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Page and Brin. Jobs and Wozniak. Hewlett and Packard. Famous co-founders, striking stories. What are the pitfalls for co-founders? Where can things go wrong?

Suggested Readings

Founders School || Founder's Dilemmas || Relationships || Impact Guide (PDF).

Wasserman, Noam. The Founder’s Dilemmas: Anticipating and Avoiding the Pitfalls That Can Sink a Startup. Princeton, New Jersey: Princeton University Press, 2012. Chapters 3 and 4.

Blumenthal, Neil. "3 Steps to Co-founding a Company". The Wall Street Journal, July 24, 2013.

Livingston, Jessica. Founders at Work: Stories of Startups’ Early Days. Berkeley, CA: Apress, 2007.

Wasserman, Noam T. "Apple's Core". Harvard Business School Case 809-063, October 2008. (Revised February 2011.)

Wasserman, Noam. "Smartix: Swinging for the Fences". Harvard Business School Case 808-116, January 2008. (Revised December 2012.)

Wasserman, Noam T., and Rachel Gordon. "Playing With Fire at Sittercity (A)". Harvard Business School Case 809-009, January 2009. (Revised December 2009.)

Wasserman, Noam. "Ockham Technologies (A): Building the Team". Harvard Business School Case 812-021, August 2011.

Hirshberg, M. "For Better or for Work: Survival Guide for Entrepreneurs and Their Families", An Inc Original. Chapter 3. 2012.

Watch the real-life grind, hustle, and payoff.

Discussion of the Week: The Pros and Cons of Co-Founders

Questions for You

How well do I know the people that I am founding with? Do I know what they’re like in a social context but not in a business context? What conversations are we having to learn about each other’s visions, working styles, peeves, strengths, weaknesses etc.?

Have I made the “easy” choice to found with someone I already know, at the expense of choosing someone who is very similar to me instead of someone whose strengths compliment mine? How do I know that I will work well with the other members of my team?

What relationships am I risking as I build my team? Are these relationships ones that I can afford to imperil? What conversations am I having with those individuals to limit potential damage to the relationships when there are bumps in the road?

What role interests me? Do I agree with the role that is being assigned to me? Does it align with my strengths? As we grow, how do I envision my role changing?

Questions for Your Team

How well do we co-founders and/or team members know each other’s professional abilities and styles?

How can we learn more about each other and maintain open communication as we head into founding?

What are the things we have a hard time talking about? Can we constructively discuss them now? How will we keep tabs on these issues so that they don’t fester?

Are we clear about our roles? Is there any overlap between people? If so, what are we doing to prevent friction from arising? What are our plans for separating the areas of overlap as we grow?

Is it possible to configure the reporting structures so that friends and family are not reporting to one another?

Do we have a “disaster plan” that acknowledges the worst-case scenarios that could result within our team? Have we designated someone to have the final say in an impasse? Have we had frank conversations about what might happen if one of us isn’t scaling well or has to drop out of the venture?

Tools and Exercises

Evaluate: how are our team members similar?

What assumptions are you making about the skills of your friends?

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