Questions to ask a prospective co-founder


I’ve written three posts about co-founders: Starting with a co-founder,  Why cofounding a startup is like marriage!  and How to find a technical co-founder, but I was glad to be informed about a very useful article by my MIT Sandbox fellow: 34 Questions to Ask a Potential Co-Founder  on the Founder Institute site, as co-founders is both a common and complex issue. The list of questions was put together by , Jessica Alter (co-founder of FounderDating and Entrepreneur In Residence at Social Capital LP).

The list is broken into four categories: Personalities and Incentives, Personal Priorities,Working Styles and Culture, and Roles and Responsibilities. These are great questions and I strongly recommend you use them as a reference.

The key concept in choosing a cofounder is alignment. If you are you and your prospective co-founder are not aligned with respect to values and goals for the venture then the answers to the rest of the question don’t really matter.

And, as I’ve written elsewhere, the best way to get to know someone is by doing something with them, something that can cause frustration, irritation, loss of patience, lack of grace, and other undesirable outcomes. Play a sport, like basketball; play a game, like chess; travel together to a conference or trade show. You will learn a lot about how your prospective co-founder acts and re-acts. You are looking for someone who has grace under pressure; can handle frustrating events calmly; is highly competitive; bends, but does not break the rules; and can solve problems – which is why traveling together is such a good test as traveling usually presents frustrating and irritating problems.

You can even kill two birds with one stone by asking some of these questions on your trip to  your conference or trade show.

One trait you need as a founder of a new venture is ability to observe and correlate observational data with other information. You will need to spend a lot of time observing the senior management team, employees, board members, partners – all stakeholders in the venture, as not all important information is as explicit as answering direct questions. There are many helpful articles about becoming a good observer on the web. You can start with How to Be a Good Observer on WikiHow.



Author: Mentorphile

Mentor, coach, and advisor to entrepreneurs, small businesses, and non-profit organizations. General manager with significant experience in both for-profit and non-profit organizations. Focus on media and information. On founding team of four venture-backed companies. Currently Chairman of Popsleuth, Inc., maker of the Endorfyn app for keeping fans updated on new stuff from their favorite artists.

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