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Qualities to Look for in a Co-Founder
September 10, 2014

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Courtesy of U.S. Embassy Ghana

What is the Number 1 quality you should you look for in a startup co-founder and why?

Passion for the Venture – Kelly Azevedo of She’s Got Systems, a business consultancy:

“Passion is not something that can be manufactured. It takes a lot of dedication to push past the mistakes and pivots necessary in a new company. Without passion for the business, it is easy to lose sight of your goals. … If you feel that your partner has lost interest and is already looking for another business or challenge, then it can sink the company even faster.”

Complementary Skill Sets – Tim Jahn of matchist, which connects companies to computer program developers:

“Look for somebody who likes to do what you don’t and is really good at what you’re not. You want a co-founder who brings everything you’re missing to the table, so as a team you’re the complete package. … You want to make sure all the important skill sets are there between the two of you.”

Comfort with Conflict – Mitch Gordon of Go Overseas, which organizes international study, teaching and internship programs:

“Startups require a flexible, creative, open-minded team. A company that succeeds without pivoting multiple times is the exception that proves the rule. When looking for a co-founder, pay very close attention to how he [or she] handles conflict. Disagreements are necessary. You have to create an environment where experimentation is encouraged and failure isn’t necessarily looked down upon. Conflict is an opportunity.”

Vision – Jeff Slobotski of Silicon Prairie News, an online publication that reports on companies in the middle of America:

“If the co-founder has the ability to see well into the future while executing against the day-to-day objectives, the business has a strong chance of not only succeeding, but [of] scaling exponentially.”

Friendship – Wade Foster of Zapier, an online service that helps people move data among computer applications:

“You wouldn’t be friends with someone who doesn’t share similar interests. Friends are the family you choose. The best part about being friends is that you’ll stick through the rough patches. When business gets rough, and it will, your startup isn’t the only thing holding your business together — you have a friendship to fall back on. There are lots of other important qualities, but friendship is Number 1.”

Credibility – Robby Hill of HillSouth, an information technology consultancy:

“A co-founder has to believe in the vision enough to be able to sacrifice everything for the sake of achieving success. Your co-founder must realize this job is more than a paycheck — in both the risk and the rewards that are available. Make sure this quality is tested before bringing him or her onto the team.”

Trusthworthiness – Kelsey Meyer of Influence & Co., a public relations firm:

“The Number 1 quality you should look for in a co-founder is someone you can trust. Even if a co-founder messes up now and then, if you have ultimate trust, you will always be able to fix it.”

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Adapted from an online article published by the Young Entrepreneur Council (YEC). YEC is an invite-only organization composed of promising young entrepreneurs. In partnership with Citi, YEC recently launched StartupCollective, a free virtual mentorship program that helps millions of entrepreneurs start and grow businesses.

The views and opinions expressed here belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect those of the YALI Network or the U.S. government. YALI Voices is a series of podcasts, videos and blog posts contributed by members of the YALI Network.