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12 Qualities To Look For In A Co-Founder

What is the #1 quality you should you look for in a startup co-founder and why?




1. Alignment of Values

KEVON SABER“Everything changes except character. Product ideas, market dynamics and even founder competencies morph over time. Character (what someone deeply values) changes at a comparatively infinitesimal pace. Diversity of gender, age and training can lead to higher team performance. In contrast, a divergence of values makes almost every ingredient of team performance harder to grasp. For example, agreeing on objectives becomes massively harder if two co-founders value different objectives.”



2. Passion for the Venture

KELLY AZEVEDO, She's Got Systems“While you’ll develop the necessary skills, connections and experience by working in the startup, passion is not something that can be manufactured. It takes a lot of dedication to push past the mistakes and pivots necessary in a new company, and without passion for the business, it is easy to lose sight of your goals. This is even more critical with a co-founder because if you feel that your partner has lost interest and is already looking for another business or challenge, then it can sink the company even faster.”

KELLY AZEVEDO, She’s Got Systems


3. Complementary Skill Sets

TIM JAHN“Look for somebody who likes to do what you don’t and is really good at what you’re not. You want a co-founder who brings everything you’re missing to the table so as a team, you’re the complete package. It’s great to have shared skill sets too, but you want to make sure all the important skill sets are there between the two of you.”

TIM JAHN, matchist


4. Comfort With Conflict

MITCH GORDON“Startups require a flexible, creative, open-minded team. A company that succeeds without pivoting multiple times is the exception that proves the rule. When looking for a co-founder, pay very close attention to how he handles conflict. Disagreements are necessary; you have to create an environment where experimentation is encouraged and failure isn’t necessarily looked down upon. Conflict is an opportunity. When you have disagreements, do you and your co-founder listen to each other? Are you arguing for what’s best for the company or to win the argument? If everyone has the same goals, no one will be offended by conflict — no matter how tense the discussion. A healthy co-founder relationship will include conflict with the goal of making better, battle-tested decisions.”



5. Passion for Your Cause

ADAM LIEB“The only thing that keeps co-founder disputes at bay is passion for a mutual cause. Make sure you both want to solve the same problem and have the shared passion to do it.”



6. Vision

JEFF SLOBOTSKI“The ability to have a long-term vision and approach to a startup is essential for its ability to survive the ups and downs. If the co-founder has the ability to see well into the future while executing against the day-to-day objectives, the business has a strong chance of not only succeeding, but scaling exponentially.”

JEFF SLOBOTSKI, Silicon Prairie News


7. Friendship

WADE FOSTER“While some would argue that being friends with a co-founder isn’t necessary, I think it’s a big deal. You wouldn’t be friends with someone who doesn’t share your same values. You wouldn’t be friends with someone who doesn’t share similar interests. Friends are the family you choose. The best part about being friends is that you’ll stick through the rough patches. When business gets rough (and it will), your startup isn’t the only thing holding your business together — you have a friendship to fall back on. There are lots of other important qualities, but friendship is number one.”



8. Credibility

ROBBY HILL“A co-founder has to believe in the vision enough to be able to sacrifice EVERYTHING for the sake of achieving success. Your co-founder must realize this job is more than a paycheck — in both the risk and the rewards that are available. Make sure this quality is tested before bringing him or her on to the team.”



9. Trusthworthiness

Kelsey Meyer Influence & Co President & Co-Founder“The number one quality you should look for in a co-founder is someone you can trust. Even if a co-founder messes up now and then, if you have ultimate trust, you will always be able to fix it. I recently heard a successful entrepreneur, Robert Griggs, say, “You can fix a mistake, but you can’t fix a lie.” I think this is extremely relevant when considering who you want to trust half of the company with.”

KELSEY MEYER, Influence & Co.


10. Drive

STEVEN LE VINE“The most important quality that you want in your business partner is drive. You should never mistake your partner’s excitement with drive. All too often, one founder thinks that because his partner is excited about the new business venture, he is also going to do a good job in the future. But the excitement usually is a result of the “honeymoon period,” and once it wears off, if he is not committed to building the business and seeing it through, the other partner tends to be the one driving the company while the other sits back and enjoys the fruits of his labor.”

STEVEN LE VINEgrapevine pr


11. Shared Long-Term Vision

SEAN OGLE“It’s easy to get excited about the short term. But what happens after a couple product iterations and a few years? Things can change. Before going into business with someone, talk a lot about the long-term vision and goals of the company. This is more important than friendship, funding or anything else. If you stay consistent with the long-term vision for the business, you’ll grow quickly and have a much better chance of success.”

SEAN OGLE, Location 180, LLC


12. A Cockroach or Cactus

LIAM MARTIN“Integrity, vision and passion are great, but the reality is, in the majority of cases, you won’t actually be able to exercise those qualities without being a cockroach or a cactus. The average tech company takes one to three years to see a return on investment. During this period, life will suck — it will suck a lot. You’ll be doing twice the work for half the pay (if you’re lucky), and you’ll either need somebody who gets down in the trenches with you (cockroach) or somebody who you can leave to his own devices and only water once a month (cactus). Until you’re profitable, nothing else matters.”




Originally published by StartupCollective.


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Author : Young Entrepreneur Council

The Young Entrepreneur Council (YEC) is an invite-only organization comprised of the world's most promising young entrepreneurs. In partnership with Citi, YEC recently launched StartupCollective, a free virtual mentorship program that helps millions of entrepreneurs start and grow businesses.

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