Co-founders are your partners and much like a spouse. They are someone you will spend more time with than your family for years. 2 – 10 is the going rate. They should help you choose fundamental paths for the company and product, be there when you are alone at the top, and more importantly, drive the passion within the company. As things become operational in a company, it helps to have a partner who keeps the flame alive. Someone who you can sound off to in private without judgment and most importantly, some one who can help you shoulder the constant failure and rejection of the job. No one want’s to go alone into the world of startups if they are smart. It’s a brutal marketplace. Having a passionate partner is key.
So how to choose? Don’t pay them in the early days. Toss out ideas, work the problem and execute on the mission. Or discover the mission. As you progress, you will find the balance and passion in your co-founder, or you might have a great employee. You won’t know. It’s not about the money or shares. You can always adjust those. It’s really about the passion in your partner and someone you can count on to carry out your mission.
There is often only one Founder = Passion and dedication even when living in a cardboard box
There is often one or many co-founders = Dedication and support by allowing the founder to sleep on the couch
There are many employees = With a passion and dedication to support the vision of founders and co-founders with a balanced level of commitment.
Notice, I am being very clear here. You can have lot’s of passion and commitment, but when you’re not the one who will be sleeping in a shipping room cardboard box vs going home to your family, you’re not a founder. But, if you show that level of passion, you can be awarded co-founder status ANYTIME,