What to look for when searching for your next great cofounder

The following are paraphrases and reflections collected from two of the Blitzscaling talks, lecture-interviews by Greylock featuring Brian Chesky (Airbnb) and Patrick Collison (Stripe)

These are some points that can be helpful for founders to know what kind of role can be good for cofounders.

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

Brian was asked about cofounders, how to select cofounders, pre-history of his story with his cofounders. [A student asks Brian Chesky about how to select founders]

While Brian believes he was lucky, and that he is not the right person to know how to pick cofounders; yet he provided us with a great advice about the lucky people that allowed him to learn:

The few things about cofounders

  • Mentality: the cofounder should be better than you (or equal);
  • You work with people that you trust and admire;
  • That are better than you;
  • That challenge you;
  • The reasoning is that, by being around people better than you, you will learn with them;
  • Get people that you trust and like because you will be around them a lot, such as 14, 16 hours a day and 7 days a week;

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 https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=W608u6sBFpo

Don’t let it fade — the immersive cofounder experience of 4 monthes at at YCombinator

Draft: “Note would move from Boston to San Francisco; 8 to midnight 7 days a week; In that dedication for 3 months, not doing other thing and being totally focused.”.

(Brian Chesky @ Greylock, 2015, 0:21:32)

Disagreements will happen (feat. Patrick Collison)

This section was crafted with experience from Patrick Collison (Stripe.com) and his reflections about the behaviors and interactions among cofounders.

And so you look at most companies, right? And sort of there’s some schism or disagreement or whatever that kind of proves insurmountable. (Patrick Collison, 2015, 9:30)

Important to note is that Patrick cofounded Stripe with his brother, and the company does well, therefore signs shows that they go along well, not meaning they never had disagreements.

And I think that sort of having a really strong kind of foundational relationship there, you know; a philial relationship is, I guess, one version of that, but even if not that, I think the case is for, sort of, you know the person for upwards of a decade, that those in general seem to fare much better. (Patrick Collison, 2015, 9:38)

The notion of knowing the other, for a period such as a decade, is also presented at the Blitzscaling 18 talk with Brian Chesky.

And so, in that sense, I think it’s been basically really helpful where we
kind of have the kind of relationship where there’s kind of no difficulty in telling the other person that you’re really screwing this up, right? or this is like completely broken or whatever the case might be, because it’s a given that those sort of situations are going to arise. (Patrick Collison, 2015, 9:56)

Patrick Collison @ Greylock. (November 4, 2015). Blitzscaling 11: Patrick Collison on Hiring at Stripe and the Role of a Product-Focused CEO [video]. Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qrDZhAxpKrQ


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