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From my experience, there's a massive intangible difference between a co-founder and an early stage employee. Get as far as you can without using equity, so that when you do use equity, you have a clearer sense of what you will get from it. When you want other big-picture decision makers, get co-founders. When you want x, y, and z mostly outcomes, hire employees. If you can't afford employees, could you get further and raise funds first? I've had amazing high equity employees and not so amazing ones. But with a small group of pseudo co-founders, things like firing, raises, pivots, etc. naturally become more political than they might otherwise.

It's cliche but think of this as dating except you just adopted a kid. When you start going steady with someone, it's critical to have a boundary between yourself as a parent and the other person as a (perhaps-temporary) parental figure. If one day you find someone who would raise your child even better than you could by yourself, or at least would make you happy and you trust fully in their judgment and values (even if not 100% same as yours), you get married. But you can still raise a great kid as a single parent.

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