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Looking for a co-founder? Don’t choose a mate

“Everything that irritates us about others can lead us to an understanding of ourselves.”

— C.G. Jung

It’s midnight and you’re scrolling through AngelList profiles looking for a co-founder, but wonder if your high school buddy might be a better match instead. Sound familiar? Co-founding with a friend could be the biggest mistake of your entrepreneurial career. Here’s why.

Picture the archetypal startup co-founders: college buddies working out of a garage or a bedroom, maybe in a share house or at a parent’s place in the ‘burbs. They love their product, pull all-nighters and live off noodles and frozen pizza. The founders work day and night to build an MVP, enjoy some success and gain some early profit.

But then something goes awry. Maybe it’s the lack of nutrients from all that instant ramen, but the energy dissolves, the product fails to evolve, ideas stagnate and resentment starts to build. Growth slows to a standstill and the interested investors dwindle away.

The once-promising startup collapses in a heap—and everyone wonders why.

There’s plenty of evidence to suggest that going into a startup with a co-founder offers a better chance of venture success. Yet our 20 year study of the world’s most successful entrepreneurs shows that while starting a business with a friend might seem attractive, growing it successfully is a different story.

What our two buddies missed is that, by and large, we gravitate towards people who share similar attitudes and interests. Great for hanging out at the football; not so great when founding a business. Because when your natural talents align too closely with those of your co-founder, you’re unable to compensate for one another’s entrepreneurial blind spots. All too often, that leads to startup disaster.

What you need to know about choosing a co-founder.

Choosing a co-founder isn’t an art—it’s a science, and it all comes down to your motivations and your blind spots.

Your motivations are what give you energy, drive and enthusiasm in a work context. We measure 48 different motivations and everyone has a unique combination of them.

Choosing a co-founder based on motivations instead of similarities means your differences can work to complement each other, creating a whole that’s greater than the sum of its parts. Ideally, founders want to make like Obama choosing Joe Biden as VP. Their different yet complementary affinities became the foundation for a strong political partnership (and everyone’s favourite bromance).

Seeing each other’s blind spots.

Selecting a co-founder with different motivations is essential to illuminate and balance your blind spots. Blind spots are specific motivations that are critical to startup success, that you have either too much interest in, or not enough. Left unchecked, these blind spots can lead to business failure.

Our study of successful (and unsuccessful) entrepreneurs shows that to have the best chance of venture success, your founding team needs to be calibrated so that your combined motivations hit the ‘green zone’ for entrepreneurship. The ‘green zone’ is the attitudinal sweet spot for entrepreneurs; the perfect blend of motivational factors that will contribute to entrepreneurial success.

And this is the crux of why it’s not a good idea to start a business with your buddy.

The similarities that attract founders as friends also means that they’re unable to compensate for their shared blind spots.

Vive la difference!

The evidence is in, and not just from us: startups (any businesses, really) should prioritize diversity over similarity. If our hypothetical founding team had been designed to compensate for blind spots, with ideal founder preferences in mind, they could have used their differences to grow their business. Instead, it ended in failure, a dissolved friendship and poor nutrition.

Co-founders whose natural affinities and preferences are complementary have a far greater chance of entrepreneurial success. When it come to finding your perfect founding partner, Facebook is the last place you should look.

To find out your motivations and start the search for a complementary co-founder, join the Fingerprint for Success community today.

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Trust Your Gut Feel

Explore, strengthen and stand by what you believe in at work and in life. Trust in your ‘gut feel’ and point of view is especially helpful for influencing, starting your own business, having your personal needs met and for living an authentic and meaningful life.

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Our expert coaches have designed hyper-effective programs that will help you improve your mental health, wellbeing, productivity, leadership and more.

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In this high impact nine week program Coach Marlee will help you to increase your energy, vitality and general wellbeing while also helping you to break through self sabotage and develop life long skills for emotional resilience and self-esteem. Enjoy weekly cutting edge science backed wellbeing resources from both Marlee and our wellbeing partner Blisspot.

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In this high impact eight week program Coach Marlee will help you increase your comfort and confidence to be in positions of influence and leadership, navigate organizational politics and also help you develop greater confidence to compete and influence at the top of your industry or field.

5 - 15 minutes
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Multiply Your Impact

Multiply your impact by embracing the experience and genius within others. During this eight week program Coach Marlee will help you to develop a genuine appreciation for experimentation and data and a willingness to empower the opinions, feedback and insights within your team and others in your life.

5 - 15 minutes
 per session
2 sessions per week

Trust Your Gut Feel

Explore, strengthen and stand by what you believe in at work and in life. Trust in your ‘gut feel’ and point of view is especially helpful for influencing, starting your own business, having your personal needs met and for living an authentic and meaningful life.

5 - 15 minutes
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2 sessions per week

Big Picture Thinker

Inspire yourself and others to see the bigger picture! Increase your comfort and use of abstract and strategic thinking to gain a broader perspective in work and life. Big picture thinking is key in communication, leadership, businesses, selling, marketing, and situations where you need to get the gist of things quickly.

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Start Fast

Close the gap between your great ideas and starting them. Energy and drive for starting is key for inventing new things, starting businesses, selling, marketing, socializing or in situations where you need to think on your feet.

5 - 15 minutes
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2 sessions per week

Increase EQ

Explore, develop or strengthen your emotional intelligence (EQ). Awareness of your and others’ emotions is at the heart of influencing, ‘reading people’, impactful communication, deep relating and authentic connection at work and in life.

5 - 15 minutes
 per session
2 sessions per week

Goal Catcher

Inspire yourself and others to see and achieve grand visions and goals. A focus on goals is especially helpful for inspirational leaders, starting your own business, impactful communication, or for achieving awesome outcomes at work and in life.

5 - 15 minutes
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