5 Traits To Look Out For In a Startup Co-Founder

The startup co-founder search can make or break ventures with potential. Take it from us– over the years of guiding entrepreneurs in setting up businesses and raising capital, we have seen a myriad of co-founder combinations. The bottom line is that while sometimes it makes sense to go at it alone, having a strong co-founder to either mirror your strengths or make up for weaknesses, helps. 

65% of startup failures occur because co-founders simply aren’t compatible– a telling statistic that points to just how vital a synergic partnership is [1]. To build the harmony and cooperation required to take ventures from 0 to 100, here are a few desired traits to look out for in startup co-founders. 

  1. A Shared Long-Term Vision

A shared long-term vision is critical to the success of a partnership and to a business itself, due to the fact that it drives entrepreneurs towards achieving goals and executing plans. Co-founders must agree, in the very nascent stages, on what they want for a company. That’s not to say one can dominate the other; if anything, it means reaching a suitable compromise and making contingency plans if something changes – in startups, they almost always do. 

  1. Complementary Skills and Strengths 

Veteran entrepreneurs and investors suggest that co-founders need to be alike in some ways and starkly different in others to bring synergy to the table. Furthermore, having different sets of people at the upper echelons of any organization, big or small, leads to the pooling of complementary skills. This aids startups in combating an array of challenges which they are bound to face as they scale. This co-founder relationship acts like a yin and yang setup, facilitating a symbiotic growth path for the organization. Identifying strengths and weaknesses is critical to building a long-term partnership, because it helps to define business roles from the outset. The ‘one builds, one sells’ model has been adopted in startups across industries to roaring success; this tactic outlines end goals within roles which, when put together, spell progress for the company. 

  1. A Strong Will to Adapt

The startup journey is hardly ever a straight road– there are bumps and rough turfs that can only be navigated over if co-founders are equally determined (and capable) to adapt. The ideal co-founder is someone who sets their eyes on bigger targets without sweating the small stuff. It’s equally important to find someone who isn’t afraid to do menial tasks once in a while in the interest of the company’s future. One of the hallmarks of a good entrepreneur is his/her ability to adapt depending upon the situation, often requiring that entrepreneurs tailor their approach to each situational event.

  1. Integrity and the Ability to Hold Their Ground

Finding a co-founder with high levels of integrity is crucial to company growth. This integrity also extends to their own ideas– not to the level of stubbornness, but enough to convince with solid facts and logic. Choosing a co-founder who can hold their ground allows ideas to take shape and move into production a lot faster than when a meek co-founder is involved. Additionally, having an active co-founder makes for a springboard to bounce ideas off and see what sticks. This has the potential to save time, money, and efforts when planning out business ventures. 

  1. Ability to Set and Respect Boundaries

All co-founders need boundaries– whether that’s to avoid taking over the other’s tasks or simply respecting personal space. A successful co-founder should be able to set and adhere to boundaries, especially when it comes to startup cofounder equity stakes, roles, salaries, ethics, and company direction. It also extends to inter-personal boundaries, such as allowing each other to make minor mistakes and maintaining healthy emotional stability.

The Final Word

An analysis of startup failures showed that the two most common causes were product-market fit and co-founder blow-ups [2]. It’s easy to focus on the first one rather than the other, but this is when things go downhill– seasoned investors can testify that many startup ideas tanked largely because their co-founders lacked chemistry.

Keeping these traits in mind will help zone in on the co-founder your startup needs and deserves!

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