• The importance of co-founders.

Starting a company is hard. I cannot describe how lonely and how hard it is. I believe that Ben Horowitz explains it best in his book The Hard Thing About Hard Things[1] when he describes The Struggle[2]. But the point is, it is tough. Most people don’t realize how hard it is until they try. It is not a sprint, it is not a marathon, it is an Iron Man at 40 degrees Celsius while dealing with competitors, investors, regulators, and angry clients. Starting a company is definitely not for everyone and most definitely not for the faint of heart. So, if its so tough, why in the world would you do it alone?

Through the years we’ve learned that it is extremely important not to do it alone. It is important to have someone to share your highs with and someone to comfort your lows. It is important to have someone who complements your weaknesses, questions your decisions and balances your judgments. The more diverse your partnerships, the better. Diversity brings different perspectives and ideas to the table, it fosters creativity and imagination. Different people with different experiences tackling the same problem is very powerful.

When I managed Vilebrequin Mexico, I did so alone, and I promised myself never to do it again. However, when we started DILA, the fund was not big enough to afford more than one Managing Partner (many of you have asked me to blog about the economics of a fund, so I will do so in a future post), so I, again, had to sit alone managing the Fund. Sure, I had Eduardo and my Investment Committee just a call away, but at the end of the day I was the only Partner sleeping, breathing and dreaming DILA Capital. Tough times.

Today, I do not make decisions on my own, I don’t have to check everything that is being done, we are two Managing Partners, an amazing analyst team and have extraordinary Partners in several fields. Eduardo and I complement eachother in many ways . . . and I can actually go on a vacation knowing someone is there in charge of the business.

While it is not a written rule in DILA’s Investment Thesis, we are extremely cautioned of sole founders. There are still a number of brave entrepreneurs who set up on their own and we have seen a lot of very successful ones in the past, but, ideally, we look for diverse co-founder teams with different experiences and backgrounds. We look for founders that fight groupthink and conformity. This is impossible to do alone.

So, if you are starting a business alone, find a co-founder. Find someone (and it does not have to be only one) that shares your values and the long-term mission of your company, but that challenges your decisions and strategies. Look for co-founders that are different from you in their experiences, expertise and backgrounds. Find co-founders that will help you shape the culture of your company and that are in it for the long term. But most important, find co-founders that you feel comfortable with, that will speak directly and transparently to you, that will resolve conflicts quickly and move on. If starting a business is hard, starting a business with the wrong team will make it that much harder.

[1] https://www.amazon.com/Hard-Thing-About-Things-Building-ebook/dp/B00DQ845EA

[2] https://a16z.com/2012/06/15/the-struggle/

Alejandro Diez Barroso. General Partner @ DILA Capital, a venture capital firm focused on Latin American and Hispanic startups.

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