Someone asked me an interesting question recently - what is the right number of founders in a startup? Most of us only have the agony or ecstasy of a few startups so this an important question to consider early on. Like all seemingly straightforward questions, the answer is complex.Having been through multiple startups (good and bad) here's my take:
|One Founder||Good for lifestyle business, keep more equity but hard to find examples of scale.||Can be egocentric, blind spots, a lonely place.|
|Two Founders||Good if there's trust. Maybe a product builder and a product seller.||Breaking up is hard if one co-founder can't go all the way.|
|Three Founders||Broader set of skills at early stage when there's lots of work to do.||Three can be a crowd for tough decisions.|
|More Than Three Founders||Good for post work sports teams!||Too hard to get decisions. Too little equity for the 7 - 10 year journey to keep good people incentivised.|
So how can you make your startup succeed? Test your co-founders hard during the dating phase, as post divorce founders remorse is ugly. Ensure all co-founders are honest with each other about: what they truly like doing? what are they good at? what/who they know? whether their ambition is to be rich or run the show?
In summary - no surprise, there is no simple answer. But here's some final words of wisdom based on my hard won experience:
- For single founders: get an experienced mentor early
- For two/ three co-founders: get a shareholder agreement signed that also addresses what happens when one co-founder leaves
- For more than three co-founders: forget it!