Cofounders relationships: prior to founding, complimentary roles (feat. Brian Chesky )

The following are paraphrases from the Blitzscaling 18, a lecture-interview by Greylock featuring Brian Chesky (Airbnb).

Brian was asked about cofounders, how to select cofounders, pre-history of his story with his cofounders.

The recognition that his case is special, not exactly he dug for cofounders

- Yeah, I kinda got really lucky. If I wrote a book about how to start a company, I think the one part I wouldn’t be helpful with is how to pick co-founders, because I got really lucky, that part kinda fell in my lap. (Brian Chesky @ Greylock, 2015, 1:23:00)
So, I’m not the best, I did not go through the struggle of having to find co-founders, so I can’t tell you a long journey about how you do it. (Brian Chesky @ Greylock, 2015, 1:24:36)

The recognition of trust and long time efficiency for working alongside

I went to RISD with Joe and I was friends with him for seven years. It’s now 15. But I was friends with him for seven years before I started the company with him and he was kind of like a best friend of mine or one of my best friends. (Brian Chesky @ Greylock, 2015, 1:24:00)
And the other thing is, you have to have people that you deeply trust and like. You’re gonna be around these people for 12 hours a day, 14 hours a day, 16 hours a day. (Brian Chesky @ Greylock, 2015, 1:25:28)
If you’re kind of annoyed by them after 4 hours, you’re gonna be annoyed by them after month seven, 24/7. You’re gonna really not be able to stand them. (Brian Chesky @ Greylock, 2015, 1:25:36)
So you need people that you like, that you trust, and that you admire. And ideally you have a long history with them. (Brian Chesky @ Greylock, 2015, 1:25:44)

The potential evidence for warm introduction and trust

Additional note: Nate was known to Joe Gebbia, Brian’s cofounder. And there might be a lot about Nate and Joe somewhere. Please patch this. [01308D9239E38F4F69073B6B0491C37DAD9B6A96]

And then my other co-founder, Nate. He kind of, I didn’t know him, and so, that was a little more of a happenstance. So, it was kind of luck, and I had an intuition he was a great engineer, and I could tell by the things he built he was pretty extraordinary, but there was a element of luck involved with Nate. (Brian Chesky @ Greylock, 2015, 1:24:16)
I had a long history with one of the two, but I think Nate, who I didn’t have a long history with, proves you don’t have to have been friends with them for seven years for it to work. (Brian Chesky @ Greylock, 2015, 1:25:50)
And I generally find complimentary skills rather than overlapping skills works. Now, Joe and I appear to be the same people on paper, at least our origins, but we ended up having, frankly, very different personalities and skills, as it turned out. And, Nate is totally our opposite in many ways.(Brian Chesky @ Greylock, 2015, 1:25:58)

Find people that you admire and are better than you

I can say a few things though. The first thing I would say is, you should — a few thing about co-founders. Number one, I think the mentality should be, your co-founders should be better than you. (Brian Chesky @ Greylock, 2015, 1:24:46)
I think you should try to find people you admire that are better than you, that challenge you. (Brian Chesky @ Greylock, 2015, 1:25:20)
The mentality is, if they’re better than you, then you will rise to the occasion and become better ’cause you’re around them. (Brian Chesky @ Greylock, 2015, 1:25:24)

Not exactly cofounders

If they’re not better than you, you should at least feel like they’re equal. And I see a lot of people who find co-founders who they kinda consciously know aren’t their equals, and they’re not really co-founders, they become proxy early employees that can’t scale. (Brian Chesky @ Greylock, 2015, 1:24:56)
And when they can’t scale, they get super disenfranchised and they’re not useful and they’re not able to contribute. And I think sometimes people do it ’cause they’re lazy or out of insecurity, they don’t want an equal in the company ’cause it might be a power struggle. (Brian Chesky @ Greylock, 2015, 1:25:12)

Brian Chesky @ Greylock. (2015, November 30), Blitzscaling 18: Brian Chesky on Launching Airbnb and the Challenges of Scale. Retrieved from


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