Co-Founder Relationship Advice: Finding the One and Making it Last

February 14, 2014

This Valentine’s Day, entrepreneurs should take a moment to show their appreciation for that other special someone in their life — their co-founders. Here are eleven quotes from experienced founders, sharing their advice on how important it is to find the right match and the keys to maintaining strong co-founder relationships.

While you may not be going on a candlelit dinner with them tonight, calling your relationship with your co-founder simply professional likely doesn’t do it credit. As Paul Graham put it, “Several people [use] that word ‘married.’ It’s a far more intense relationship than you usually see between coworkers — partly because the stresses are so much greater, and partly because at first the founders are the whole company. So this relationship has to be built of top quality materials and carefully maintained. It’s the basis of everything.”
With that said, here are 11 quotes from founders and entrepreneurs that emphasize the importance of that all-important partnership, and offer their advice from finding “the one” to making it work throughout various stages of your company’s growth. 

Finding the One

“Make sure that the people around you don’t think, look, and act like you, because you want them to ask different questions. For me, that’s the start of finding a co-founder. You need to get someone who’s super smart, but very unlike you.”

— Douglas Merrill, former Google CIO and Co-founder of ZestFinance

“If it doesn’t feel right, keep looking. If you’re compromising, keep looking. A company’s DNA is set by the founders, and its culture is an extension of the founders’ personalities.”

— Naval Ravikant, Co-founder of Epinions, AngelList, and Vast

“You want to look for someone who shares your values but has a complementary personality. Honestly, advice about how to ‘find a co-founder’ is sort of like telling you how to ‘find a husband.’”

— Christina Wallace, Director of Startup Institute New York

“I love to ask people, ‘Who’s the smartest person you ever met? The most creative person? The fastest?’ Someone might say, ‘This guy I met in Ohio 10 years ago, but I think he moved overseas.’ I’ll track him down.

— Paul English, CEO and Co-founder at Blade Network

The Dating Game

“Work on a short-term, test project together. Go to a startup weekend with someone, attend a hackathon, or just work on something simple for a week (hell, try to build a desk together… I don’t really care). Just actually try out working together.”

— Eric Koester, Co-Founder and COO of the Main Street Genome

Making the Entrepreneurial Relationship Work

“We developed a set of ‘mantras,’ or decision filters, that stated our agreed upon strategy for approaching issues. It allows us to properly weigh the pros and cons in a formulaic and less emotional fashion.”

— Mariquel Waingarten, Co-founder of HICKIES

“One thing to note is that your partner’s duties will change over time, so on a monthly if not weekly basis you should check with him or her to make sure that you know what each person is doing.”

— Neil Patel, Co-founder of Crazy Egg, Hello Bar and KISSmetrics

Breaking Up is Hard to Do

“One of the most eye-opening and painful parts of growing is letting people go that you brought on early. It’s unbelievably important because ultimately your staff and the people you surround yourself with have got to be high quality, high competent experts at the stage you are entering.”

— Steve Shoaff, Founder & CEO at UnboundID

“I’ve done it twice now. The first one was really hard. But an advisor told me, ‘It’s not going to be your last fire. You have to do these things and make tough decisions for your company.’ It was a good learning experience.”

­– Akshay Kothari, Product Manager at Pulse

Keeping the Flame Alive

“It’s not easy when you have disagreements, but we’ve worked a lot on the foundation to be prepared for those times. Setting up boundaries and game rules ahead of time and then practicing them creates success.”

— Julia Hartz, Co-Founder and President at Eventbrite

“A lot of founders [are] surprised how important persistence was in startups…both by the degree of persistence required and also by the degree to which persistence alone was able to dissolve obstacles.”

— Paul Graham, Co-founder at Y Combinator

Have a quote about co-founder relationships you want to share? Add it to the comments section and share it with us on Twitter (@openview_labs) using the hashtag #cofoundervalentine. We’ll be re-tweeting our favorites!
Images:  Brian @ HKG,  E V PetersWisconsinKowFeeBeeDeePawel PacholecJackie
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Josh is a Content Marketer at <a href="">Ambassador</a> which gives marketers the tools they need to grow customer relationships and drive revenue through word-of-mouth, referrals, and recommendations. Previously, he was an Account Executive at CBS, Inc.