Building a Great Founding Team

It is coming up on my fourth anniversary since I began working on EquityZen, so I have been taking a nostalgic trip through my email archive. I came across a piece I wrote for Wharton Magazine on building a great founding team (full piece with context is available here).

I’m thankful all that three of EquityZen’s founders remain committed as ever to our original mission. The below excerpt summarizes well the dozens of reasons for our solidarity…

Below are factors I considered while building EquityZen’s founding team:

Determination: intelligence is table stakes. Determination is likely the single most important quality in a co-founder.
Commitment: will they stick by you through thick and thin for a certain amount of time?
Work Ethic: closely related to commitment. Will they pour in the hours, nights and weekends?
Humility: are they willing to roll up their sleeves? How will they react when you do the same?
Conviction: how much do they believe in the vision?
Trust: can you trust them? Do they trust you?
Leap of faith: building startups requires taking leaps of faith. Do they have the stomach?
Dependability: can you rely on them to do something they said they would?
Personal compatibility: can you be friends? Do you share interests outside of the business?
Rational compatibility: given a nuanced problem, how do you reason through solutions together? How do you handle disagreements?
Technical compatibility: can you delegate work to one another, or will you have too many cooks in the kitchen?
Leadership: will they lead?
Willingness to learn: will they follow?
Principles: will they act in a legal, ethical and moral manner? If you toe the line, will they stop you from crossing it?
Intelligence width: do they possess incredibly, ridiculously high aptitude?
Intelligence depth: are they smarter than almost anyone else in one particular subject?
Boldness: what Paul Graham calls “naughtiness1.” Will they sometimes ask for forgiveness, rather than permission?
Resolve: when they make one or five mistakes, will they get back up, shrug it off, and get back to the grind? (Note: don’t forget to remind them why you chose them.)
Inspiration: when you make one or five mistakes, will they remind you why they chose you?
Respect: have you earned their respect? Have they earned yours?
Network: do you all have compatible personal and professional networks?
Passion: It can’t be taught. Are they passionate (including about things nonbusiness related)?
Fun: do you have fun working together?
Invincibility: do you feel invincible working alongside them?

1. http://www.paulgraham.com/founders.html

equityzen founding team
From left to right: EquityZen founders Atish, Shri, Phil in summer 2014

Leave a comment