Build a top funnel ⏳
To build a top of funnel, make a list of people you want to work with someday, and then systematically hang around the hoop until the stars align.
The scorecard 💯
Create a scorecard of attributes you’d look for in a co-founder — in a two co-founder scenario, you’re each essentially hiring each other. A good co-founder should be someone who can (1) help you solve core risks to the business and (2) agrees with you on first principles on company building.
The dream co-founder 💭
What values does this person embody? What skillsets or unfair advantages does this person bring to the table? What are your non-negotiables as it relates to working style or aspirations?
The de-risker 📉
Look for somebody who can help de-risk your business. In enterprise healthcare, for example, the most effective unfair advantage might be specific relationships; in deep tech it might be unfair technical know-how, and in certain domains it might be unfair domain expertise.
Find a triathlon team 🏃 🚴🏾 🏊🏼♂️
If you’re a top 2% runner, top 2% biker, but don’t know how to swim, that’s not going to go very well. Upleveling your team’s skill set by improving from a top 2% runner to top 1% runner also doesn’t solve the core risk. You’d still drown. Bringing someone on who is a top 30% swimmer would leave you better off than if you go about it solo, as you’d now actually have a shot at finishing (or winning) the race.
Complementary - or just double down one unfair advantage ‼️
What does success look like, not only for each individual co-founder, but for the organization at large? Is this a 5 year thing or a multi-decade thing? Are you motivated more by solving a specific problem or working with a specific customer? Are you open to pivoting? Will you have a design driven culture or a data driven culture?
To meet potential co-founders... 🤝
- Tell the world what you want to do next
- Join communities
- Build an audience
Non-obvious questions worth asking prospective co-founders 💣
- In what ways are you crazy? What are your failure modes?
- What was it like working with ex co-founders/colleagues?
- If this didn't work out, why not?
- What's most important to you? (Money? Managing people? Building an audience? etc.)
- What are your long-term goals in life?
- Who should be CEO? Who has the vision?
Never co-CEO 🤴🏻👸🏽
Co-founder split is 50/50 equity while also clearly maintaining that full decision making authority goes to the CEO. Unfortunately, as great as the idea sounds on paper, having “co-CEOs” rarely ever works. That said, this strategy enables co-founders to be genuinely equal partners while also mitigating committee decision-making.
Be transparent about your circumstances and goals 🛣️
1) personal runway — how many months a founder can live without salary 2) how each person hopes to scale with the company 3) other extenuating life circumstances.
Founding team ≠ Co-Founder ‼️
Another idea regarding building your early team: You may even consider calling your first ~3-7 employees the "founding team," as it might help you attract better people who are also more bought in. If you do this, kindly ensure they know they're not necessarily a true co-founder — you’re instead glorifying their position as a first employee. The challenge arises when/if those people get undue moral authority in the org if they don't scale.