Building the founding team – finding co-founders

The success of failure of a startup is largely dependent on the quality of the founding team. Most investors would therefore make their decisions on investing depending on how confident they are about the team implementing the idea well.


Size of the founding team

While there is no ideal size of a founding team, 2 -3 founders is generally considered to be a good number for a variety of reasons.

Well, starting a venture on your own without a founding team is certainly possible. But it sure does get lonely. You need someone to give you company, especially during the stressful times which all startups will go through in some stage of their journey.

On the other hand, having more than 4 founders can often lead to chaos and overlap of competencies. [Though there are great examples of companies like Infosys which had 7 co-founders.]


Composition of a founding team

The ideal composition of a founding team is when the founders bring complementary skills to the venture. E.g. someone from marketing/brand management, someone from technology and someone from operations management/procurement will make an ideal founding team for an B2C e-commerce startup.

In my view, it is critical to find co-founders who have the same passion for the concept, and ideally who come from the same socio-economic background. This is necessary because when the startup is going through challenging times, it is most tempting with someone who is less passionate about the subject to step out. Also, if the founders come from different socio-economic background, the challenging times can be quite stressful too. Someone from a wealthy background my quit because the challenge is not worth the effort, and the returns. On the other hand, someone who is financially challenged may not have the ability to continue in a resource-constrained mode for longer than originally planned.


Founding Team members are different from founders

Remember, not everyone who joins at the beginning of your journey needs to be a founder. They can be called ‘Founding Team Member’, and it does carry some weight in a person’s profile.

Founding team members are often the ones who are willing to take a bet with you, and hence expect to be rewarded with some equity so that they also get to benefit from the upside when the startup succeeds. Often founding team members are the ones who would are passionate about the domain, or some folks you know and who join you because of their belief in you as a person and as a professional. Founding team members are special and need to be treated as such. They are the ones who help you define the culture, and to the external world, the personality of the organization.

Be very selective about whom you involve as part of the ‘founding team’ and who are just early employees. My suggestion is that only when you are confident that someone is as passionate about the opportunity as you are should you give the person the status of ‘founding team member’.

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