Questions to ask startup co-founders

First off, thank you to Sandhyashree for the question on my Youtube channel. After watching my video on assigning startup co-founder responsibilities she took a moment to comment and ask me what to look for in a startup co-founders.

It is an important question. Picking the right startup co-founders is critical. Not only is it important for the founder. It is also important to investors since they put a large amount of importance on the team that has to execute the business model. Not the idea.

Fortunately there are a lot of solid recommendations about the types of questions you should ask your potential startup co-founders. I like the following articles and thought I’d share them:

Each of those articles had its own suggestions. But there was some overlap. Instead of having you interrogate a potential co-founder with that many questions (although you should “interrogate” them) I thought I’d share the top eight questions I think you should focus on.

Tell me about yourself?

I believe business is personal. When you are co-founding a startup with another person you are going to be spending a lot of time with them. Make sure to take the time on the front end to learn the type of person they are. Look for hints of issues that you aren’t willing to overlook. Maybe they aren’t able to maintain relationships with the people closest to them. If that is true how do you think your relationship will go?


Why do they want to be part of your startup? Are they as passionate about the pain point and your solution as you are or are they just looking to ride the wave of the latest and greatest idea?

What would our goals be?

Misaligned goals can create problems. If your co-founder is looking to get rich quick and you are in it for the long haul then you will run into challenges. Maybe you just want to create a sustainable lifestyle business while they want to create the next Facebook. Be wary of misalignment.

How many hours a day, days a week, for how many years are you willing to work on this business without looking back?

I learned this question from listening to a gentleman named Eric Worre. He uses these questions to determine if a person is willing to put in the work necessary to succeed or if they are looking to “get rich quick”.

Tell me about your financial position?

This one is personal and can be tough to ask. It can also be tough for people to answer. But you need to ask. Does your co-founder have past financial problems demonstrating they aren’t good with money? How much money do they need per month to survive? Do they have any money to invest the business?

What have you failed at?

Entrepreneurship is all about failing, learning from your failures, and then trying again. If your potential co-founder hasn’t failed then they aren’t trying enough things and they aren’t learning enough.

How would we split responsibilities?

Let me go ahead and give you the answer you should be looking for. Responsibilities should be split based on each person’s strengths. Missing a key strength, like Marketing? Go find another co-founder.

How will we make decisions when we disagree?

It is inevitable that startup co-founders disagree on something. When that happens its easier if you have a process in place for settling those disagreements. For example, you might allow each co-founder to make the final decision based on their responsibilities. If the item up for debate is a Marketing call then the co-founder with the Marketing responsibilities should get break the tie. I do this even with family members in our family-owned businesses. Our operating agreements always address how disagreements will be settled. That way we can always point back to a piece of paper as the rule of law.

Until next time, I hope you find your voice.

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