Do friends make good co-founders?


When starting a new company, it is curial to get the right team in place, or the business will never go anywhere. While it is possible to go at it alone, co-founders can be a great asset, if they complete your skill set, and are motivated to make the business work.

The question is, should you seek to start a business with a long time friend, or should you seek someone you don't know that well, but has a great resume? Most businesses don't last for more then a few years, and that could have a devastating effect on the friendship. Having a good founders agreement can help in either case, but it does not promise that everything will work out for the best. If you go for the stranger, it is hard to predict if you will in fact get along well since you have no experience with that person.

What are your thoughts on the matter?

Co-Founder Partner

asked Oct 25 '09 at 04:14
Ron Ga
2,181 points

9 Answers


In my experience it's best to avoid starting a business with friends. My advice is totally against conventional wisdom but it my opinion will suit you better financially. I believe you should always start a business yourself. You get the company off the ground, register it, own 100%, do some wireframes or build the alpha version and write a business plan. Then you bring somebody in to be your "co founder" while giving them 20% of the company.

I discuss these issues and how to deal with starting a company with a friend if that's what you're including to do in this post about dealing with startup pre-nuptials. It gives advice on how to start a company

answered Oct 25 '09 at 16:59
Mark Suster
545 points


Building a business certainly puts strain on a friendship.

In my experience, there are significantly more assumptions involved when dealing with somebody close. When these assumptions go astray, fights over small things could get fierce and very personal. Thus goals must be talked over and agreed on. A written agreement is very helpful.

And then one doesn't know what to expect from a stranger. There could be pleasant surprises or bad ones along the way.

Going with a friend is a less risky, but more emotional ride. With all other things being equal and if I could choose I'd go for the person I know and make sure our expectations are aligned.

answered Oct 25 '09 at 05:13
Slav Ivanov
1,146 points


The bad:

I have had lots of good experiences doing business with friends, but I' once lost a good friend in a failed partnership. Making business together IS a risk, but life is a big and constant risk.

The good:

Normally a friend is someone you can really trust and trust helps a lot in partnerships.

I say if your friend is a good complement and is the person you need then go for it!

answered Oct 25 '09 at 09:16
171 points


What I've witnessed:

If you've worked together before, and therefore have both a business and personal relationship, then it's fantastic, because you know how to operate in both modes.

If you only know them as a friend, it's a crap-shoot. Of course it's not guaranteed to be bad, but know that you're taking on additional risk. It might be worth putting more in writing at the top.

answered Oct 25 '09 at 13:05
16,231 points


I've found that friends make decent co-founders IF they compliment your skills well. If you're an MBA, getting another MBA to co-found with you is wasteful because you still have to hire a technical person to get things off the ground. Unfortunately, your friends are most likely to be similar to you.

Many people recommend that the original founders be ONLY technical or semi-technical people because those are the ones who actually build the value of the business. Marketing, promotion, leadership, business relations are all great, but without a product they don't amount to anything.

answered Oct 27 '09 at 05:20
James T
41 points


If they are someone you would hire as a complete stranger because of their skills and talent, then yes. The trap many people fall into is co-founding with friends, because they are friends - but may not be totally qualified for the role.

answered Oct 25 '09 at 05:30
892 points


I've had good experiences with friends as partners, but I would recommend paying to making sure that both of you are 100% clear on who gets what. Put it in writing, otherwise people remember things differently.

If you fail there won't be any problems :-), but if you're successful, you might have different ideas about how much each of you contribute

answered Oct 25 '09 at 14:58
1,833 points


If you friend is someone that you trust, and can complement you, then it may be a good idea to include your friend, due to the deep trust.

I agree with what one person on here wrote about hiring is like a marriage, and I think for a co-founder it is moreso, so, you need to find someone you can have a LTR with, basically, as you will be putting your future in the hands of this person.

Once you have the company going, you can go and find someone that has a great resume, but are you willing to trust such an important part of your life to an unknown, as you don't know this person that well?

But, if you friend offers nothing to the business that complements your skills, then your friend would be a detriment, I believe.

Start with being honest about what you can do well, and what is reasonable that you can do. For example, you may have management skills, but you love being a salesman, so, though you could be the COO, trying to get customers is critical so you may want to find someone to do the day-to-day management while you do what you are passionate about.

answered Oct 25 '09 at 05:06
James Black
2,642 points



  • you can trust your friends more than you can trust strangers
  • it's fun working with friends


  • if the business fails, accusations may fly, friendship may be lost.
  • friends will have a harder time demanding something from each other or criticizing each other when criticism is due
answered Oct 2 '12 at 00:38
Ron M.
4,224 points

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