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- based on 3 failed cofounder relationships, 1 successful company (CircleCI)
- current cofounding (https://darklang.com) very strong
- spoke to 50 potential cofounders (not 2-3 like before)
- 50% of my pipeline were founders with underrepresented backgrounds
- after first 10 had a profile that I was looking for (PM in consumer or devtools)
- had a 40 part questionnaire that potential cofounders filled in, took about 90 mins, sent them my answers after I got theirs
- prioritize chemistry and company value alignment (eg questions like when do you want to sell the company)
- worked together on small company-building projects for a few weeks to assess fit
- went to cofounder therapy (still going, it's been two years)
- getting 50 is hard, I asked for recommendations from friends, colleagues, investors, posted on social media and linkedin, used angellist, went to meetups, cold emailed people, cold linkedin messaged. All produced good leads and lots of bad leads
+1 to everything Paul said, especially cofounder therapy.
The other thing that really helped me was understanding what I wanted from a cofounder (philosophically, skills-wise, ideology) before I was making a this person-or-not decision. Feels less personal.
I got that knowledge by doing many hackathon/intense sprints with other people to figure out when people tended to not work for me: https://blog.ellenchisa.com/startup-lockdown-day-0-576d2d7d4.... I also had a good sense of traits that others found annoying (esp when they quit other jobs) that I felt fine with.
Other useful things:
- Explicitly naming "red flags" and things we were worried about.
- Calling Paul's previous cofounder (who graciously agreed to talk to me).
As a random thing I still find interest, I said no when someone tried to warm intro me to Paul, but agreed to meet when he sent me a cold email. Felt more sincere somehow.
- Kevin (YC Partner / Startup School Instructor/Host)
Long term this could be a good idea to meet people with similar interests, but to partner with for your next startup maybe. Not for now.
How? You can leave a company you founded at any any time without any financial repercussions usually but marriages you cannot unless you get a prenup (which probably costs legal fees) and that's not even including the ring nor wedding.
>> How? You can leave a company you founded at any any time without any financial repercussions
Absolutely not! Leaving a company has huge financial repercussions! If you have no agreement, you are either killing the company (as everyone disbands) or end up with either no ownership or end up with some uncertain amount of ownership as all the owners fight amongst themselves. If you do have a vesting agreement, you've usually lost everything if you haven't reached your 1st year cliff vest.
Either way -- you've lost a lot --
0. You've "lost" all the work you put in (often at zero or low salary). You often put in 80hr workweeks -- at that rate you could have made a boatload of money with a real job or contracting, and instead you put it all in as sweat equity and now the company owns all that unpaid effort, not you.
1. You've lost all the money you may have invested into the company
2. You've lost all the IP you came up with but may now be owned by the company
Also, I'd be worried if the startup means so little that you are willing to walk away without disappointment -- because startups go through hard times and you have to be willing to slog through the despair without quitting.
With a startup, often the intention is to make a dream succeed, and then potentially move on to bigger things, not necessarily stick with it for life.
How do you say that is worse than kids growing up in a broken home and many lives affected? An entrepeneur can have 5 failures and 8 successful exits. Do you want to say the institution of marriage can be like that?
I didn't actually make any comments about marriages being more or less important or impactful than startups.
“I'm with pg on this, starting a company with someone is a bigger commitment than getting married”
This mentality is the exact wrong one to have, especially if you're "co-founder dating".
Unless you're two people hacking away in a dorm room with no customers, making no money (hardly a "business"), there are all kinds of obligations and financial repercussions you might have.
Aside from that, there's no issue using a dating app to find that special someone you should marry. Same goes for founder dating. You have to start somewhere.
In any case you should try working with your potential cofounder first. A friend isn't necessarily a good cofounder.
And I don't think there's anything wrong with using it to meet like minded people who you might collaborate with one day.
But let's not ignore the fact that single founders can be successful too, and one of the biggest causes of startup failure is co-founder disputes, according to YC's own data. The real question is, will it help more than it hurts? The good news is we may know in a few years with this experiment YC is running.
Agreed that the biggest cause of failure is issues between founders.
One could say then that you should only start a company when you have a cofounder, and one that is good. But in reality there's no way of knowing who will be good.
The best proxy is choosing someone you have worked with before. A coworker for instance.
Simply choosing a founder because you hang out with them is not a good idea.
Try moonlighting with your founder dating buddy before making the leap.
>Entrepreneurs Are Better Off Going It Alone, Study Says
Startups founded by a single person are more likely to survive and succeed than those founded by a team (wsj article on paper by Jason Greenberg)
It's unclear they are remarkably more rare than other types. The data appears to show that single founders are the second most successful arrangement after pairs.
I would like it to be true that solo founders have just as much chance of success. I have been unable to find a cofounder for years, and I am not biased against solo companies. People are unpredictable, and even wildly successful companies have some disheartening back stories. I've learned that from books like Idea Man (Microsoft) and Masters of Doom (id Software) where founding members got screwed by morally challenged cofounders. In the case of id, Tom Hall received nothing from id in the end, and forfeited all of his equity when he was fired. Because they decided he wasn't needed anymore, despite him being there from the beginning through the tough times.
But it stands to reason that you are better off if you can find someone who is honest and is going to work hard with you, simply because two heads are better than one. When used together at least. Emphasis on honest, I would rank trust and ethics over experience and intelligence.
If you can't find that person, and you are determined, then may as well go ahead and go it alone. You only live once. Just realize the odds are stacked even higher against you. You are only lying to yourself if you refuse to accept that truth.
And you can be a cofounder of a successful company, but still fail miserably and have it all taken away by a bad cofounder.
Exactly, that missing information is what makes the data bad. Negative examples are needed to make any meaningful comparison between single vs team. You're missing an entire distribution showing success vs failure. You gave a perfect example of selection bias.
You would make a terrible statistician, or maybe you're highly skilled in the art of How to Lie with Statistics.
Imperfect data is a fact of life. Provided you understand what it represents ("Of startups that succeed, a large proportion have single founders") there is nothing wrong with using this.
It's much better than what you have offered: no data and insults to anyone who disagrees with you. You may want to consider this when thinking about why you have been unable to find a co-founder.
Exactly. You have expressed the argument perfectly.
There seems to be little link between the number of founders and success.
The rest of your post seems to have a simple counter argument: hire people.
An employee is never going to be as personally invested as a cofounder. But the upside is you can terminate them if your working relationship goes awry.
Nope. It is a great idea.
"According to a 2012 study by Statistic Brain, the global divorce rate for arranged marriages was 6 percent — a significantly low number. Compared to the 55 percent of marriages in the world that are unarranged, this low statistic shows the success rate of arranged marriages"
Also, the super low divorce rate should make you suspicious -- it would be more believable if it was slightly lower (like 30% or whatever), but 6%? There's clearly something else going on, and if you look closely you'll realize why.
I mean, it seems like a bad idea to me too, but you guys have access to a lot more data than I do.
Kind of like an actual dating site might be a good way to meet potential marriage partners, but you'd look at someone pretty weird if you went on a date and they suggested they want to get married right away.
But who knows; those guys see a lot of founders, maybe things work out differently.
Dating site doesn't imply anything regarding having to get married right away.
Its simply a medium for that initial connection, that's it.
But who knows... I'd be curious to see actual data rather than supposing.
I agree but then how do you start it in the first place ? Isn't the point of startup school or dating school is to connect people and then from that, over time you can build that history and trust and then use that as consideration whether you want them as your co-founder ?
My theory is that people are looking for people to start a company with ASAP, rather than 4-5 years in the future after they've worked together for a while.
But I could be wrong.
- Dave, Post-Exist Technical Cofounder, Senior Engineer and Manager Being Honest About Their Opinion Of Kevin's Credibility On This Subject.
Doing business (especially a high-risk, high-stress startup) with friends can lead to the elephant in the room effect when in the long term the founders focus on preserving their relationship thus avoiding the friction.
Side note: the author is a teacher, not a serial entrepreneur where one of Aristotle's quote hold its water: “Those who know, do. Those that understand, teach.”
"make friends through business, but don't make business with friends" was his response. a quote that stuck with me ever since.
Ex: I'm building a new mapping product right now and know very little about image signal processing, but was recently introduced to a CV engineer who blew my mind when we were introduced on LinkedIn. I'm not sure we'd hangout had we not been intro'd, but we get along just fine and her ability to instantly illuminate concepts that had been taking me weeks to grasp is exactly what I need in an early-stage startup cofounder. I think the timing risk of waiting for the "right one" is much greater than finding someone who might not check all of the boxes but meets 90% of what you're looking for. As always, YMMV.
I'm doing this right now as a solo co-founder and wish I had someone amazing to have my back.
we often forget how many things started...netscape founders (jim clark and marc andreessen) met through an email!
I know people who have married after 3 months of knowing each other and it works, and I imagine the same can happen for founders -- but -- who wants to take that chance? The ideal "marriage" whether in relationships or business settings (IMHO) is one where you observe the person before you are tied to them (e.g., before they are on their best behavior due to courtship), and ideally for a longer period of time so you can see how they are in stressed situations.
Everyone is usually on their best behavior during dating, so you don't know how people react under real pressure (e.g., when millions of dollars of theoretical paper equity are on the line on some crucial decision, or when interests diverge.)
Imagine your founder and you are sitting on a train and a lady gets off the train leaving behind a huge gold pendant. If you are both together, perhaps he may virtual signal by calling out to the lady. Wow, what a fine gentlemen and citizen.
Now imagine he is alone, you're far off in the corner of the train watching him, it is dark, and he doesn't realize he's being watched -- do you think he might keep the pendant or would he still act the same way?
Then realize that gold pendants arent found every day, so really you're waiting to see how the person performs when they have hard unselfish decisions to make -- the longer you observe people under independent circumstances that more such events you find and then hopefully you can gauge the person's honesty+integrity+ethic.
I need someone really awesome in product + growth OR an amazing React + frontend developer.
We've made GREAT progress so far..
Here's the rough elevator pitch.
Polar is a tool for managing knowledge which is kind of a hybrid of Kindle, Github, and Slack. Polar allows you to keep all your knowledge and reading material in one place. You can easily suspend and resume reading complex technical material and annotate and take notes directly without ever having to leave your reading platform.
More specifically, Polar implements spaced repetition, is a technique from cognitive science to prevent the user from forgetting the material they've read. This same technology is used in other platforms like Duolingo but we apply it to other areas outside of just language learning.
... and here's what I'm struggling with at the moment.
1. The long term vision is large but I have to do a better job of explaining the short term vision.
2. I need to do a much better job of conveying the 'aha' moment to our users who visit the site.
3. Marketing right now can definitely be improved. Huge opportunity there.
I've nailed a LOT but of course everyone has limited talents and time. The areas where Polar shines:
- our users that 'get it' LOVE Polar.
- we have a lot of users that STILL love Polar but are waiting to come on board due to one or two smaller missing but critical features. Like Firefox support or mobile or something along these lines. They users LOVE the app once they get the aha moment.
Despite that I'm probably not co-founder material. I'm heading back to Uni in September to study comp sci. But I'm interested in finding impactful side projects.
If you're interested in a chat email me: email@example.com
It’s pretty frustrating actually; it seems obvious to me that it will be the future of human-computer interaction.
I have been waiting for someone to build it for the past 18 months... but nobody seems to be working on it. I finally said “screw it” and I’m going to build it out myself.
If this sounds interesting feel free to reach out! I’m one of the ones looking for a cofounder. (Twitter is easiest. My dms are open)
Simply plopping a 3D model into the room isn’t particularly compelling or useful. But that seems to be the bar for “AR apps” today.
So by gimmicky I assume you’re talking specifically about the use case?
If so it’s probably true that majority of ar apps are games that don’t work too well or ar just demos/prototypes.
However there are a few that are pretty functional e.g. the measuring app in iOS. Was your idea to consolidate all such use cases to create a general purpose app?
The AR toolkits tell you about the 3D environment but they don’t do anything to tell you about the context.
When your app understands what it’s looking at it can add relevant functionality (eg solve a paper Sudoku puzzle, give hints, check your work, scan into a playable app, etc).
Happy to talk about it more! Shoot me a DM.
Assuming you do know what’s in the scene semantically most ar applications that aren’t games do intend to use that information. I’d say the primary hurdle there is still general scene understanding.
It’s easy to identify a sudoku puzzle but not so easy to identify and classify all 3D objects with any sense of precision yet. Seems like a large scale data play to me..
I have a bunch of ideas that seem like low hanging fruit, a bunch that seem hard but possible, and a lot that will be possible someday. And hopefully I can help accelerate that timeline.
In doing so I’ll have to build out tools and common code which I hope to eventually release as a platform to help other devs expand the idea out into other verticals.
So what's the "right" thing to do?
Have a cofounder to greatly increase your chances or success, or endanger your company by getting a cofounder?
If you choose a great co-founder with complementary skills and personality, it will drive you forward. If you choose poorly, you would have been better off staying single. The only thing that is really going to matter is your specific results. There is no reason for there to be a general rule that applies to everyone.
Nothing like a cofounder with no real world experience, YC level entitlement, and a history of running/failing out of an overcapitalized tech-startup.
1) act as recruiter yourself. Yeah, some activist investors will tell you to only focus on core business stuff/creating product market fit but that's just certain people's opinion. Presumably you have some kind of network you can leverage + you can cold message people earnestly
2) Contract with a recruiting agency to perform some of the administrative/vetting part and give you the candidate for 1-2 interviews. You only pay for each hire. Expensive (I've heard of rates in the 10-30k range) but definitely does not cost $50k for zero result. This has the added benefit of allowing you to bundle recruiting tasks that you yourself probably don't have time for like background checks
Maybe people are "good by default" and all that, but I do have some very early stage startup experience (VPEng), and both the founders and the employees have enough trouble trying to not get screwed even without such additional complications. Money and egos always find a way to ruin everything.
Are your a chess player with a taste for risk? I'm interested in creating the company of the future, heavy on processes and UX. Let's mix empathy and Sun Tzu's the Art of War to create a global conglomerate?