Interviewing a Co-Founder

Interviewing a Co-Founder

The success of a startup is highly dependent on the team of people involved.

In fact, most investors, both Angels and VCs, place a higher priority on the team then they do on the idea. Why? Well it’s likely that you’re going to pivot your idea away from what you initially expected and into a variation as you receive customer feedback. Take Twitter as an example, the original brand was Odeo and they did podcasting. So the investors are banking on the teams ability to take this feedback and make changes to move forward.

Some accelerator programs like TechStars require you to have a team to be in the program. The team is that important. Groups like Founder Dating function to introduce potential co-founders.

So, if it’s that important, how do you pick a co-founder? You’ll be spending more time with this person then you’ll be spending with your spouse. Yet many people make some common mistake on the front end of the process that will cost them on the back-end.

A Process to follow:

  • There isn’t a rush to get this right. Set aside multiple days for the discussion process.  It may happen over a couple of months.
  • Be concrete – not fluffy – with your answers and expectations
  • Meet with the person’s spouse or significant other – what are they like when not around work?
  • Ask for some references to do reference checks – offer up references as well
    • People that you have worked with in the past
    • Where you’ve been in stressful situations
Questions to review
  • What are you hoping to get out of a startup?
    • Cash, significance, recognition, have your face on the cover of a magazine, go public? You need to understand both your and your co-founder motivations.
  • How do you define success?
    • How will you know when you get there?
  • Can they deliver? I had a client one time that said they “hired for potential”. But don’t you really want more than potential?
    • Do they have a track record of producing results
    • Do they current skills to deliver the task
      • Or is raw intelligence and the ability to learn a new technology platform enough
  • Work ethic: if your styles of work aren’t similar you will have a problem. Do they work late at night and you work early?
    • Will it bother you if you’re not on the same schedule – or will it hinder productivity (rhetorical question here, yes it will impact productivity).
  • What kind of exit are they and you hoping for?
    • I heard of some entrepreneurs what wouldn’t sell out for “less than a billion dollars”, which is a problem when they don’t have a billion dollar idea.
    • At the same time others may just be looking to replace their income at their job. You need to know that you are on the same page on this topic.

Have some suggested interview questions, add your comments below.

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