You need a co-founder to get into a startup accelerator in Tel Aviv. There’s a known bias towards founding teams as opposed to single founders. This issue is well discussed in many forums and I even deal with it in this blog. So if we are looking for a team of co-founders, what should be the ideal equilibrium of the team?

I have spent a lot of time looking into several pair-up events and founder matching groups. There are certain questions that keep popping up in almost every form that I need to fill. One of them, which I never have a good answer for, is “why should a kickass co-founder want to join you?”. Why indeed?

We are now light years away from the era of “great idea is enough”. Gone are the days when you could buy a great domain name and get funded based on a vague promise. We are well into the the era of “have great partners will travel”. This still doesn’t mean I want to have my ass kicked, metaphorically or not. But before we can establish wether or not anybody needs a kickass co-founder, it would be nice to establish exactly what is a kickass co-founder.

Let’s assume that this is someone you want to work with and have an equal partnership with. The “kickass” adjective does not refer to aggression, anger management problems or an involuntary tendency towards jerking one’s foot into another’s arse. It is common sense to assume the term means someone who is highly proficient, dedicated, reliable and a high-achiever. Another assumption I can make, is that this is a rare breed: most people will not qualify to be kickasses, let alone candidates for startup founding.

OK, but is there a domain expertise to this person? Are we talking about someone who is a coder extraudinaire? Or is this person a spreadsheet wizard? Investor pitcher-preacher, or someone who can do almost everything with a high level of performance?

Non of the forms include the question of “do you regard yourself as kickass?”, but I guess, very few will really make such a statement. If anyone does make this statement, I guess that there will be very few who will want to join such a self-professed genius.

Peter Thiel, in his CS Startup course in stanford describes how PayPal rejected an engineer who qualifies as “kickass” simply because he was not a good fit to PayPal’s company culture. The ancient distinction between beggars and choosers is still relevant. When you are a chooser, it is almost always safe to say “no”. The beggar mindset does not allow you to say “no”. you may find yourself paired up with partners who are the wrong fit for you. You may find yourself partnered with a person who is, by any other standard, “a kickass”. This does not mean that you need this kickass in your business.

Posted by Samuel Miller

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