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Updated by Shyam Subramanyan on Mar 15, 2018
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George Igor George Igor
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Nick Kellet Nick Kellet
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Questions to ask Potential Cofounders. The Master List

"We often get asked what cofounders should look for or ask each other. We combined our knowledge with insight from our community to create a master list of questions to ask potential cofounders" - Reproduced with permission from the Founder Dating Blog

Source: http://founderdating.com/questions-to-ask-potential-cofounders/

1

Why do you want to start a company?

Why do you want to start a company?

in general and in particular, why right now?

2

What motivates you?

What motivates you?

e.g. a technical challenge, an overall problem, helping the world, etc.

3

What do you do with your free time?

What do you do with your free time?

e.g. how do you unwind? How do you deal with stress and big challenges?

4

What do you think I’d be most surprised to find out about you?

What do you think I’d be most surprised to find out about you?
5

What are our respective personal goals for the startup?

What are our respective personal goals for the startup?

e.g. a sustainable business that is spinning off cash and running it forever or high growth and some type of liquidity event?

6

Will this be the primary activity for each of us?

Will this be the primary activity for each of us?

What is the expected time commitment (now, in 6 months, 2 years, etc.)?

Are we allowed to take on anything outside of the company?

7

Would we sell this for $5mm? $100mm? Are we waiting for the billion dollar exit?

Would we sell this for $5mm? $100mm? Are we waiting for the billion dollar exit?
8

Is there a part of our plan that we are unwilling to change?

Is there a part of our plan that we are unwilling to change?

Examples: the product being built, the market being addressed

Pro-tip: the only guarantee is that things will change, so if someone isn’t open to that there is a problem.

9

What are our personal cash needs in the short term?

What are our personal cash needs in the short term?
10

Are we both going unpaid and when would this change?

Are we both going unpaid and when would this change?

If you’re not able to go full-time now, under what circumstances would you be able to start working on something full-time?

11

Do we want to raise outside money?

Do we want to raise outside money?

If so, how much – now, in 6 months, 2 years, over the life of the company?

12

Where do we want the business to be located?

Where do we want the business to be located?
13

Have you ever failed at anything?

Have you ever failed at anything?

If so, how did you handle it and what did you learn? If not >> big red flag!

14

Talk about times you both did something you had never done before how did it get handled and what was the outcome?

Talk about times you both did something you had never done before how did it get handled and what was the outcome?

Could be technical or non-technical (e.g. I ran the internationalization of a site; I scaled a site to 5M users)?

15

The Spouse Test

The Spouse Test

Given how much time you’re going to spend with a cofounder, if you have a spouse or significant other you should have them meet the potential cofounder. Not only do they know you better than almost anyone and can give you a second opinion, but also they should know the person you’re going to spend a lot of time with.

16

If you had to come up with 3 words to describe the culture you want to create, what would they be?

If you had to come up with 3 words to describe the culture you want to create, what would they be?
17

What values do we want to instill in our employees?

What values do we want to instill in our employees?
18

If you could pick 2 things to change and two things to bring with you from your previous companies what would they be?

If you could pick 2 things to change and two things to bring with you from your previous companies what would they be?
19

How much equity are we allocating for future employees?

How much equity are we allocating for future employees?
20

Who do we think the first 5 hires will be?

Who do we think the first 5 hires will be?
21

Describe your working style to me in a few words?

Describe your working style to me in a few words?
22

How do you deal with conflict? Compromise?

How do you deal with conflict? Compromise?

TIP (not even a pro one): the only real way to know this is to do a side-project or start working together. Fights are healthy, how you get through them is the question

23

What are some of the products you love and why?

What are some of the products you love and why?

Pro tip: this will help you get a sense for they appreciate and even aspire to – design, product, tech, biz strategy, etc.

24

Ask for references or just back channel them

Ask for references or just back channel them

Don’t be afraid to do this, it’s important! We reference everyone in the FD network (yes, it’s true) and we still tell members to reference their potential cofounders before tying the knot

25

What areas do you see yourself definitely wanting to be point-person on for the first 12-18 months?

What areas do you see yourself definitely wanting to be point-person on for the first 12-18 months?

What about me?
What are the areas you know you’re not particularly good at?