Join Liam Gill and Mac Conwell as they talk co-founders for an Inside Business podcast.
In this interview, you’ll learn:
- Arguments for and against having a co-founder
- Where to find a co-founder
Finding a co-founder is one of the most significant decisions a founder will make. The prevailing theory in Silicon Valley has been that companies should have co-founders, but how necessary is it? Liam Gill and Mac Conwall from inside.com share the positives and negatives of both options and give advice on where you can go to find a co-founder.
Liam Gill is a former startup founder, investor, and advisor. In 2021, he worked as an analyst at inside.com, writing newsletters that helped founders take their company from idea to IPO.
McKeever Conwall, who goes by Mac, is a former software engineer and two time founder with one exit. He is the founder and managing partner of Rare Breed Ventures.
Let’s explore the arguments for and against having a co-founder:
Liam and Mac's top arguments for co-founders include emotional stability, productivity, and a broader skill set
- Emotional Stability
Founding a company can take an emotional toll. When you’re feeling down, the right founder can lift you up, and vis versa. Friends and family may not always understand what you’re going through, but a co-founder in the trenches with you can level you out if the emotional rollercoaster of your startup becomes difficult to bear.
A startup’s productivity benefits greatly from a co-founder. In the early stage of building a company, there are many tasks and a limited amount of time. Having someone to share the workload with who believes in the mission while not taking a salary is a huge support.
3. Skill Set
You’ll also need a co-founder to balance out skill sets. If you’re not technical and you want to build a technical product, you need a technical co-founder. Don’t forget, however, that if you have the resources, you can hire people for their skills instead of bringing them on as a co-founder. Building a company without a co-founder is possible, but most in Silicon Valley believe it’s a disadvantage.
- Founder disagreements can break up a startup.
Get comfortable with conflict because disagreements will happen in a startup. Assign appropriate people to be the final word for different aspects of the company. Disagreements are lessened when you know your KPIs and guiding principles.
A great way to avoid disagreements is to distinguish personal conflict from business conflict, like not washing the dishes vs. not looking at A/B testing before making your next marketing decision.
Finally, in disagreements and decision-making, remember that whoever is in the CEO role will get more credit and more criticism than they deserve.
2. A co-founder that is the wrong fit can hurt the company.
If you choose co-founders that are too similar, your company will be limited. One of Mac’s past startups had three technical founders. None of them were great at getting customers, and they worked for two years before they had their first customer. Only bring on a co-founder if they make you better and have a skill set that is complementary to yours.
Cofounders can be unpredictable. Mac and a past co-founder were participating in an accelerator in Philadelphia when his cofounder disappeared one day. The company was doomed, and Mac didn’t see his colleague for another two years. One way you can play it safe if your co-founder is getting equity is to put them on a 3-5 year vesting schedule with a one-year cliff.
Sometimes done is better than perfect. Sometimes being a solo founder and starting now is better than waiting for the perfect co-founder to appear.
Where to find a co-founder
- College - Google co-founders Larry Page and Sergey Brin met at Stanford.
- Collisions - Steve Wozniak and Steve Jobs met through a mutual friend
- Colleagues - Look for your next cofounder on forums like Clubhouse, Twitter, Reddit and Facebook, and Co-founders Lab.
- Industry gatherings - If you need a technical founder, attend local technical events, like a Python meetup or a hackathon. If you need a business founder, go to business development events.
More Support For Entrepreneurs
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To learn more about building successful businesses, head to Inside’s Business Community.