Founding and growing a startup can be a long and challenging process. Like climbing Mt. Everest or swimming the English Channel, survival depends on more than a single person’s skill and stamina. Whether the journey in question requires a team of sherpas, a trusted lifeguard, or capable co-founders, all of these expeditions go more smoothly when the right team – not just the right individual – is in place.
I’ve been involved with many startups, and the vast majority were led by multiple people. The typical number seems to be two or three founders, but the size of the group is not as important as several other key factors, including:
Defined roles: Each founder needs to have a specific role to play in the organization, and those roles need to complement each other. Even in the earliest stages of a company, when flexibility and fluidity might come easily, defined roles ensure more successful relationships and company operations.
Mutual professional respect: Each of the founders has to carry his or her own weight from the outset. If the level of dedication dips, respect will dip, as well, and the company will suffer.
Strategic alignment: The co-founders need to agree on the company strategy and retain their coherency as a group. Without this alignment, the company can’t execute on its mission.
Maintain clear communication and empathy: Entrepreneurship is more than a business endeavor; it is a human one. When you found a company with one or two or more other people, you need to talk with them, understand them and empathize with them during successes and failures so that you can all stay focused on the overall goal.
Starting a business is a difficult mental and physical journey, and I generally recommend that people don’t go it alone. When co-founders have clearly defined roles, mutual respect, strategic alignment and open communication, they often succeed where solitary entrepreneurs fail.
Shlomo Kramer is an angel investor and entrepreneur in the IT security market and is founder and CEO of Silicon Valley-based Imperva, which provides businesses with database and application security solutions.