forum. So many people make a list of their wants and needs and don't think about how to evaluate the options.

First, it's helpful to understand what a co-founder is and isn't. A co-founder is someone who shares an IDENTICAL vision for your company/product as you. Vision is the ideal experience of your product/company for customers, both external and internal. (Internal customers are also known as employees.)

Whether or not a co-founder also has complimentary skills is kind of luck-of-the-draw. It's far less important to have complimentary skills than it is to have that shared vision. Conflict comes from flaws in how perfectly you share that vision. It doesn't come from a difference in skills or skill level. It's always nice if a co-founder does fill some skill gaps, but it's not essential. That's what you have employees and advisors and service providers for.

Sure, you certainly want to discover what skill areas your co-founder can cover. Knowing that there are six fundamental business skills every business must possess, and that no one person will ever master more than two, you know you're going to always have a team, internal or external, necessary to support your enterprise. These six are not the only skills, but they are the essential ones common to every single business. They are, in order of importance, marketing, sales, organization, people, efficiency, and leadership.

Remember that a resume can only tell you what someone was asked to do, not the full extent of their capabilities or their interests. While it's helpful to understand a candidate's background, it's the story or narrative discussion of how they're interests drive their choices, and making sure you share the vision for your company, that is essential. There is no need to sign any document until you're ready to reveal confidential information. What your business is and does is not confidential. How you do it is. And your discovery conversations with a candidate are probably well-led by asking them about how they would approach or do things, not about how you plan to do them yourself. You're not looking for agreement with your ideas, you're seeking to ascertain how the other person thinks. How do they solve problems? What opportunities do they see for the business? What would they do to pursue those opportunities? Where would they focus their energy at this stage?

Interviewing people is hard, but finding co-founders is not the same process as a job interview. If you think it's a job interview, then just hire employees. A co-founder is an extension of you, not an employee. Imagine you were invited to join someone else's business. You would want to understand what the owner had done to reduce the risks for you in joining the enterprise. You'd want to understand how decisions are made. You want to know how responsibilities are divided. And you would want to know how conflict is resolved. Co-founder candidate discussions are going to be conversational. They should be animated (exciting). And they should leave you eager to spend more time together. It's VERY different than hiring an employee. You're asking this other person to take risks like no one else.

Good luck!

David M

March 31st, 2021

A-Please connect with me so I can take a look at what you have. Thank you.

Renzo Mazzini ✅ CEO at Marcfields Capital Management

April 1st, 2021

Do your own research then build a rapport because you are seeking someone for the long haul, correct?

Ali Rizvi Entrepreneur. Looking for a technical co-founder.

April 5th, 2021

Here are some examples of questions....

1. What motivates you today (i.e. vs ten years ago)?

2. What do you do with your free time? How do you deal with stress?

3. What do you think I’d be most surprised to find out about you?

4. What are your personal goals for building a company? (e.g. a lifestyle business, high growth and liquidity)?

5. Will this be your primary activity? If not 100% then what amount of time will you commit?

6. What is the expected time commitment, now and one year from now?

7. Will you be doing other work outside of this venture?

8. What would your ideal exit be? $5M, $50M, $100M?

9. As the engineering leader, how do you deal with the things you don’t know within your domain?

10. Given your various family/personal commitments, how do you keep up with learning new technologies?

11. Do you have any specific personal cash needs in the short term?

12. Are you comfortable not being paid until we have sufficient revenue/funding to begin taking a salary. What if this was 12-18 months?

13. Are you fully able to go full-time now? If not, what are the reasons?

14. How do you feel about raising money and the associated dilution of ownership?

15. What did you learned when you failed at previous business ventures?

16. If you had to come up with 3 words to describe the culture you want to create in the engineering team, what would they be?

17. What values would you want to instill in your team?

18. If you could pick 2 things to change and two things to bring with you from your previous ventures, what would they be and why?

19. How much equity are you comfortable allocating to future employees?

20. Who do you think the first three hires will be?

21. Describe your working style in a few words?

22. What are some of the products you love and why?

23. There will most likely be conflict between us at some point. How do you deal with conflict? Compromise?

24. How do you communicate with things that bother you?

25. Please provide 2-3 business references? We will only contact them if we move forward.

26. What areas do you see yourself definitely wanting to be point-person on for the first 12 months?

27. What are the areas you know you’re not particularly good at?

28. Why do you think we will work well together?

29. Have you ever been fired, gone to jail, or done anything that would materially impact your time with the company?

30. Do you sit on any boards of companies and do you have any conflict of interest with ours?

31. Is there a ‘no compete’ clause that is active at this time?

32. What is the largest challenge working with a remote engineering team and how do you deal with this challenge?

33. How do you think we should give feedback to each other (and the team)?

34. If you are to become a co-founder, what equity % would you expect and why?

35. Do you have any specific family commitments or issues that could prevent you from attending meetings at certain days/times.

36. Other technologies that you have experience with that will benefit development?

37. What technologies [front/back] are you NOT experienced in?

38. Could that be an impediment to development and how to address the knowledge gap?

39. In your network, are there any people you could see us hiring in the future? What roles?

Gareth James-Ryan A fractional CTO/technical advisor to start-ups and looking for a challenge

April 6th, 2021

I agree with @Paul Garcia. A resume only gives you so much and most of the time it's fluff. Have a real conversation, I personally have two chats over Teams/Zoom spaced at least a week apart, and then meet them in person for a coffee and chat. Potentially repeating the process several times. Like a partner you wouldn't marry them after one or two dates...

I'm personally having advanced discussions with several founders, none are progressing quickly, but all going in a positive direction.

As for the requirement for an NDA, I personally do not have an issue with it, but I know others who would walk away. As for non-compete, in my opinion that's a non-starter, if you pulled that one for me, I'd walk...