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Co-founders: Who should be on your team? | The Early Stages Podcast S02E02

Building a company takes time, so finding the right long-term co-founder is crucial and must be done consciously. So how do you do it? In the latest episode of The Early Stages Podcast by APX, host Søren talks to his guests about shared values and enthusiasm — and why founders can learn a thing or two from Love Island.

In the second episode of the season, Søren is joined by Jörg Rheinboldt, Managing Director at APX, as co-host. Their guests are Ivan Tan, co-founder of Humant Life, and Darren Murphy, Associate Director at Antler.

Networking can be difficult since there are many people who don’t share the same interests and values. Antler, a global VC enabling and investing in the very early stages of start-ups, is trying to solve this problem. Darren Murphy, Associate Director in the UK, is responsible for a 7-to-10-week-long event where co-founders meet and may get their first investment. That’s where Ivan Tan met Niro Thavarajah and started Humant Life — a marketplace library for creatives and publishers to discover and license influencer stock content.

“The first weeks at the cohort are about yourself and everyone else,” says Darren. “You check their CVs and talk to them to see if they are credible or not for the start-up concept of leadership.” According to him, some of the most important questions are: Have you failed yet? What have you learned from that? Did the people you led actually enjoy it and seek your mentorship? “Other people’s recommendations are always better than your own judgment in isolation,” says Darren.

This is important to build a perfect team. “Start-ups are about humans, their relationships, their qualities — and together, they can found something that is even better than the sum of the individuals,” says Jörg Rheinboldt. The older the company, the more important becomes the team over the individual. Warren Buffet once said that he would only want to invest in companies that can be run by monkeys — in Jörg’s opinion, start-ups are the complete opposite.

How did Ivan find his partner to found his company? He didn’t want to get stuck in a 9 to 5 and sought the fresh wind of the Antler cohort in Summer 2021. “It is almost like Love Island,” he says. “You go on a lot of dates with potential co-founders and try to find the partner for a lifetime relationship.” According to him, it is essential to get to know them professionally and personally and to think in the long term. “Building a start-up is a long road of 5 to 10 years — so make sure that you bond with your co-founder.” In Ivan’s opinion, shared enthusiasm is important because it filters down through the entire company.

Jörg agrees. “Sharing a vision and a common set of values is essential, regardless if they are good or bad,” he says and recommends spending an evening with a co-founder discussing virtues. “Consider questions like: Do we want to be fair or correct? And what that question actually means.” This is why the Antler cohort does a deep dive into personal values. Darren often asks people what they want to achieve. “Most of them want to make an impact. But what does that imply? We have to get past those platitudes.”

However, it is not only important to share a set of values. “If the team is bigger than two people, there can be instances where it is interesting to have some contrasts in values because it can give you more optionality when it comes to difficult decisions,” says Darren. Another important aspect: Values change as we get older. “This is why my co-founder and I try to check into them once a month,” Ivan explains. “You have to have the mental agility to think on your feet. That doesn’t mean that you can’t make mistakes — you can only learn from your failures.” Overcoming preconceptions about gender, experience, age, culture et cetera play a big role here. Otherwise, good ideas fail because of teams that don’t know who they are.

Listen to the full episode for more insights, and subscribe to our podcast series on your preferred podcast platform to receive a new episode every other week. If you have feedback or topic ideas, send an email to soren@apx.vc or comment on the episode via our social media channels. We hope you enjoy it!

Our podcast series “The Early Stages” discusses all the relevant questions for your “Startup-Journey” in 24 episodes. We touch on topics like hiring a team or brand building, fundraising and leadership. In each episode, host Søren comes together with founders and an APX expert to discuss one stage the process of building a company, sharing their personal experiences, learnings, and advice for other up-and-coming entrepreneurs.

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Europe’s leading earliest stage VC. Based in Berlin and backed by Axel Springer and Porsche, we support the most ambitious pre-seed startups. APX.vc.

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