I’ve been thinking about co-founders a lot lately.

In 15 years of building companies, I’ve had >10 different co-founders.

They’ve fired me. I’ve fired them. But I’m still friends with 100% of them to this day.

... 15 Rules on Co-founder Relationships

**Read On**
Rule 1: You don’t have to know each other in advance.

@erenbali and @caglaroktay didn’t know me when we started @udemy, but I think all of us would agree the company wouldn’t have happened without any one of us.
Rule 2: Create a pre-nup through role definition.

99% of companies should have a clear CEO. If you are not that person, you report to them.

Co-founders firings should not be done lightly, but if it happens, the CEO decides.
Rule 3: Test drive the relationship before committing.

If you have not already worked together, create a trial period. At Udemy, we spent 6 months getting to know each other before we finalized our agreement. At Sprig, we had vesting cliffs in case one of us didn’t work out.
Rule 4: Custom-design equity.

If you have to be equal, you won’t always find the perfect person. If you are unwilling to give out half your shares, you won’t attract the best person.

The right partner is worth their equity. Find the right person and compensate accordingly.
Rule 5: Early Value > Long-term Value

Every co-founder should be able to get their hands dirty and help in the first 18-36 months.

Do not co-found with executives who “need” employees to get shit done.
Rule 6: Determine the idea before you finalize the co-founders.

Hard to do in practice, but you want co-founders who are jazzed about the idea. If you decide to be co-founders first, you set yourself up for disappointment when the idea and co-founders don’t match.
Rule 7: Look for destiny.

There are thousands of potential co-founder profiles. e.g. in product, they can be growth-minded, tools-minded, operations-minded or sales-minded.

Know what your business needs and make sure it feels like your co-founder was “destined” to build this.
Rule 8: Try to predict if they will scale as the company does.

Not all co-founders last forever. Some stay for 3 years, some for 10. It is impossible to predict, but you should give yourself the best chance possible.

Evaluate their personal rate of growth while interviewing.
Rule 9: Do the First Round Questionnaire.

Spend at least 10+ hours getting to know each other across many levels. @immunoglobulin's guide is fantastic for this:
Rule 10: Discuss politics.

You can’t legally do this with employees, but co-founders must be on the same page here.

Please don’t take this to mean you have to agree on everything; you don’t. But you have to agree on how it will (or will not) affect your company.
Rule 11: Don’t double up.

Trust your co-founders do their job and focus on yours. If they are fundraising, don’t have FOMO about being in the room. If they run product, they should be able to make decisions without having to run them by you.

Reduce bureaucracy early.
Rule 12: Moral authority.

Do you trust this person to be a moral authority in the company? Don’t give a co-founder title to someone who isn’t strong enough to be seen as a leader.

Whether you like it or not, the title matters and there are no take-backs.
Rule 13: NEVER let it get ugly.

This is like the ultimate rule of business. Money is never as important as your happiness, and your reputation matters above all else.

When it gets ugly, your sanity and reputation are in jeopardy. Commit to never letting that happen.
Rule 14: Back-channel references.

Always back-channel your co-founders. Talk to their worst enemy.

You will invariably see this person’s worst - you need to know what that is beforehand so you can be prepared.
Rule 15: Your role will change.

Startups are wildly unpredictable. Be ready for change - and take it in stride. If you are too proud about title or role or scope, you will be disappointed.

If you’re flexible, then the ride will be thrilling.
This is timely: @wes_kao and I are looking for an amazing product/engineering co-founder to join us.

Please check this link to learn more:

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More from @gaganbiyani

7 Oct
At Udemy, we were 3 first-time entrepreneurs trying to raise seed capital. We made every mistake in the book.

We got 200+ no’s and wasted 12 months fundraising.

We eventually pulled through, just barely. 😅

This thread shares our mistakes as lessons for founders.

**Read On**
We built an impressive product, but we were nobodies.

We thought: we need money to build our vision, so let’s go talk to some investors.


Nobody gave a fuck that we needed money. We needed to prove we deserved their money.
We met some associates and intermediaries who might introduce us to investors.

Few decision-makers wanted to meet with us.

We should’ve stopped there.

If getting meetings is hard, it will take you forever to raise.

Instead, spend your time building product + getting traction.
Read 12 tweets
30 Sep
Most investors add no value, but when they do, it can be company-saving.

In 2010 as @udemy was just picking up steam, eBay-owned PayPal was cracking down on marketplace businesses for violating ToS. Without warning, they shut our entire payments system down.

**Read On**
We had a few months of runway and were starting to raise our Series A. It would take weeks to implement an alternative system, and that would've killed our traction story.

It was all-out panic mode.
We asked everyone for help - many were experiencing the same problem.

PayPal was notoriously bureaucratic at this time and was completely inaccessible to small startups like us.

The "best case" scenario, we heard, was 3 months of downtime.

That would've been a death blow.
Read 7 tweets
23 Sep
Yesterday I made a major life announcement: I’m starting a NewCo after 3 years of exploring

More of you cared than I expected; thanks for the support! 🙏🏾

What the hell did I do for 3 years?

Thought I’d share the back-story...

**Read On**
In 2017, my life blew apart as I shut down @Sprig. Shock + relief.

Even as we shut down, new opportunities were coming my way.

Funders for new ventures. Hotshot CEOs asking me to be an exec.

There’s always opportunity in SV.

What opportunities would I miss by stepping away?
After some good advice, I needed to resist the FOMO.

I know people who grinded for 20 years straight, constantly chasing more success and more money. That wasn’t for me.

I decided on the first rule of my transition: GET AWAY.

I packed my bags, left SF and went nomadic. Image
Read 14 tweets
9 Sep
In the 2001 recession, my parents lost everything, marriage included.

My dreams felt like they were slipping away; I was depressed, angry and had nowhere to turn.

This is a story about how I turned crisis into opportunity by fusing education and entrepreneurship.

**Read On**
I was in a tough spot. We didn’t grow up wealthy, but I certainly had enough. I went to good schools, traveled internationally, and had all the tech and books I needed.

The crisis threw a wrench in everything.

Like many people today, I started to question the status quo.
Slowly, I started to get pissed off. The world felt like it was out to get me. I questioned if the “adults” in the room knew as much as they purported.

My grades slipped and my rebellious nature came out.

It's so easy to devolve into anger when times are tough.
Read 19 tweets
30 Jul
Recently I've shared some heartfelt tweet-stories about entrepreneurship. Your support has been so encouraging 🙏🙏🙏

Now I'm doubling down with a personal mailing list: gaganbiyani.com - please help spread the word!

**A thread on what will make this newsletter unique**
1. I'll talk about firsthand experiences.

There are great newsletters that opine about tech, startups, vc. Instead, I'm going to talk about in-the-trenches realities. Real shit that most newsletter writers haven't experienced or aren't willing to share.
2. Global.

Silicon Valley is an extremely insular place. I love it actually, but it isn't for everyone and isn't relatable. I've spent almost 4 years of my life abroad and been to 60 countries.

We're going to get outside the bubble.
Read 6 tweets
18 Jun
8 years ago, I got fired as President and co-founder of @udemy, a now-$2B unicorn

This is a tough story to share, and I’ll try my best to be honest

Fortunately this story ends on a positive note & I hope it’ll be useful to anyone who’s been laid off or fired.

**Read on**
I was just 21 when I met @erenbali + @caglaroktay.

I was a nobody, my family was broke, and I had never run a startup.

They, too, weren’t hot shots. Fresh off the boat from Turkey and still proving themselves.

They took a chance on me, and I on them.
Lucky for us, it worked out. @erenbali’s vision was spot on and slowly we raised some money and built out a team.

Nearly 2 million of you read this story already. It is posted here:
Read 24 tweets

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