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To me, the answer is no. They are "employees with equity" but not co-founders. A founder is someone who started the company - period. I have no other definition with which I could be happy with. To call them anything else is misusing the word IMO.

Imagine an investor meeting:

Potential Investor: "So you three are the co-founders. How did you start the company?"

You: "Well, I actually started the company with two other guys. These new guys came along about six months ago."

PI: "So wait - they didn't actually help you found the company?"

It's just "messy" if you try to give them a name that just doesn't apply.




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