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Startup Founder and Co-Founder. Is there a difference? Does it Matter?

Confused between the Founder vs. Co-Founder title? Here's everything you need to know about the differences between the roles of a founder and co-founder.

June 25, 2021

Startup Founder and Co-Founder. Is there a difference? Does it Matter?

You're likely familiar with the founder and co-founder title, but do you know the differences between these roles in a startup? If not, is it because you're confused, or do you wonder why it matters?  If you're an entrepreneur planning a startup with other people, knowing the differences between a founder and a co-founder can help you protect your vision and business from significant conflict.

Startup founders vs. co-founders will often have at least slightly different objectives, strategies, and skills. Setting clear parameters for these roles can help your startup achieve success. If multiple people hatch the same idea and establish a startup together, they can all be considered founders and co-founders.

Still, confused? Here's everything you need to know about these roles — their differences and why it matters.

What Is a Founder?

A founder is an entrepreneur who takes their business idea and establishes a startup. Founders can begin a startup on their own and add others later or establish it with others right from the beginning.

Even if a startup founder has an idea that could succeed, they may not have the required skills to bring the concept to fruition. Additionally, they may share credit for the initial idea with others. That's where the co-founder title comes in.

What Is a Co-Founder?

A co-founder can be anyone who establishes a business with a founder to either complement their skills or because they created the startup's raison d'etre together. The co-founder title allocates equal credit to multiple people who start a business together. A co-founder is usually a crucial contributor to getting a startup off the ground.

However, in some cases, co-founders join a startup after conception — albeit very early in the process — to fulfill missing skillsets or provide needed financing.

Founder vs. Co-Founder — Why Do Their Differences Matter?

Like many successful teams, even the members who have been with a company from day one have different roles and responsibilities. Defining these roles from the beginning can help mitigate the risks of co-founder conflict as the stresses of growing a startup build. Divide obligations based on each person's strengths and skills and risk management levels based on commitment, ideally in a written agreement.

Filling Startup Co-Founder Jobs

Knowing who should fill your startup co-founder jobs and finding and attracting the right people can be challenging. Start by determining what's missing for your startup's success and what you have to offer prospective candidates.

Unfortunately, the sad reality is that many startups fail. Knowing how to position your startup for success can be difficult. Fortunately, there are people with expertise and tools to help you find the way to build your startup for long-term success. A good way to start is to always communicate and make sure you constantly align the team with processes like V2MOM.

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