Picking a Startup Co-Founder - Shayan Zadeh


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How to pick a co-founder for your startup by Shayan Zadeh. Zadeh is the co-founder, ceo of Zoosk. A dating application of Facebook with 8 million monthly users. He gave this presentation at StartupDay 2010.

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Picking a Startup Co-Founder - Shayan Zadeh

  1. 1. Co-Founders and Advisors <ul><li>Shayan Zadeh </li></ul><ul><li>@shayang </li></ul>
  2. 2. Do I need a Co-Founder?
  3. 3. Startup life: what is it like? <ul><li>It’s a challenging life </li></ul><ul><ul><li>A startup by definition is working against odds </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Chances of success are very low </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Requires personal and professional sacrifices </li></ul></ul><ul><li>It takes a while </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Building a successful business usually takes 5-10 years </li></ul></ul><ul><li>It has many many ups and downs </li></ul><ul><ul><li>You better like roller-coasters </li></ul></ul>
  4. 4. Startup life: what is it like? Want to be in a pressure cooker for 5-10 years by yourself?
  5. 5. How does a Co-Founder help? <ul><li>Shoulders part of the work </li></ul><ul><li>Supports you emotionally </li></ul><ul><li>Helps you not give up </li></ul><ul><li>Keeps you honest </li></ul><ul><li>Complements your skills (hopefully) </li></ul><ul><li>Is your “safe” sounding board </li></ul>
  6. 6. How many Co-Founders? <ul><li>First choice: two founders </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Easier to split responsibilities </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Each have enough skin in the game </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Second choice: three or four founders </li></ul><ul><ul><li>More than two humans means politics! </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>More work can theoretically be done </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Third choice: single founder </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Very lonely </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Clear company vision </li></ul></ul>
  7. 7. What am I looking for? <ul><li>Honesty and Fairness </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Would you trust them with your future? </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Capability </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Can they add value to the business? </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Commitment </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Can they run with you for 5-10 years? </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Persistence </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Will they give up when the going gets rough? </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Motivation alignment </li></ul><ul><ul><li>What is driving them? </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Chemistry </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Can you stand spending 70% of your awake time with them for the next 5 years? </li></ul></ul>
  8. 8. Where do I look? <ul><li>You MUST have a history with them </li></ul><ul><li>Best places to find Co-Founders </li></ul><ul><ul><li>College & Grad School </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Colleagues at startups </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Colleagues at HOT larger companies </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Family is not recommended* </li></ul><ul><li>What about close friends? </li></ul>
  9. 9. Found them. What now? <ul><li>Decide on equity divide </li></ul><ul><li>Vest the equity over time </li></ul><ul><li>Agree on mechanics to part ways </li></ul><ul><li>Write the agreement down </li></ul><ul><li>GET TO WORK! </li></ul>
  10. 10. Do I need advisors?
  11. 11. Types of Advisors <ul><li>Main-Function Advisors </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Product / Strategy Advisor </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Marketing / Sales Advisor </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Startup Life Advisor </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Support-Function Advisors </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Finance Advisor  CFO </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Legal Advisor  General Counsel </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Rolodex Advisor </li></ul></ul>
  12. 12. When & Which Type? <ul><li>Decided by </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Company stage </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Your weak areas </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Business needs </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Changes over time </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Track your business need changes </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Adjust your advisory team accordingly </li></ul></ul>
  13. 13. Advisors need to be managed <ul><li>Finding them is just like any other recruitment </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Find the right candidates </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Sell them on the company (or you) </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Know their motivations (best is ‘I want to help you’) </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Compensate them </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Somewhere between 0.25% to 2% equity </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Vest it over time (2-4 years) </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Manage them </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Set expectations of contribution (hours a month, etc) </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>If not delivered (or needs change) terminate the relationship </li></ul></ul>
  14. 14. Questions? <ul><li>Few resources </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Interview: How to pick a co-founder http:// venturehacks.com/articles/co-founder-interview </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Noam Wasserman's &quot;Founder Frustrations&quot; blog http://founderresearch.blogspot.com / </li></ul></ul><ul><li>I will be at Table #26 (1:30, 1:50, 2:10) of the advisory room </li></ul><ul><li>You can reach me at [email_address] or @shayang </li></ul>