According to Paul Graham, about 20% of YC startups have had a co-founder leave. How do you de-risk this? We share the simple framework we used to assess co-founder fit when we decided to start Shuffle. Notion template here.
That was how long my co-founder and I had known each other before taking the plunge to start Shuffle.
It was a great fit because we were both extremely passionate about the mission — we wanted to surface the best ideas and stories in podcasts, thoughtfully curated by others. At the same time, we were aware that passion would only carry us so far, and that we would need to mitigate the risk of co-founder conflict, especially when we hadn’t worked together before.
Since some of our friends have asked us how we made this decision, we’re sharing the framework we used to assess our co-founder fit.
Most of the disputes I’ve seen between founders could have been avoided if they’d been more careful about who they started a company with. Most disputes are not due to the situation but the people. Which means they’re inevitable. — Paul Graham, The 18 Mistakes That Kill Startups
To evaluate co-founder fit, you have to answer four key questions:
Are you aligned in your goals, mission, and values?Are your working styles compatible?Do you have complementary skill sets?How would you behave in certain scenarios?
We dive deeper into each of these in the framework below.
Ideally, this framework should be followed up with a practical exercise where you ship a small project together as a team. It doesn’t have to be related to this startup. A good prompt we’ve seen is to “design and build a product within 48h that makes $10”.
It’s important to get a deep understanding of what drives each other, and if you’re guided by similar values in the workplace.
You don’t have to be clones in the way you work, but this section is meant to realistically assess if both your working styles are compatible, and what you might need to adjust to get there.
It’s important to understand each other’s natural competencies and work experience thus far. The goal is to find someone else with a complementary skill set and interests. Of course, some of these rows might look different depending on what space your startup is in.
The startup journey is long and hard, and along the way you’ll be faced with many difficult macro and micro decisions. This section lists out some possible situations that you may face as a team, and is meant to help you suss out how each person would behave.
You can duplicate and use the full Notion template here.
We hope these practical tips help other startup founders just embarking on the journey. Feel free to reach out to me on Twitter (@adayeoyh) for advice — we know how hard this decision can be! If you want more startup content like this, check out the Shuffle app for top highlights daily from the top startup thinkers and VCs.
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