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What do you look for in good partners and cofounders?

My question is about partners and founders. I had a startup once where we just shouldn't have been cofounders and I'm still reeling from the fall out a bit. How do you decide to do business with someone?

3 Replies

Johnathan Proffer
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Johnathan Proffer Entrepreneur • Advisor
Software Engineer, Visionary, Entrepreneur
whether or not to make someone a co-founder in a venture is a complicated question. Often the common deliminator is just how critical that person is to your business, and whether or not you can afford to pay him for his skills and time.

Ideally, you don't want a business partner. It can make decisions tougher, change business direction, and cause you to lose your passion in the venture. It's better to bring them on as an employee if possible.

That said, if you're unable to pay cash for their time and skills, but really need them on board - your business just can't exist without them - sweat equity is always an option. Offer them a percentage based on their value and long-term contribution to the company's founding stages. Even set a number of shares to vest over a period of time, as a safeguard.

Of course, there's the times when you launch a business based on an idea between two or more people - they should be equal partners, otherwise the legal waters get very murky.

Like I said, it's complicated.
Rod Abbamonte
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Rod Abbamonte Advisor
Co Founder at STARTREK / @startupHunter / @startupWay / @CoFounderFound / @GOcapital / @startupClub / @lastminute
Integrity, Compromisse.
Dan Clapp
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Dan Clapp Advisor
at Franchise Development NW

My experience has been with business partners versus co-founders. I would say that complimentary skill sets can go a long way towards a successful partnership. It's fine for you and your partner to have some overlapping skills but even better if the combined skill sets cover your entire scope of work. You and your partner can divide responsibilities according to your individual strengths.

Predicting the long term outcome of a successful partnership based on personality traits is difficult even if you've know each other for years. I agree with Rob, integrity and compromise along with tolerance and work ethic are areas to consider. For example, if one partner is more extroverted, they should cover sales, marketing, investor relations, raising capital. If someone tends to be more introverted, they may be better suited to back office functions such as planning, strategizing, keeping the company organized, accounting.

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