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Does a start-up need designer as co-founder? What should be their equity based on the contribution?

I'm a co-founder in 3 startups, based in Rome, London, Madrid. We are developing our 3 products (2 apps and one website). Our model is a B2C so it's important as you all know the design and the user experience of our platforms.
We are asking ourselves, do we really need a designer as co-founder? His contribution will be as long-term as ours?
Our startups are about sports (finding people to play with in all sports), food (italian cousine worldwide) and one about style and design on clothing.
So what should we do? I think that at least for the last project is really fundamental to have a designer as co-founder.

10 Replies

Jonah Story
0
0
Jonah Story Advisor
I adjust, create or rescue brand identities. Then I market them. ► www.about.me/jonahstory.
I suggest you write down the tasks you need right now, those you will need soon, and what you will need long-term. This should clarify the amount, and type, of work needed then subsequently you can do a comparative analysis using a contractor, employee or cofounder to accomplish those tasks. I think it's good for the entire founding team to establish strengths and tasks then figure out additional tasks/roles the "designer" would or could fill in order to be a more valuable member (art direction, content design strategy, other, etc...) This should make it easier to begin figuring out if the designer should be a contractor, employee or cofounder. Not sure a "designer" needs to be the major role, maybe a great Creative Director with design capabilities, would be however. You should be able to put together what you are looking for by doing what I suggested :). Good luck!
Anthony Miller
0
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Anthony Miller Advisor
President & CEO at millermedia7
Hi Andrea! We've worked with designing and building out for a bunch of fun startups over the years. I don't think it's necessary to have a co-founder be a designer, but they should know how to communicate with one and convey ideas, deliverables, timelines, etc. I've worked with startups that have normally co-founders in CTO, Sales and strategy roles, Product roles. They don't have to do the designing but they should be able to direct very well.

Let me know if we can help you out on this front or if you'd just like to chat, we're cool with that as well.
Ariel Jatib
4
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Ariel Jatib Entrepreneur
Product Designer, UX
Can you afford it? Can you recruit one? What does the rest of the team look like? I think those are key questions that should further inform opinions. Here's my 2 cents,

Given your focus on consumer and today's crowded market, I would suggest you seriously consider having a designer as a co-founder. Design is a process; it's a way of thinking about problems. You likely have ideas about what value you expect to deliver to the marketplace and a designer can help synthesize these ideas into a cohesive experience. Also, you don't want to, or shouldn't want to, build everything at once. A designer can help prioritize the features in your MVP in a manner that makes most sense from an user-centered perspective. Additionally, you will want to iterate on your product and a designer can help in perform and analyze this feedback. In a crowded consumer space, you want to make sure that you're making a good impression, as you may not get a second opportunity. If you don't think optimizing how users experience your product is key, then don't do it. The market / consumers will guide you as to whether it was the right decision.
Jonah Story
1
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Jonah Story Advisor
I adjust, create or rescue brand identities. Then I market them. ► www.about.me/jonahstory.
Andrea, I agree with Ariel. However I think you are going to have to understand the different roles, and necessary strengths, among designers first though. Not every designer understands these things. Most in fact. Go back to outlining the tasks, holes in your founding member circle and other desirable strengths you would like to have. From there you will describe who you are looking for. Ariel is certainly providing some great capabilities to consider being on that developing list.
Rachel Zheng
1
1
Rachel Zheng Entrepreneur • Advisor
Business Development Manager at Honyee Media
Andrea, there has been a lot of discussion questions posted on this topic already, I recommend you do a search first on the site, such ashttp://members.founderdating.com/discuss/116/UX-design-talent-and-rolesmembers.founderdating.com/discuss/207/Designer-Contract-or-Hire
Vijay Goel, MD
3
0
Vijay Goel, MD Entrepreneur • Advisor
Founder Chefalytics, Co-owner Bite Catering Couture, Independent consultant (ex-McKinsey)
Lot of the answer depends on what you mean by designer. It's generally a bad idea to hire a "specialist" on the early team unless it's THE core technical problem or User Interface problem you need to solve for. And then if you pivot, you'll need to let this person go.

What many people seem to be describing in "designer" is someone who understands the customer and guides the product to actually solve a real person's problems (usually framed as a customer segment or even better as a detailed customer profile with the pain point laid out). I've generally found this to be something that your product lead needs to internalize...so if your product lead has a "design" or other background, that can be really helpful (and may be a hiring requirement).

I've found that many pure-play "designers" don't actually understand user or human centered design (they tend to come out of graphic design or an aesthetic school) and that profile won't really help you other than add some window dressing that may get in the way of what your customers are looking to do and how you're A/B testing your product to see if that's actually happening.

It's not the label, but how the work gets done in the right way that you need to solve for.
Jonah Story
0
0
Jonah Story Advisor
I adjust, create or rescue brand identities. Then I market them. ► www.about.me/jonahstory.
Great input Vijay.
Rick Orr
0
0
Rick Orr Entrepreneur • Advisor
CEO & Founder RealSavvy
Agreed with Ariel and Vijay. I'm on my fourth startup but first with a designer co-founder - wouldn't have it any other way for our company of 5 (2 eng, marketing, designer and me). That said and pursuant to comments here, I am serving a very discerning consumer base so insanely awesome UX/UI is key to my business.
Michael Calleia
2
0
Michael Calleia Entrepreneur • Advisor
Product/Experience Design/Strategy Leader. Founder, Humanist partnering with clients to build great products and brands
Looking at your questions there are two things that stand out:
  1. You identified the importance of design and user experience for success.
  2. You do not understand role of a designer, what a designer actually does or how they do it.
I strongly suggest you find a product you admire and talk to their product designers to understand what they do. What you will find is that, like a programer, the designer's job is never done. There are always new user needs that need to be evaluated, designed, tested and collaborated on to get built. There are always pages or screens that need to be optimized to increase conversion (signup, download or on boarding).

If you actually value design (and more importantly, its role in your success), the need for a designer from the start all way to exit and beyond should not even be a question.

Christian Crumlish
3
0
Product at 7cups.com
given that you are in three startups, partnering with one broad spectrum product design principle across all of them might also make sense.
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