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Conversations Potential Co-Founders Should Have

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Before you get into a partnership, have a conversation first.

By Poornima Vijayashanker (Founder & CEO, BizeeBee)

I recently met up with a friend that I haven’t seen since he had sold his last company a year ago. He was really eager to get to work on his next idea. As he was telling me his idea, I got excited because I had heard this same concept only two weeks ago. A friend of mine in Seattle had already built the prototype for it!

I decided I just had to introduce these twoto each other because I thought they had complimentary skills. But before I made the introduction, I set both of their expectations. I said, “I don’t know where this will go, but I wanted to introduce you two to each other because you have a very similar passions and interests. I’ll leave it up to the two of you to take it from here.”

After they chatted with each other, they got back to me. They were pretty psyched, because they had both found someone to talk to about their idea. Prior to their conversation, they had just been thinking about it and working on the same idea alone. But they were both a little cautious about each other because they hadn’t yet met. They had been in partnerships before that hadn’t worked out the way they had wanted them to.

Before you get into a partnership with someone, do the following:

  1. Ask them what bad experience they might have had in the past that they want to avoid.
  2. Setup a clear standard for communicating both the positive and the negative.
  3. Make sure they are is alignment when it comes to values and the direction your headed in.

If you’re unsure from the beginning, then take it one step at a time, and express your reservations to each other.

We all at one point have the problem of the partner who initially inspires and excites us to excel, but then at some point things just don’t work out. Usually one person wants to go in a different direction. We have to be aware of this, acknowledge it early on, but also learn to appreciate what we’ve gained from the experience.

If you’re thinking about working on a project with someone new, make sure you take time to not only talk about the project, but also about where you each think you can add value and what it is you want to achieve from this project. While it might seem a little touchy-feely to most, having these kind of conversations helps you understand each other and make sure there is alignment. But it doesn’t just stop there, you have to do check-ins periodically.

I know my co-founder Alex and I are pretty honest with each regarding each others behavior commending and criticizing each other professionally. Everytime there is a decision to be made we make sure we both want the same thing. It has made our dynamic cohesive, and the rest of the team feel reassured that they have good leaders in place.

Chat with me and tell me about your startup so I can help you too. I offer 30 minute slots for office hours on Fridays at 2pm PST. Sign up here.

This post was originally posted at Femgineer.

Women 2.0 readers: What conversations do you think you should have with potential co-founders? Let us know in the comments!

About the guest blogger: Poornima Vijayashanker is Founder and CEO of BizeeBee. Prior to that, she was at Mint where she began as employee #3 in 2006, and stayed through the startup’s acquisition by Intuit for $170M in 2010. Prior to Mint, she was in the Master’s degree program for computer science at Stanford University but dropped out to join Mint. Poornima holds a double degree in Electrical and Computer Engineering and Computer Science from Duke University. Poornima blogs on Femgineer.com and is a competitive yoga. Follow her on Twitter at @poornima.