You have a business idea. Do you really need a co-founder to make it successful?
The answer: No. Well, maybe.
First of all, a co-founder is different than a team member. Team members can be working with you from the beginning, can share in decision-making processes, and might even hold some equity in your developing company. They can provide you with tactical and strategic help without jeopardizing your leadership (or ownership) in the company. A co-founder, however, is someone who shares equal or near-equal authority, ownership, and risk in the company as you, and therefore also shares credit for whatever successes and failures may come.
Having a co-founder is by no means a prerequisite to be a successful entrepreneur. There are countless examples of ambitious entrepreneurs who have struck out on their own and succeeded (eBay, Alibaba, Tumblr, and RetailMeNot are among them). However, venturing out on your own can be daunting. There will be decisions to make, questions to answer, and obstacles to overcome that all would undoubtedly be easier with someone to share the opinion (and the risk).
If you’re struggling with the question of whether to add a co-founding member to your company or not, here are a few things to consider.
You might want to bring on a co-founder if:
You might not need a co-founder if:
In summary, you should know that adding co-founders can have serious implications. Many companies have met fateful and messy ends because of co-founder relationships gone bad. Joining forces with a co-founder is a little bit like getting married–just because the future looks exciting doesn’t mean you should rush into things.
On the other hand, co-founders do often become vital members of a team, not only accelerating the progress of a startup, but adding unique value and personality that only they can contribute. Many of today’s most notable companies are the result of strong co-founder relationships.
If you’re convinced that you’re ready, maybe try some co-founder “dating” before you drop to one knee and propose.
Ethan Adams is Manager of Startup Development at Future Founders.
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