Vijay Anand | The Startup Guy.

The Mis-understood Co-Founder.

Posted on: December 25, 2008

For quite sometime, I have been part of conversations that usually involved of this mythical creature called the “Co-Founder”. If you would take the liberty to head to one of the startup discussion groups, sooner or later someone would bring up the conversation as to how hard it is to find a co-founder for his team. Most would usually agree and nod with him/her.

Situations like this are usually taken to be the norm here. But something has to change in all this.

This is the incident which made me sit up and take notice. I get an SMS one fine day with this message. “Am Looking for a Co-Founder for bootstrapping startup. Will be one of the executives. Have Idea. Please let me know”.

At first glance, that message might sound like a message with a call for help, and in most days I would have responded with a “Will keep in mind and let you know”, and would certainly have referred to, if I had bumped into someone. Except today, I had the statement that a recent conversation with The Pagal Guy, stuck in my head. His theory is that, Most people are looking for Co-founders in hopes of finding a smart sucker for cheap. He didnt say it in so many words, but that was the idea. And I think he is right.

He is right for a couple of reasons. Even look at the same SMS and If I were to spot a few issues, this would be it.

1. A Bootstrapping startup would have no cash. Hence “Executive” or not, he will have to be paid less. and Travel in Trains, not first class Air.

2. “I have an Idea”. Which means the person to come has no role to play in ideation either, just to execute what was already cooking in the braincells of someone else.

I think those are serious concerns. What one needs in situations like this when you are running a company, and do have an idea is not to go running looking for a “Co-Founder”, but instead rightly look for either a Program or Product Manager. He will appreciate the fact that he is labelled right, and if he starts to take ownership, and the product/idea starts to gain traction, there is all the possibilities in the world to spin it off as a seperate company and figure out how to split the ownership. Everyone wins. But please do spare the world of more want of Co-Founders ๐Ÿ™‚

Note: I am not discounting the fact that Companies with two founders are “apparently” more successful, and a startup is too much for one person. But I also know that an entrepreneur always keeps breaking rules and this rule wont be an exception either. You also have to understand the Sactity of Co-Founding. Co-founding an idea is almost like being in love and birthing a child together. You have to be in absolute one-ness of mind and come up with the idea together to be want to stick together to grow, raise and have the patience for the idea take wings. An adopted father/mother (anyone who joins post the stage of adoption), just might leave sooner than you’d like for them to stay.

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6 Responses to "The Mis-understood Co-Founder."

I’ve noticed this as well. Generally the reason people say ‘co-founder’ is that the person will only be given stock and not paid any cash. Sometimes people come to me and ask me to develop something and say that we cant pay you but we’ll make you a co-founder! IMHO you can be a co-founder only if you have equal say in the direction that the company takes. Otherwise you are only an unpaid employee/contractor.

I know someone who needs to be reading this. I do not have enough understanding to tell him that he might not need a co-founder. Maybe this will set him right..

Absolutely Vijay, this has happened to me on a personal Basis. I once met a guy, who had come for possible outsourcing of work, but ended up offering a “co-founder” role in the firm.As he was not from India, I was supposed to Manage the Operations in India, and he arranged for an Investor. Based on this there was something offered called “stake”, which is an illusion and can be read as you do work and you wont get paid for it,but you hold a stake in the company,which you cannot avail.Now as you rightly said, I had serious problems in carrying out work as I already had my first startup on hand plus it had its own pressures because I was not only responsible for building a product but also for doing registrations, getting water, tea for the staff, training the hired fellows etc etc. 5 Months down the line i resigned from it and came out but was taken for a ride all along and was the misunderstood cofounder

Interesting point made Vijay. What I think is, generally you should have a team in place and then look for ideas. For example, typically you will *know* out of your friends/colleagues who will want to become part of your venture. Then you will know who fit the bill and bring something to table who other members of the team arent.
Once you have such group of people, then you bounce ideas of each other. Evaluate them and take the plunge. I dont think its possible to find a ‘co-founder’ after you have already decided to startup and have done all the ideation etc.

Hi,

I really like the article and would like to add to it. I have just joined SutraHR as a co-founder ๐Ÿ™‚ .

A little insight, Waqar and I share the same ideas and am very much a part of the ideation process.

I believe most people look for a co-founder to handle the parts they can’t handle and that is where it screws up…I believe you should work with a guy who has a different way of looking at your ideas. You should be ready to listen out people who differ from you rather than stick to people who will only nod in confirmation.

I am definitely pushing this article to friends, liked it a lot.

Hi vijay,

You absolutely read my mind. I am looking for a co-founder/coder myself … dont know how and when i will find one !
love the analogy of giving birth to a child together. I guess thats why we should not have more than two co-founders ๐Ÿ˜› ..joking!

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