The Three P’s of Startup Success – Picking the Perfect Partner

by Marti Nyman

It’s no surprise that a significant number of successful companies were built by what I call “Founder Pairs”.  Instead of a single person – there were actually two individuals responsible for the formation, growth and eventual success of the company.

You already know several of them – Hewlett Packard (Bill Hewlett and Dave Packard).  Apple (Steve Jobs and Steven Wozniak).  Google (Sergey Brin and Larry Page).   Get the picture?

There’s a simple reason for this – we’re human.

We have gifts, but we also have faults and vulnerabilities that come with them.  As I’ve always said, the business of starting a company is tough work and I believe there’s a reason why it’s almost always critical to have a partner to help you with the journey.  A good partner brings complementary skills, experiences and aptitudes.  We have blind spots — they’ll see things you don’t — and vice versa.  One may be better with the techie side of things while the other will excel at dealing with customers and investors.

We all know that when we’re working outside our “comfort zone”, we’re not at our best and not delivering all that we’re capable of.

So here are three things to consider when selecting a partner to help you with the journey.  (NOTE: these are just as important to apply even if you already have what you think is a partner – it’ll help confirm or adjust your situation).

1. Is his/her passion yours? If the answer is no, go no further and continue searching for someone who not only passionately believes in the vision and mission, but is going to be committed to dealing with the challenges that lie ahead.

2. What do they have that you don’t? This one is a bit harder, because it will force you to be honest with your shortcomings and limitations, and then (gulp) have to admit them.  But be honest, write down what you believe you’re gifted at and ask people who’ll be honest with you to confirm them.  Remember, in this context, a gift is something that you’re not only good at it, but you’re in the “zone” when you’re doing it.

3. What do they believe? This is probably the hardest one to assess.  I’m talking about the core, foundational stuff like values, integrity, work ethic and perspective of others (do they only see them as means to an end?). How they constructively disagree,  is it collaborative or a “scorched earth”? How they listen (remember, despite all you know it takes more to listen then to talk), and lastly – what are they in it for? Is it money?  Fame?  Love?  Greed?  Power?  There’s no simple way to discern these until you’ve spent enough time face to face, perhaps working on something together, talking with their friends or colleagues, etc.

Final thoughtthere’s a lot of general stuff you can fix, but if the foundation of the house is shaky, no amount of drywall or duct tape will help. Picking a perfect partner will drastically improve your odds of startup success.


  • ideal partner


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