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Working with Co-Founders

Mike Peña, Stanford University May 31, 2013

Just as personal relationships can be a juicy topic of conversation, a rich area to explore in entrepreneurship is the dynamics between co-founders. Indeed, a recent article on Mashable compared the quest for a business co-founder to “choosing who you want to marry.”

What holds true for both types of partnerships is the advice — often, wearily given — “It isn’t for everyone.” On that note, here are three videos that feature varying perspectives on the perception and value of working with co-founders.

“Yin-Yang” Relationship

In the video clip below, Instagram Co-Founders Kevin Systrom and Mike Krieger describe their working relationship. Both Systrom and Krieger explain the stages of their relationship, and how the partnership respects each other’s areas of specialty, while also providing a tremendous opportunity to sound out ideas.

Because of this benefit, Systrom explains the co-founder relationship needs to be cherished. Krieger also believes honest and direct communication of expectations can prevent the relationship from wearing down over time.

Real-time Sanity Check

In this clip, entrepreneur Steve Blank asks inDinero Co-founder Jessica Mah about the value of having a co-founder. Mah explains that fellow co-founder Andy Su provides a contrarian opinion to her own, which serves as an invaluable “real-time sanity check” when it comes to making critical decisions.

Co-Founder Mythology

Yet, while many legendary Silicon Valley companies were founded by teams of two, partnerships aren’t without their problems, venture capitalist Mark Suster asserts in the clip below. Disagreements arise based on personal life changes, business strategies and roles within the company.

And yes, the marriage metaphor comes up again: Suster prefers to avoid playing the role of “marriage counselor” between drifting co-founders by instead working with a strong, individual entrepreneur.