Founder

How committed are you?

Commitment Stage

  1. Committed and balanced co-founding team with shared vision and attitude.
  2. Able to develop the product or service (Minimum Viable Product) without dependency of uncommitted external resources, or already have initial product or service in place.
  3. Shareholder agreement signed between co-founders, including milestones, committed time and money use, for minimum 3 years with vesting terms.

Consider

  1. History: Founders should share a prehistory before they start a company together (synergy that’s strong enough to withstand, and work through the challenges and difficulties that come ~Peter Thiel).
  1. Ability: For some, technical ability matters more. In T. Tunguz’s research of successful startups; 70% had at least one technical co-founder, while 40% were composed exclusively of engineers.
  1. Number: Amazon’s CEO Jeff Bezos, refers to the ‘two-pizza team’. If you can’t feed a team with two pizzas, it’s too large.  Although it’s generally important to have another person who shares your vision, can help make difficult decisions, and is able to execute a different piece of whatever is being created.
  1. Having a Why: The purpose should be dis-tillable into a sentence or two (common goal). When times get difficult, a higher purpose serves as motivation to continue (level of grit that will keep the startup alive).
  1. Incentives: Ownership is the reward for creating its success (create a logical division of equity).
  1. Execution: Founders should be able to demonstrate a level of accomplishment (product built etc.). 
  1. Versatility: Flexible founding teams are invaluable (change of plans, pivot to new ideas, and roles etc.).

‘One of the first steps in the analysis of a startup is a close, deep look at the founding team.’

 Source: Peter Thiel

James Bond (3:00)

Sam Altman

You need relentlessly resourceful co-founders.

NOTE: video starts & stops at pre-assigned times

Team Culture (4:00)

Kate Mitchell

The mindset needed to scale your startup?

NOTE: video starts & stops at pre-assigned times

Gauging Commitment

  1. Will this be the primary activity for you/them (co-founder conflict can stem from misunderstandings around how committed everyone is)?
  2. What are your/their personal goals for the startup (helpful to get a sense of what each of the founders wants to get from the company)?
  3. Will any of you be investing cash in the company?  If so, how is this treated?   
  4. What part of the plan are you each unwilling to change (elements of the plan that you/they don’t want to change)?
  5. What will you pay yourselves?  Who controls pay?  Risk tolerance varies by individual, and it is a good idea to factor this into determining the commitment.
  6. Can any of you be fired?  By whom?  For what reasons? The startup should have a mechanism for gracefully terminating the operating role of a co-founder.
  7. In one or two sentences talk about the most impressive thing (other than this startup), that you/they have built or achieved.
  8. Do you/they have other commitments in the future, and if so what?
  9. Do you/they demonstrate clarity of thought and communication.
  10. Do you/they see hidden potential in the other person, or detect ambition over ability.
  11. Do you/they demonstrate personal integrity and commitment (stand for something meaningful, rather than being motivated by narrow personal interests)?
  12. Are you/they able to admit when they have made a mistake (vs. acting like they are always right), and you/they have the humility to receive critical feedback openly, and exhibit scope to improve?
  13. Do you/they avoid behaviors like; favoritism, conflicts of interest, inappropriate language, inappropriate work relationships, etc. (erode trust)?
  14. Is your/their work the core life mission, and do you/they derive deep personal meaning and fulfillment from leading people to achieve a mission?
  15. Does your/their personal commitment translates into high levels of personal productivity and execution?
  16. How do you/they rate each others level of commitment to your job?
  17. How do you rate the level of commitment of your/their direct reports (people who have work for them)?
  18. What other people feel about what motivates you/them (employees, friends)?
  19. How would you describe the level of personal commitment that the other person shows to the mission of the company?
  20. Have you/they seen examples of lack of commitment from the other (or from other employees)?
Source: A. Rowghani (Y Combinator)

ACTIVITY

Commitment Checklist

Based on the 20 items listed above, now complete a ‘Commitment Checklist’ for each member of founding team (and other critical participants).

Complete Checklist Now!

Effort

There are millions of people in the world who have good ideas however; executing well is all that really matters.

Setting the execution bar high from the beginning is an essential responsibility of the CEO and founder (founders). Deciding to start a startup and becoming a founder is in fact a commitment to years of work and execution. You can’t outsource that!

Execution can be divided into two critical elements;

  1. Figuring out what to do.
  2. Asking: Are you – the startup – capable of getting that job done?

Focus is also essential. A great question to ask yourself frequently is ‘what are you spending your time on, and what are the 2-3 most important things you are doing?’. If you can’t answer that question precisely, you are in trouble.

Saying NO 97 times out of 100 is a recipe for successful execution.

Source: Sam Altman

Execution (6:00)

Sam Altman

Execution is not ‘the most fun part’ of starting a company.

NOTE: video starts & stops at pre-assigned times

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