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30 Comments

Hire or partner up? How do you think about it?

So far, I've been working on my app solo. There's tons of things that I know I don't really do well, and for sure I'll need the help of skilled professionals at some point. (Finding help is long overdue honestly)

But it seems like a fairly important decision. Do you hire? Or do you try to find a co-founder ?

What are some of the ways you guys think about this?

Have you been in this situation? What did you end up doing, how did you know you were making a good decision, and what did you learn from it?

Thanks!

  1. 3

    Hands down go for a co-founder with opposite skill sets. Keep a locking period and if the person leaves before that stocks will be forfeited. Also, don't give all stocks together set milestones and on every achievement release few shares. But, do not go above all out in releasing the shares. Why co-founder they will treat the company like it's their own.

    1. 1

      Treating it like their own makes sense.

      But match is important too. I feel like it's easier to just get work from someone than it is to partner up with someone.

      The vesting period is also a super important detail.

      Thanks for the insights.

      1. 2

        Partnering up -in theory- allows you to attract TOP talent that would be unavailable to you because you
        either lack the funds, or that talent already has a fantastic job and needs a solid reason to switch and leave everything for you.

        If you are about to work with mediocre talent, then you don’t need a cofounder.

        Also, a co-founder will think about the business 365 days a year, and you can't expect that from an employee.

        But I agree that is hard to find the right and compatible partner.

        1. 2

          Interesting perspective. This is what they often say, that the only way startups get top talent is by offering a stake.

          While I do agree with that, I very much like the perspective where you can also invest in people's futures. Hard to know what someone would become in the future with the right environment.

          But I can see what you mean.

          Thanks for sharing your perspective.

      2. 1

        The amount of time you are going to invest in vetting a person to work for you, might as well invest the same time to find a cofounder. I’m sure there would be people who Will believe in you and your idea and wouldn’t mind working for equity. Hence I would suggest that try for equity cofounder than a person to work for cash.

        For instance I’m up to partner on a good idea with a CTO.

        1. 1

          True. Even finding the right hire also takes time. And time is very limited as is :D

  2. 2

    First off, I'm using retirement income to cover gaps in the skillsets I don't have with my start-up. I've gone the route of friends wanting to "co-founder" but the reality is - people need to be able to pay for food and shelter, if not internet connectivity, PCs, etc. Every single one of the Lil Rascals co-founder relationships - floundered. Some I had to sever, some severed me. There are no hard feelings involved, it's just a fact that if people aren't putting in money or time (extensive amounts of time), it's not gonna work out.

    Since then, I've been paying consultants. I set a monthly budget for them, give them a project. That's how I control spending and have since proceeded with a slow burn boot-strapping of my product. Still, I had one major gap in skills I needed to fill for my project and it had to be tied to a primary industry I plan to go enterprise level with. It took some time, but I found someone to develop my G2M plan & be a fractional COO.

    I was over the moon, but the hourly rate is staggering. I can't afford her and I flat out told her how long I could do this burn. However, I did ask her to look at a FAST agreement and consider whether or not she'd join as an advisor. She's considering it, she says. So, she's evaluating me as well. This is good. Frankly, when I get hopeful / hope-filled, I'm hoping she'll move from advisor to actual COO. She's a lot that I'm not - calm, methodical, precise and I can see her bringing in the B2B we just had to pivot away from because - as she pointed out, my MVP paywall is for consumers (1:1 not 1:many).

    My branding / content person - the same, I've just asked her to join as an advisor because, frankly, I can't see the brand without her. And yes, I can see her as CMO until we exit.

    This is a slow process I'm trying, and I have no guarantee of success at the moment. That said, I've seen and heard more painful (and pain-filled) stories of co-founder relationships gone bad than gone good. Frankly, how many of those relationships are for making a funding run? Investors & accelerators expect teams and they don't want "hired guns." I can't say that I get it.

    So, my advice, think really hard about "why" you want a co-founder. I used the "Slicing the Pie" method and found that to be the clearest one to recognize contributions - without getting into lawyers. If you're going to have a "real" co-founder relationship, you have to engage lawyers.

    1. 1

      Thanks for such a detailed response!

      I totally understand the investors needing a team route. My wife works for an accelerator and they don't take single founders :D

      I've worked with friends too in the past and it hasn't lasted either. But still haven't given up on the thought. Currently working on another project with a long time friend and colleague.

      I like the idea of getting people in as advisors. And just giving those relationships time to develop, while also having set expectations and agreements in place.

      Great point about real co-founder relationships needing lawyers. I think the worst is when people choose to partner without fully realizing each others expectations and motivations. So much room for emotional damage there.

  3. 2

    I believe this question is best answered by asking what you are looking to add to the company. First and foremost, whether it’s fundraising or adding employees, protect your equity. There will be valid reasons to dilute your stake in the company, don’t do it without serious thought. It is a long term effect and shouldn’t be used to solve a near term problem. Second, if you have revenue or capital available, hire. You can always give equity to reward a particularly strong contribution. I have done both in the past and I have always been happiest when I held the equity back and let the new addition vest into ownership.

    1. 1

      Thanks! Capital isn't readily available. But I agree that it's a risk either away. The question is what the downsides are to each risk and what the potential upsides are. The best is one that leaves me with more optionality I guess.

      I appreciate you pointing out near term and long term perspectives here and for sharing your own experiences.

  4. 2

    Hire first and then partner. partnerships are like marriage, best way to understand if both sync is just by working together.

    1. 1

      True. You need to have this period of trying to see if you're a fit. Hiring with the option for future engagement seems like an interesting approach.

      1. 1

        Let me tell you my story. I'm not a coder. I have a partner /cofounder who does backend well but not profound in front end. I searched lot of people by asking in reddit, Counderslab, fb, twitter etc. , finally after 3 months of chase i got one guy and after seeing the task he ran away. My 3 months royally wasted.
        Now I hired one guy and he is working for past 3 months and well synced with me and my other partner. He is now interested to join as a 3rd partner and he filled the gap which my other partner had.
        Try before buy is the best approach here too.

        1. 1

          Thanks for sharing that story.

          I can totally see how the hiring first worked better.

          Still wouldn't say that those 3 months were wasted :)

          You learned more of what you wanted, learned some recruiting, and optimized your process for any future similar scenarios.

          Plus you guy a great story that you were able to share with me!

          Thanks man

          1. 1

            It was a learning. Problem was i was too shy to post in reddit and LinkedIn. And when people mocked at me by saying another idea man, it literally hurt first .
            Also best place is twitter or LinkedIn or Facebook to hire people. I had some bad experience from Upwork (People use to be der never will have that entrepreneurial mindset., for them you are just a client)

  5. 2

    I would say you hire. Why give away equity right away to someone you don't really know? I'd say find someone that fills the gaps you don't have the skills for, and then if you find you can't live without them long-term, you can consider it then. But bringing an unknown on as a partner can invite trouble.

    1. 1

      Yeah. That definitely sounds like the safe choice. I agree there are risks with unknown partners. And you probably need to test the waters regardless.

      1. 0

        Yup, I think you've got the right idea! :)

  6. 1

    I'm not so sure how the "hire first then partner later" would work though if you are a technical founder looking for help in the finance / fundraising area. This is my issue, I'm a technical hopeful founder so if I hire a dev person to help build the product, this person will not be a viable cofounder for me. But if I hire a finance person, there'd be no reason for that without a product on the market yet haha.

    1. 1

      Well in both cases, you would be looking for someone to fill certain skillsets that you have.

      In one case you are paying people to care, and in the other case you are asking people to pay because they care (or see some value).

      So even if there's no product in the market just yet, there is still the future opportunity.

      Hopefully the problem you're solving is something that has such future value and real opportunity? :D

  7. 1

    Co-founder is often the best approach but here's the catch.

    If you work like crazy and your co-founder doesn't, that won't end up well. Still think a co-founder is the better option but be aware you are now sharing your baby with someone else. You better have good judgment of character and find someone who works at least as hard as you or resentment will build, and that can (quickly) kill your project.

    1. 1

      This is so true. I've definitely experienced this feeling on other projects. I imagine it would be amplified significantly now that this is "my project"

      Thanks for your perspective!

  8. 1

    Depending on what kind of skill sets you need, if it's something you already have and need a helping hand goes for hiring someone who will get the job done. It's easy to replace the person who is working for you, rather than the partner you are working with. Yes, there are equal pros and cons to both sides. Yet, I will suggest if you know what you are doing then go for hiring. Finding someone like-minded and someone who will not chicken out in the tough times is really tough to find. :D

    1. 2

      I do like this. The chances of something going wrong are not low. And it is indeed much harder to replace a cofounder in that scenario.

      1. 2

        Indeed, feel free to reach out. Would love to help in any way I can. Here's my LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/satyajit21/

  9. 1

    "Hire first and then partner" is a good way to do it, if you have the money, it all depends on what stage are you. very early beginning partner is better later stage if you have some income hire first with the idea to partner up is better

    1. 1

      Thanks, seems to recurring advice so far to hire first and then partner. It makes a ton of sense for sure.

  10. 1

    If you can find someone who believes in your product, can take input/criticism from them, can bring what you can't bring in pursuit for success > Partner up

    If you have the money to spend > Hire

    Simple as that. I work as a freelancer, working in an agency part-time and working solo on my project. Hiring teams or individuals are more much convenient in my opinion rather than finding a partner who believes in "your" idea.

    1. 2

      yeah. I see what you mean. It is "my" idea. I imagine it will be hard to find someone who is just as driven to solve the problem I'm solving and magically has skillsets I'm looking for.

      Hiring makes sense in that case, as I'd be able to move forward faster, leading to more future options at the expense of less funds.

  11. 1

    This comment was deleted 14 days ago.

    1. 1

      Thanks, I'll check that out. I don't think I've seen it.

      You bring up a good point though. I should really think through what I actually want and then determine what are the ways to achieve that. Whether by hiring or partnering.

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