Delving into Co-Founder Relationships: Part #1

Rotem Kazir
Founder & Investor Coach

Rotem and I, two Executive Coaches who work with founders and investors, sat down for a heart-to-heart conversation in two parts about what really happens within founder teams, so you know that you are not alone and that you get tools to deal with a variety of situations.

Types of Co-Founder Teams

In my work and experience with startups, I've identified three main types of founding teams:

  1. A strong CEO with a clear vision, and co-founders who cooperate and give them space to lead.
  2. An equal co-founder team - similar backgrounds and experience levels, democratic decision making.
  3. A strong CEO with a clear vision, and a co-founder(s) who doesn't cooperate or accept their authority as CEO.

"After the honeymoon phase when everything's great, in real life - if it's not very clear why they're the CEO and you're the co-founder, as important and significant as you may be, it causes problems"

shares Rotem.

Of course each team will find its own way, and may not fit one definition exactly, but it's important to look at the big picture to anticipate challenges and advantages that may come up, and know how to approach them. And it starts with knowing ourselves: our personality traits, our 'why', the values that drive us and our strengths.

The Basis for Healthy Co-Founder Relationships: Trust, Respect and Good Communication.

Whether or not co-founders have a long shared history, what will ultimately determine the future of the partnership is how they communicate.

A known research about the importance of communication is Dr. John Gottman’s research on 4 negative communication patterns that can predict with 90% accuracy whether couples will stay together or separate. The four negative patterns are criticism, contempt, defensiveness and stonewalling. Too much of any of them means the relationship likely won't survive.

Being co-founders is very similar to a romantic relationship - both of us (or more) are part of something bigger we're committed to, that depends on our ability to support each other and work together towards a shared vision.

Therefore, from the early stages we need to lay the roots for proper communication between us.

Stay tuned for part 2.

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