Co-founding a startup: The good, the bad, the ugly

What are the secrets to success and pitfalls to avoid when putting together a startup’s founding team? One of the most candid and insightful talks at the recent Seattle 2.0 Startup Day addressed that topic with an unvarnished look at the early days of the Seattle startup known today as Simply Measured.

Adam Schoenfeld and Aviel Ginsburg at Seattle 2.0 Startup Day.

Aviel Ginzburg and Adam Schoenfeld, the company’s co-founders along with Damon Cortesi, shared inside stories, lessons learned and even some regrettable email exchanges in the process of delivering tips and advice to the Startup Day audience.

For anyone who missed the event, or wants to relive the highlights, we’re rolling out video and related content from talks by Startup Day speakers. Watch the full video of their talk above, and continue reading for a few of our favorite takeaways. You can also access the audio here as an MP3, for listening on your favorite device. A big thanks to the team at Bootstrapper Studios for their help on all of this content

Adam: “A lot of times you see people come up with this idea, and they have the business plan or the product idea, and then they go and put the team together. We were really the opposite. Team was our platform, then we figured out the market, and then we figured out the product. So for us, getting co-founding figured out was really important. And getting that right balance in the team was really the foundation for us figuring out the other pieces of the equation.”

Aviel: “Starting with the team and saying, OK, what are our strengths, what are our weaknesses, and building out of that gives you a lot more leverage.”

Adam: “If you’re going to start a company, pick co-founders that fill those holes (in your own skill set). Don’t go try to hire a team that you’re going to manage, and think they’re going to code what you draw. When you really recognize your holes and your strengths, and then you’re able to find a partner or partners, it can be a really powerful dynamic, and then you can have a lot of trust in your teammates to really deliver, and you can go out and do what you’re good at.”

Aviel: “We got drunk and talked with our guards down a lot. I can’t stress how important the dating process is as you’re moving towards a marriage. And really getting drunk. You need to be direct. … Also arguing goes along with drinking.”

Adam: Like a marriage, you have to keep it fresh, you have to mix it up a little bit. We’re constantly re-evaluating, constantly gut-checking. Once you have your co-founders, that’s really important, to make sure you’re all on the same page, and make sure you’re choosing the path together.”

Aviel: Things will change over time. We’ve had moments between the three of us where there is something going on in our personal life, and we’re not as involved in the company as we used to be, or there is some sort of financial situation that you’re in that may make certain routes that the company take better. We’ve been in those moments before. That’s constantly going to be changing and you have to recognize that, just as you may be frustrated over your co-founder, not feeling that they’re totally in at that specific moment, you may be in that exact same situation several months later.”

 

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