Yaari ya barbaadi: how founder friendships can make or break a startup

Kesava Reddy
8th Apr 2017
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The bond between co-founders is the key to a startup’s success.

What separates successful startups from failed ones? Ultimately, both set out to achieve the same goals, and yet their outcomes are vastly different. As it turns out, part of this difference lies in the founding team; in other words, the main reason for many startup failures is problems among co-founders. The bond between Founders is the key to a startup’s success.

The legendary jodi of Steve Wozniak and Steve Jobs of Apple.

Often an idea or a marketing/technology insight can be a perfectly fine starting point for a startup. But can we call an idea a startup? No. In fact, ideas are a dime a dozen. A startup, however, is a set of different people who agree on a common idea and have a plan to execute that idea.

It’s natural (and essential) for each team member to have his/her own perspective. This brings a variety of skills and each can be tailored to meet specific needs. There are some essential components to every successful startup team, which will keep them going.

What is the anatomy of a successful startup team? What do good startup teams have in common?

Get a good advisory board

Many co-founding teams miss out on the guiding policy, an “agree to disagree” agreement to take decisions in crunch time. Some of the co-founding teams get it inherently as they have a history together, with unwritten rules among themselves. But this is not the case with everyone.

A good startup demands that a team make decisions at lightning speed. They have to make a choice to move in a specific direction. Many times there will be conflicting opinions in the team. Most people don’t like to choose between two things — they’d rather just have both. Unfortunately, this is rarely possible in a startup and the choice of one thing over another is simply unavoidable.

A good startup demands that you prioritise what’s most important and focus your resources there — trying to have it all will only leave you struggling. Unfortunately, tough choices will often damage relationships, and thus encounter strong opposition. It is important that you have a guiding policy to overcome this and drive the decision through anyway. It is better to have a guiding policy and an arbitrator whom every co-founding team member trusts.

Statistically, co-founder issues cause startup failure six out of 10 times.

Though many entrepreneurs are aware of this fact, when faced with setting ground rules for the startup, they tend to think: “It won’t happen to us.” You can avoid critical mistakes by looking at your situation from an outside perspective and learning from others’ past failures.

Many entrepreneurs follow the inside view — the tendency to ignore lessons others have learned in a similar situation and to believe that their specific situation is somehow different — with disastrous results.

Why have other startups in a situation similar to ours succeeded or failed?

A good team recognises that in the vast majority of cases, their situation is far less unique than they might imagine.

Entrepreneurs should seek to gain perspective by closely scrutinising a situation from the outside view. This is why a startup needs a good advisory board. The mentor or advisor will help entrepreneurs avoid the disastrous way of thinking.

Togetherness and celebrations

How can one work 18 hours a day without getting disillusioned? Motivation! Motivation is the result of several factors, but a sense of purpose tops the list. Motivation is a complex process that’s influenced by things like happiness, achievement, pride, and fulfilment, among others. In reality, people are motivated by many things and primary among them is meaning. Invested effort and a sense of togetherness and ownership lead to success.

Entrepreneurship can be emotionally draining. Co-founders should take care of each other. Each co-founder has to be actively concerned for the well-being of his/her fellow co-founders. A startup also requires responsibility, which entails staying aware of and reacting to the needs of another, whether these are the intellectual needs or the emotional needs of other co-founders. The world of entrepreneurship can be cruel. Show empathy and courtesy to your co-founders.

Celebrations allow us to relax and unwind in the midst of our mundane lives. Celebration adds excitement and fun to life. It is important to have fun with entrepreneurship. Co-founders should meet outside the office as much as possible and find opportunities to celebrate. They should meet along with their families. It is important for families also to understand each other.

Also, don’t wait for occasions to celebrate; create occasions to celebrate.

Accept as they are

Accepting others doesn’t come naturally to us. Once you completely accept your beautifully flawed co-founder for who he/she is, entrepreneurship becomes so much easier. You don’t have to agree on every last thing because it is okay to have different opinions. You don’t have to feel insecure if you don’t possess the same qualities as your co-founder. And you don’t have to enjoy all the same activities because you are different people. Acceptance among co-founders, however, must be mutual.

Many of us first need to learn to accept ourselves. If we don’t accept ourselves, we may find our co-founder’s qualities threatening. We then try to change our co-founder to be like us in order to eliminate the threat. Instead, we need to learn to love ourselves and be comfortable in being different from our co-founder.

People don’t change. They are who they are. It is our view of them which changes. Please accept your co-founders for who they are and resist changing them into what you want them to be.

(Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of YourStory.)

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