50/50 Cofounders

Mark Suster has been writing and speaking out about the challenges of a 50/50 partnership between two cofounders. He makes a ton of great points. I would like to provide the counterpoint.

I've started two venture capital firms. The first with Jerry Colonna. The second one with Brad Burnham. Both were 50/50 partnerships. Both have been fantastic experiences. I knew Jerry for a few months before I partnered with him. I knew Brad for a decade but had never worked in the same organization as him. I recognize that venture capital firms are different than companies and that a partnership model works better in VC firms than it does in companies. But these two experiences have taught me that a 50/50 partnership, like a marriage, forces the two founders to come together on all the key decisions and can lead to better decision making.

When I look through the USV portfolio, I don't see a lot of 50/50 partnerships. Of the 38 companies listed on our website, only seven started out as 50/50 partnerships. But some of our best teams were formed that way. Paul and Rony, the founders and leaders of Indeed, are the iconic version of a partnership at the top of a company. They have built possibly the best all around company in our portfolio and they have done it via a partnership model.

Two other partnership driven startups come to mind as I think back over my investment history. Gian Fulgoni and Magid Abraham at ComScore has always been a partnership and they have built a fantastic company. And Jordan Levy and Ron Schrieber, the first entrepreneurs that I worked with as a board member, introduced me to the partnership model. They were even co-CEOs.

So while Mark is right that you don't need to be 50/50 partners with your co-founder, I would say that if you feel comfortable in a 50/50 partnership, it can be a terrific way to operate and build a business. It has worked very well for me over the years and when I see a true 50/50 team show up in our office, I am always more inclined to say yes. I have a great history and pattern recognition with this model.

#VC & Technology

Comments (Archived):

  1. Eran Filiba

    The key thing is that the founders should be honest with themselves and figure out the best way to start a company based on their observations of the partners’ working culture. People should be able to filter their egos out of the equation and plan towards achieving what’s best for the future of the business!

  2. SD

    It is 100% about the people and the tone they are willing to set with the team . Not only do 1-The partners have to believe that their skills are complementary, with a clear division of labor but 2- each also has to be willing to listen to their partner even in the area that they “own”….eg- the business guy has to respect the engineers contribution to the business discussion.Incredibly delicate and lots of potential points of failure. But it can make the tough decisions a bit less lonely if it is a good partnership

  3. bijan

    i agree with you fred.the problem i see in our portfolio is when equity isn’t distributed properly up front and then resentment (in good times and in bad) can build over time.50/50 is a useful signal to see how much the founders trust each other.

    1. msuster

      Maybe. But I equally see resentment the other way. A 50/50 split when one partner doesn’t pull his or her weight. Or resentment when one partner won’t agree to take difficult decisions.Also, I don’t see 50/50 as a signal or a sign of trust. I think it’s just the norm as many people “take the leap” together, often without knowing each other incredibly well.I fund either kind of company but having seen many “blow ups” in my days as an entrepreneur (including my own first company that was 33/33/33) I just wanted to be sure people had thought through the issue carefully before making the leap. If you do go 50/50 just think about how the divorce clauses work up front or how tough decisions get resolved when you disagree.

      1. JamesHRH

        The only sign of trust that matters is that founders can solve tough issues and not hate each other.

        1. JLM

          The opposite of love is not hate.It is indifference.Hate still requires interest, emotion, focus, engagement and relationship. Those emotions can be changed and altered.Indifference is fatal.A: “Want to have a latte and talk things through?”B: “Sure. We should try to work this out, right?”A: “Want to have a green tea and talk things through?”B: “No. I really don’t give a shit anymore.”

          1. Brian

            Well said.I have always said I would rather have someone hate me than be indifferent. I can always flip the hater because they care.

          2. JLM

            Brilliant.I hope nobody really “hates” you..

          3. JamesHRH

            Indifferent people are ineffective. Founders who were in love become haters. Haters actively seek to destroy. I have seen that first hand – not useful.From my experience, the inexperienced teams fall in love (with the idea, with each other, with whatever) without knowing what the key issues to being a great team @JLM:disqus ‘s comment on decision making being one).We have a clearly defined decision making process in our group and Mark would like it: we try to all agree, otherwise the functional lead gets the call. On strategy and business direction, one of us has the title CEO and those calls go to that person.Live and die on the process and the people.

          4. Kasi Viswanathan Agilandam

            Loved it.In fact psychologists say that there is a thin line between love and hate and it is easy to jump from one-to-other if touched at right/wrong.

          5. Kelley Boyd @msksboyd

            “The opposite of love is not hate. It is indifference”Said that just the other day to a 17 year old designer working on an interface.  JLM, We don’t think a lot alike but we act a lot alike.  We would work well together – I have performed best working for military men.  You give people more credit for being able to separate their emotions from actions. Perhaps one day we will get that CFS.  Hope you are well.

      2. JLM

        There is an air of drama that is injected into these comments that is pure naivete and betrays an immature business process. What is being discussed is simple decision making and conflict resolution. We are talking process here.Most important business decisions are made well by first stripping the personality and emotion out of the equation and gathering the facts, identifying all the alternative solutions, carefully weighing and valuing the alternative solutions and then discussing the relative merits of “the” solution to the interests of the business and only then the individuals.Most conflict is created by jumping to the individual impact laden with enormous amounts of emotion and personalizing every aspect of the decision making process.This unhealthy situation is going to present hurdles that one can never retreat behind and which will color the relationships and the business for the rest of time.Call a partner a liar and no amount of neatsfoot oil is going to make that scar go away.The ability to frame the decision making process and to calmly make decisions based upon facts is the sign of a well run business. It requires “complete staff work” a phrase which the military culture understand very, very well.What really killed Osama bin Laden — complete staff work so that the President of the US (that Obama guy) could make a great decision unleashing the hounds of hell on that son of a bitch.It was a very tough decision and President Obama was betting his Presidency on it. Jimmy Carter made a similar bet and it cost him his presidency because the plan was overly complicated.President Obama has likely assured his re-election because the plan was better staffed and more elegantly simple and, oh yeah, because we have spent 10 years perfecting the decision making process and developing the special ops capabilities to deal with the market realities.Kind of like a start up complete with inexperienced CEO?

        1. Guest

          JLM, I am not defending Mark (I do not know him and I am sure he is capable of defending himself).I actually think that is part of the unsaid issue Mark is talking about. Your reply presumes that everyone can calmly detach and make decisions based on facts. If you set a 50/50 company too quickly without assessing your ‘mate’ first you might realize that your new found partner does not have any maturity and/or uses a different management style, etc.

          1. JLM

            Point well made. I am not attacking Mark but suggesting that the decision making of any enterprise has to be mapped out and folks have to buy into that decision making process.Even an emotional thug can be tamed to a process as a cost of entry.This is after all how the Mafia made its decisions about going to Las Vegas.In their case, when they said “execute the plan”, well, it meant something else entirely.

          2. Guest

            The mapping approach often makes sense; especially to those of us who like to map. But many people do not operate that way and trying to be a co-founder with a different type of person without really thinking and TALKING (as you suggested in an earlier post) can be a recipe for failure. And that is a key learning that can be taken away from Mark’s post.P.S. Mafia + Vegas + me near KC = are you pushing my buttons on purpose :-)P.S.S. You had me at ‘talk, talk, talk, talk’ in your earlier reply. But then you lost me using the word pivot. I actually am trying to coin a new phrase Pivotophobia; which is not the fear of actually course correcting but a fear of the people who use the word pivot all the time. 🙂

      3. bijan

        fair points. yet another reason why founder vesting is a good idea. (we also have that at our firm as well.)

      4. Michael Phipps

        I agree that the 50/50 leap is not a sign of trust but more about what just feels normal to most people. Whatever type of split does happen with companies I think needs to be thought out before hand to prevent any resentment that can creep into the situation. In startups I have been a part of theMany times the perceived added value of a few partners contributions can be viewed as less by other partners which results in a few late night arguments/distractions for the company. Most of these discussions can be avoided with open communication up front…but more often emotion comes into play with prevents these types of discussion with partners.

      5. Dave W Baldwin

        Setting aside the issue of what is brought to the table, I would see it a matter of odds. Don’t you think success has a better chance with a 50/50 (someone says, “Hey we got a problem.”) vs. 33/33/33% which would lead to one 33 thinking the other two 33’s are scheming.

        1. fredwilson

          three can be a problem. i have three kids. i grew up in a family of three kids. i am familiar with the dynamics of three. fortunately, when our partnership was three (me, brad, and albert) we didn’t suffer much from them.

          1. Dave W Baldwin

            It is a blessing when all three look at things in the responsible way. Not relevent, but I grew up with family of four, me the third. Amazing how much to heart as younger adults the older ones try to establish pecking order (my younger bro feels left on an island). I’ve had to call the bullshit card a time or two.

        2. Me

          Eric Schmidt?

      6. Carl Rahn Griffith

        Having a Shareholder Agreement in place is essential.

  4. Dan Ramsden

    Do you think there is a correlation/parallel in all this between partnership vs. sole founder on one hand, and building a business vs. building a product on the other? I tend these days to see more and more emphasis on the latter, but that may just be me.

    1. fredwilson

      If one founder owns product and the other owns business you can avoidfailing to build the business. Alex and Eric from Soundcloud do it that wayfor example

      1. Guest

        True but in some industries one of these two aspects might have a shorter timeframe that requires founder focus. I am no expert on consumer internet but I can see that business issues and product issues rear their head’s continuously over time … product building and company administration are never finished. There are always tweaks to be made to product and always deals to be made or talent to be acquired.That may not be the case in all industries though. In some industries, after a large hump the ‘product’ work is done but the business aspect remains for years & years – or it might happen the other way. In these situations the 50/50 pitfalls can come to light over time as one founder might feel they are getting the longer, or shorter, end of the stick. I think these are some of the type of issues Mark is telling folks to think about up front – as much as anyone can anyway without an awesome crystal ball.

        1. JamesHRH

          RIM is set up this way.

      2. JamesHRH

        RIM is set up this way. Had a pretty good run!

  5. Katie

    Some co-founder qualities could justify a skewed equity split right off the bat, other qualities you only discover long after making the equity split decision when it is too late.Justifications for a skewed split: who is going to be the CEO and the “keeper of the vision”, who wants to balance the startup with family life…etc.Those you discover after the fact: a great co-founder who turns into a horrible manager once you hit growth phase, which co-founder can effectively handle the nightmare angel investor with a seat on the board of directors, which co-founder meets the love of her life at a SXSW party and decides to have 10 kids…. These latter factors are discovered over time, and thus the best tool to control them is founder vesting.

    1. msuster

      Founder vesting doesn’t solve all problems though. The meta question is – who decides when a founder has to go and why? And many founder agreements have “acceleration on termination without cause” which means that even if asked to walk they keep the majority or all of their shares.It certainly is complicated. No easy answers. Mostly – be aware of the issues up front.

  6. Peter Sullivan

    My venture started with a 50/50 split. After a product release failure we learned what was really missing, the most important part of course. That being a strong core team that had a sense of ownership in the company. Seems obvious, but being a “equity me monster” can really come back to haunt you. We went back to the drawing board and have restructured the company providing a large portion of equity to the key members (of course using vesting schedules). This has had numerous positive effects. It was a amazing tool for finding excellent talent and getting the entire team to put in those long hours. It has also allowed the company to operate on much thinner amount of capital.

  7. Bruce Warila

    Great subject. The best advice that I have gotten to date on this subject is that founders/partners should earn in like everyone else. Over the years, I have successfully used the partner-earn-in method. I push this method within the music industry (http://bit.ly/mNpkU5) as a way to divide ownership in media projects; like startups, media projects often begin as a loose collection of contributors that have a variety of resources / assets to contribute.

  8. John Polling

    Complete agree. I’m involved in 2 50/50 partnership projects. We are all happy and the fact that everything is decided through good discussion means that is no bad feeling that the larger share holder is throwing their weight around. It’s definitely all about trust, but to be honest if I didn’t trust someone I wouldn’t go into business with them.

  9. Pascal-Emmanuel Gobry

    On a previous post Andrew Parker made a point about survivorship bias and I think it applies here as well.The 50/50 partnerships that make it to your desk are the ones that are going to do well, but you maybe don’t see the dozens of 50/50 partnerships that go bust because of founder differences before really getting off the ground, which is what happened at my first company.It’s convinced me that companies need a “the buck stops here” leader, and that should be reflected in the equity split. There are always exceptions. But I don’t think I’d ever do a 50/50 partnership again.

  10. Guest

    I thought Mark Suster’s post was fantastic for many reasons, not the least of which is that it goes against ‘the grain.’ That said I do think 50/50 can work – they are just not a requirement for success. While working as an accountant I saw more 50/50 owner companies with troubles than any other. Now this goes back in time a bit, so I am willing to admit that our culture may have changed, but I don’t think startup culture has changed that much.Fred, I do not think that Mark was saying 50/50 does not work. Rather they can be more perilous than one might think at first blush and so go into them with your eyes wide open, as it were. A fantastic leader, product builder, and company launcher does not need a partner to still seek and absorb input from their team. One does not have to share the founder’s equity in order to be a great partner with your fellow colleagues and team members.The best thing about Mark Suster’s post is that it gave a very practical checklist of some things to consider. Mark,made really interesting points. The vesting posts were extremely important (I believe Chris Dixon has made post about this too – as others have I am sure). I do not think the tone of Mark’s post was do not do 50/50 companies; just think really hard about it.I inferred from your post that your counterpoint is largely based on your own personal experience (the VC companies you yourself have funded). You may very well be an exception Fred. You may be the type of person that makes a good partner (also might be why it is said you are a good VC investor – you partner with your portfolio companies in essence) and from the few things I have been able to read on your blog in my short time here a good husband (another type of partner). The capability of being a great partner is a trait more rare than you might realize.I cannot speak for Mark, obviously, but my key takeaway is for folks to realize that they do not have to be co-owners (50/50 or 33/33/33, etc.) and still launch. It seems obvious but that simple fact can get lost. Company-building talents can be acquired a variety of ways and not every person is motivated by being able to have the word ‘Founder’ behind their name.

    1. msuster

      Thanks @SIXSTRINGcpa:disqus – I think you represented my point of view very well. I don’t take any issue with Fred’s points. But as you say, I just want people to understand that 50/50 is not the only model and has some limitations that founders need to consider.

  11. Mark Essel

    This was a mistake I made with Victus Media, we split 60/40. I was under the impression fund raising would be easier with one founder with a controlling share. That was an assinine assumption. If anything the split should have been 40/60 with me with the smaller slice.If you’re in before funding/traction the split should be closer to parity because you haven’t proven anything, or mitigated risk unless you are guaranteed runway based on rep/previous exits. A rapidly maturing product with growing users is another reason for an uneven split, much of the early risk has been taken out by earlier founders.

  12. Scott Yates

    I’m in a 50-50 partnership now. It’s our third company working together, the previous two he was not a full partner, but for this one I wanted both of us to be in it equally.I got lots of advice not to do this for all the regular reasons, but decided it was a good idea for this reason: If I ever disagreed with my partner and had to pull rank, I’d be inclined to vote against myself. That inequity would create all kinds of weird dynamics.At 50-50, we both just work on the business, there’s no weird dynamics at all. We both know what we need to do and we both just do it. Heaven.

    1. JLM

      What you describe is a highly successful talent spotting and mentoring operation.Well done. Congratulations.Very adult. Very wise. BRILLIANT!Never let the people who get you to the pay window escape your influence. Never.They will make you more money the second, third, fourth………….time around.If you focus on their making money, they cannot help but to make you money.

    2. msuster

      As I pointed out at the end of my post – if you’re been “in the trenches” with somebody before it’s different. For example, I’d do a 50/50 partnership with Stuart Lander who was there with me in the darkest days.

  13. Pit Karbe

    I don’t quite understand the thinking behind your post. If you look only at your own two firms and the companies in your portfolio, you are suffering from massive survivorship bias. What about all those companies that could have ended up in your portfolio but never made it past the early stages because their founders had a falling out because of their equity split? Of course a 50/50 partnership that works is great, which is why you may see the 50/50 partnerships in your portfolio as superior. But what if the majority of 50/50 splits just don’t work? I think that is the point that Mark Suster is making.

    1. Guest

      Interesting thought; never thought about the survivorship issues before even getting to a VC desk.

  14. William Mougayar

    It really depends on the starting position and real contributions of the 2 parties. It’s so tough to generalize because each situation will be different, but the point I think you’re making is – don’t go 50/50 just because it’s an even number and sounds right at the beginning.

    1. Guest

      yes, businesses (even potential businesses) seem to have their own DNA so making generalizations about anything are very tough[UPDATE: is very tough NOT are very tough]

  15. RacerRick

    It can be any percentage as long as you have good trust and communication.

    1. Guest

      GREAT comment!

  16. buy essay

    thanks for posting… Truly interesting

  17. awaldstein

    You can have a 50/50 equity split and still have only one CEO who runs the company.Sounds somewhat counterintuitive but it can work, especially where the CEO is the business lead and the CTO for example the product lead.Easier to share risk/reward than to share absolute leadership and decision making.

    1. Guest

      Good point.

    2. JLM

      Ownership and leadership are not the same things.You can own the ship but you still need an experienced pilot to get into port.

      1. markslater

        or if your greek its an inconvinient stopping point between buying and selling 😉

      2. awaldstein

        Yup…a truth but not always one that is realized.

    3. Mark Essel

      Great point Arnold, leadership doesn’t require majority ownership but if there’s a conflict of interest between owners, the greater shareholder can trump the lesser. Unless of course ownership is split between a board then he or she with the greatest influence over controlling shares wins.

  18. msuster

    Thanks for the counter-point, Fred. Actually, I was expecting more people to challenge it on my blog but I guess there’s selective bias in commenting. Of the 100+ comments nearly all were “hallelujah” type comments. So clearly a lot of people have been burned and a lot of people prefer not to debate in blog comments ;-)So let me say a couple of quick things:1. I fund both kinds of startups. The “equal split” startups are about 25% and tend to have a strongly nominated CEO.2. Venture partnerships are VERY different from startup ones. Venture partnerships are 10 years long, involve tons of predictable cash compensation and don’t involve the same daily level of existential decisions. You have a large pool of capital, you decide and your first big feedback doesn’t come for 12-18 months at the earliest. And even then you can easily cover up bad decisions with a small follow on round. I’m not saying this is good, it just is.3. When I entered the industry I was a sponge (still am) in asking every partner I knew how their fund runs, how they make decisions to invest or follow on, how well the partners get along, etc. It was rare that I found people saying “we have a great decision process” – in most places they described a weird bureaucracy. In my experience VCs rarely have great decision processes. The best characterization of VC decision making is in the book eBoys. Anyone interested in “what it is like in VC decisioning” should read this book.4. With regards to founders, I agree it can go either way. My main point is that I see more founders who end up fighting after 18-36 months when things don’t go as well as they had hoped and they were unable to make tough decisions together. I have two friends who started a business 4 years ago. They fought for the last 2 years and finally separated (peacefully). The founder who stayed described the liberation of finally being able to take bigger risks, make bigger decisions and live or die on these outcomes. He increased revenue from $1m to $4m in his first year. Just a data point, I know, but I don’t believe this is atypical. For those companies that kill it out of the box they seldom face these difficult fights.Regardless, I really appreciate your having defended the other side of the debate. It’s an important one with no “right” answer but for which I believe more people need to think about the merits before taking the plunge and at a minimum discuss with 50/50 founders what they’d do if they couldn’t agree on the toughest decisions.Sorry for the “comment novel”

    1. baba12

      It is interesting you make this argument about partnerships yet you and your fellow VC’s ( former entrepreneurs who were at the right place at the right time) when looking to invest etc always ask about the team and for many a startup the team if it is 1 person only you would balk at it. If on the other hand there are 2 or more members in the team and they started it as equals you come out with a piece like this stating how things go bad etc. So it is a catch22 and basically you are just validating a point I always state to folks, VC’s are the most risk averse folks on the planet. You are just adding another set of reasons why you may not invest in something.Sure what you say has a lot of merit but it seems more like damned if you do or don’t do a partnership that is 50/50.I believe that you have to go with some basic gut instincts and a willingness to say “try, fail and fail better” until you find the right balance.

      1. msuster

        @baba12:disqus you’re making assumptions about me that are inaccurate. I’ve backed 3 solo founders.

        1. baba12

          I was not specifically stating you as the person in the comment. I was referring to how VC’s and many of the new incubator groups out there tend to value teams over individuals. If you have invested contrary to the popular scenarios, kudos to you. I am just making an observation based on what I have seen/read.Thanks for the update.

    2. Aaron Klein

      I love both your post and Fred’s. I’ve done this both ways and each approach has its strengths and challenges.And few want to say anything negative about a former cofounder…no matter how well or bad the relationship went. I think that’s the reason for the lack of debate…but it made the content no less valuable.

      1. fredwilson

        point counterpointi’d love to do that show with markwe’d have a blasteven though we probably agree on most things

        1. Aaron Klein

          I’d love to see it!

    3. Mark Essel

      “Sorry for the comment novel”We should expect no less based on your blogging and hour + videos, you sir have a lot to say.

    4. Rohan

      Hmm. Nice to hear that you’ve had the counter experience.As I commented on Mark’s blog, most of the examples I have seen seem to point towards a 50-50 not working. (Liverpool Football Club, Bill Gates-Paul Allen etc). Good to know.. as is the case with all these things, I guess there is no right answer after all.

      1. Kevin Lacker

        How can you use Microsoft as an example of a company that “didn’t work”??

        1. Rohan

          Hi Kevin,I should have made it clearer – I meant the co-founder model at Microsoft didn’t work. Bill Gates eventually took over and Paul Allen was forced out – not uncommon.

    5. ShanaC

      Mark, why is there such bad decision making in the industry when it comes to process?

      1. msuster

        Because there is no clear leadership in many firms, because there are large sums of money involved, because it involves huge impacts to people’s reputations and because frankly some partners have never worked in a hierarchic structure before. That’s my guess.

        1. ShanaC

          thank you – it just seems off that the advice givers (in theory) would alsohave poor organizational structure themselves

    6. fredwilson

      comment novels are appropriate when the post is a counter argument to one of your own posts. we are lucky to have your voice here Mark.this is the kind of debate that is hugely beneficial to the community. there is no right answer but there is a lot of learning that will come of it.thanks

    7. anonymous

      Couldn’t agree more with your perspective, particularly your comments re risk-taking. I am the ceo of a funded business and “hired” my co-founder for 30% equity as well as a good salary, in anticipation of the issues you describe. He peacefully left the business after about 18 months. One of the best decisions I’ve made.

  19. jeffyablon

    Fred, you don’t usually fall victim to “when you’re a hammer, everything looks like a nail” syndrome, but I think you did that here.In your business, a 50/50 partnership can work. It can work because whomever you’ve gone into business with and you have decided to split responsibilities in a particular way (subject of course to reevaluation, which you’ve also agreed on). The place where your 50/50 comes into play is agreement on portfolion investments … period. And you look at that as a good checks/balances thing; unless you both wish to make the investment, you simply don’t do it.But you don’t produce anything.In a “real” business, where everyone has a different kind of impact on things, there needs to be a majority partner, or the opportunity to get stuck is too large.Nice to live in that tower, huh?Jeff YablonPresident & CEOAnswer Guy and Virtual VIP Computer Support, Business Change Coaching and SEO Consulting/Search Engine Optimization Services

    1. baba12

      I wonder if Mr.Wilson would agree with the statement that they (USV) as a partnership does not produce anything. In their view they are producing a lot of value for their portfolio companies besides investing in them. Granted they are a partnership where in the end it is the bottom line of for “$x” in investment did they make it “$100x” or not. But I think if you are a company looking for investment and you have several equal offers on the table, you then look at how the various VC’s maybe unique to add value besides the investment.So probably Mr.Wilson and company may actually think they produce a lot more than just a ROI.

      1. JLM

        It is no slur to be a financial manager. Fred Wilson is working where his talents lie and he is hitting long balls w/ men on base.He is also a shrewd marketing guy as this blog proves.And he obviously loves it.But he is not producing anything in the sense of what a business produces.He is adept at talking LPs out of their money and evaluating where to put it and when to reap the profits.He gets 2 & 20 in the process. It is a great gig.And startup businesses need guys like Fred to be their Dutch uncle, to lend them some gray hair and to show them where to put their feet from time to time to make it through the minefield that is the entrepreneurial start up business environment today.

        1. fredwilson

          i agree with JLMi always tell people that i haven’t had a “real job” since 1985 when i stopped writing software for a living and went to business school

    2. fredwilson

      i accept the criticism but not the suggestion that i live in an ivory toweri live on the subway

      1. jeffyablon

        I LOL’d seriously.And: Me too.

  20. J.R. Sedivy

    My experience has been the same. Although equal partnerships can be frustrating at times the benefits far outweigh the cost. Equal partnerships reveal their ultimate value when major problems arise. I consider my partners family and the business building journey would be much more difficult, and less entertaining, without them 🙂

  21. Bobby C.

    Speaking from personal experience, a 50/50 partnership can work if each respective partners spouse or significant other stays out of things.

  22. JamesHRH

    Fred – I thought Mark’s comments were worth supporting because they were against the grain of ‘common wisdom’. VCs have a lot of common wisdom that is just dopey. Mark himself professes that distributed teams are a bad idea (really?). Most Valley VCs don’t fly to board meetings (really?).Every model can work, if the team that operates the model knows what the big philosophical issues are and each team member has bought in and has the confidence to hold other founders accountable. What a founder really needs is people to call bullshit on their bullshit.The old forming, storming and norming process is the real key (for those unfamiliar, great teams have to come together, settle some tough issues and agree on how to do things ). Once that happens, the other stuff is just details.The key to that process is to know what issues are likely to be big issues (the old experience saw).My favorite example that goes against VC wisdom is a VC: Benchmark Capital. Who runs equal shares to everybody? with no earn in? That’s crazy. There are a zillion reasons that it is nuts.Yet, when Arrington interviewed Gurley and Cohler, when they announced Cohler was coming onboard, Cohler basically said: “there is a lot of peer pressure to perform.” No sh!t Sherlock!And when Gurley reviewed Cohler’s history and capabilities, you could tell that somebody’s favourite nephew was not getting into Benchmark! The guy is a superstar (IPO’d a startup in China, then early into LinkedIn, then Facebook first 5 – I think – employee).The dynamics of the philosophy in action means that Benchmark will never be Accel or KPCB. But, I think they decided they were OK with that a long time ago. And, agreeing on important stuff like that is what you need in a co-founder.I once had a friend propose to his wife, after 90 days of dating. I thought he was nuts. Eventually, I point blanked him on it. He had a list of important issues (kids, religion, money, relocation,etc.). They had almost no disagreement on any of them and he pulled the trigger. Still married 20 years later.Pretty much the same thing, I think.

    1. JLM

      For an interesting and thought provoking of how a partnership with unusual features can work and work well take a look at Allen & Co. Very interesting and unique culture.

      1. karen_e

        It’s interesting that you mention Allen & Co. I have looked for information about them in the past and found they had almost no web presence. Do you have any links?

        1. JLM

          No, they are secretive as hell. Here’s what I know.First, they are damn good and smart as hell and have an intelligence gathering network that is impressive. Hell, George Tenet works there.They operate at a level where business and politics meld together. Bill Bradley works there.In the early 1990s, a “partner” made $18K per year and had to pay for his own office and secretary. Herb Allen (the elder) made every hiring decision.A partner had to find deals for the company and could “sponsor” deals for the partnership. He had to find deals.Any partner could invest in any other partner’s deal and the company (Allen family) could take a piece of every deal. But everyone was writing checks.If you did not have the money in the early years, then Herb would lend you the money.Most of the partners operate as a 2-man team. I used to think of them as the prick and the nice guy.They have a georgous conference room with about $20MM in art displayed and white coated valets bringing you lunch.If you are on the slate to do a deal with them, you will have lunch and Herb will come to the lunch and you will know that afternoon if you are “in” or “out”. Herb will chat you up a bit — does not eat lunch wiht you — and the decison will be made.When you do your deal with them you will truly know what it means to be waterboarded — a bit of hyperbole at play there. But they are not playing to tie.When you make them some money, you are in their clique and that is a very, very, very good place to be. They will never forget you. You are on the varsity.They can open every door in the world.When you say you have done a deal w/ Allen & Co, it still means something in an otherwise very jaded world.

          1. Mark Essel

            Never heard of them, but that’s one helluva strategic organization. Much to learn from how they operate, even if it’s alien to my own style.

          2. ShanaC

            they host sun valley

          3. Guest

            I think CNBC used to run a special every year when they did their Sun Valley event.

          4. fredwilson

            we are very close to them. great firm.

        2. Aaron Klein

          I’m not sure if this is any better than JLM’s fascinating comment, but here’s a 2004 Carol Loomis article in Fortune…http://money.cnn.com/magazi

    2. LE

      “They had almost no disagreement on any of them and he pulled the trigger”Well of course this can happen after 5 years as well as 90 days BUT if you’ve know many divorced people, or if you’ve ever been divorced yourself, you realize thata) people changeb) spouses will tell the other what they want to hearto achieve an objectivec) circumstances change … and so on.Your friend was right in this case of course but sowere you.I can walk across the street, not lookboth ways, and not get hit. That doesn’t make it right tonot look both ways. In general of course.Remember these guys:”In Sculley’s first months at Apple, his relationship with Steve Jobs seemed almost like a honeymoon. They would both go at lengths in the media about how they got along so well that they could finish each other’s sentences.”If I understand this argument correctly, one big advantageof *not* having 50/50 de facto or de jure is that thereis a pecking order and one person is the decider. So if yougo that route make sure the other person is comfortablewith that concept.

      1. LE

        sorry for the spacing it’s a disqus thing on Firefox apparently.

      2. JamesHRH

        Le – just to work your analogy. My friend knew he was crossing the road without being able to look both ways. But he tried his damnedest to do so. He is a professional, in a professional where movement is a bad financial idea. He lived in a small community. He is agnostic if not athiest. He wanted more than 2 kids. He knew what the next 30 years were likely to look like and he tapped the glass on the gal he had fallen for. You cannot take out all of the risk, but you can cross a suburban street at 3 AM versus the I10 in central LA @ 8AM.

    3. fredwilson

      i’m a huge fan of benchmark’s model. we emulate it with one difference. you take a half share in the first fund you do with us.

  23. JLM

    A partnership is both a specific legal entity and an intellectual approach as to how a business is going to be run.There is a huge difference between how a business is owned (legal entity) and how it is going to be run (operational considerations).There is a degree of complexity in which these two considerations have to be carefully woven into a fabric which will both protect and nourish the business while providing identity, encouragement and ego nourishment to the individuals involved.Symbolism also plays a big role. Never forget the symbolism.There are also many good models in other industries as to how this can work and create a multiplier effect or alternatively destroy an otherwise viable business. One can look at the Trammel Crow company, Buffet & Munger, KKR and others to see how things can work well and not so well.Remember there are cycles to everything and what worked well last year may be cancer this year. Respect the business cycle and the seasons of a man’s life. Your great partner turns 50 and goes nuts. It will happen.It all gets down to people and their unique and individual needs, biases and fears. We are all unique and we are all nuts.It is no great surprise that tech startups of every stripe struggle with this because you are often dealing with persons who are on the first steps of their own personal journey of discovery. How the hell can you set up the buffet when you have never run a kitchen.It is pretty damn tough to take a rookie CEO — perhaps CEO in name only — and plot out the future when he knows next to nothing about both the job and people in general.This harkens back to what I think is a huge opportunity — the wise gray headed mentor board member (perhaps not affiliated with any VC who has provided funding) who can inject a bit of real world wisdom into the mix.The most important decision you will ever make about any business is the people and when you are partnering up or embracing a co-founder that decision may very well determine whether the pay window ever opens up for you after years and years of work.One size does not fit all but careful thoughtful reflection as to what you really want to happen will always dramatically improve the likelihood of a winning outcome.Once you have struck your organizational note, remember to talk, talk, talk, talk and never ever stop talking. When it comes time to pivot, it will not be a surprise.Make damn sure that you know what the other guy thinks about the prospect of making money. If you are in for the money and he is in for the style points you can still work well together but you have to know and acknowledge it.

    1. Mark Essel

      Ah, but where do we find wizened board members unaffiliated with any VC?

      1. Guest

        I don’t know about your geographical area but there are a few successful business people in KC area that I know sit on Advisory Boards (and Boards) of startup companies to help them along. I don’t think its a geographical centric phenomenon though. Might just have to network a bit.

      2. JLM

        They are out there if you look for them. You should ask the VCs to find some for you because every enterprise should have a number of truly “independent” boardmembers.

    2. fredwilson

      i’m a huge fan of the “elder wise man” on the board

      1. Kasi Viswanathan Agilandam

        I know a company in India which is working great because of a “elder wise man”.They started with 7-8 founders with one elderly wise man. They did not share the shares equally as well but even after 25 years the company is doing great and each funder is a billionaire ($ terms) now…and many of the initial employees … close 25-30 billionaires.

  24. Charlie Crystle

    There’s no set path that’s better than the other; you can get good outcomes with all kinds of arrangements.The potential for problems is a lot higher with equal co-founders, which I’ve experienced. I think part of the mistake I made, which Suster also notes, is that we didn’t have a mechanism for addressing issues that come up over time.Early on things were great. But situations change, people change, and typically there’s a disproportionate amount of the leadership load and sacrifice carried by one guy. I need strong team members–a founding team.And it’s possible I’d do the multiple-founder thing again, were there an extraordinary opportunity. Might even take a back seat someday given the right situation, though I can’t quite imagine that.But I’m fine with a strong founding team, instead of multiple founders. I’d guess in most cases there’s one guy who is the true driver and leader, and that leadership position can be isolating and difficult at times, which the other co-founders won’t experience.I didn’t express this as well as I’d like to, but there it is. Sacrifice is the key word in there.

  25. Charlie Crystle

    Just testing this nifty disqus feature

  26. JamesHRH

    Seasons of a Man’s Life is a startling read.

  27. JamesHRH

    Seasons of a Man’s Life is a startling read.

    1. JLM

      When did Levinson write that book? It wasn’t yesterday or last year.One of my pet peeves in life is how we fail to mine the wisdom of the ages. The classic new generational sense that — wow, I invented sex. And it’s great. Better go get a yellow pad so I can document the process.The issues as to how to form and run a company — around the human resource — have been around for centuries. Just because it now involves a computer does not make it either new or unique.The fact that high tech startups are typically dealing with brainy 20-somethings means it is just potentially a more inexperienced and high strung bunch of founders.The problems are the same.

      1. Dave W Baldwin

        I hope @msuster:disqus reads this because it proves his point.It comes down to who has what on the table. If you are a tech who has everything down to what others would consider an Alpha, you’d give 50% to a business guy who can gain the money tomorrow and isn’t too much of a vanity problem.If you are one with an idea (actually set of ideas that are put together), it is a matter of giving more than 50% to the tech that is above expectation.Otherwise, you’ll fail due to your thinking all you need is a programmer without true grit and then the, “All I need is more $$$$” is what you’ll hear. Get out the funnel.

      2. Jharradence

        JLM – wrote it in the ’60’s. My wife brought it From an Exec Educ peck @ Wharton. There is a companion Seasons Woman.My marketing bible was written in 1970, when I was 5!I remember telling somebody, when I was 30ish, ‘you know, there have been some smart people thru the ages & some of them even wrote down what they learned.’It’s saved a lot of time.

        1. JLM

          The correct answer is — 1978.I think there are great lessons to be learned by reading things written at all different times. I find things like Drucker to be so fundamental without having to deal with social media and “pivot”.I like to go back and re-read some of them.One of my favorite books of all time is Ayn Rand’s Atlas Shrugged and the recent movie was one of my most enjoyable pleasures as it closed a lasso over about 40 years of reading.

          1. JamesHRH

            You are right – the bulk of the research was conducted in the ’60s and early ’70’s.We used Drucker to set the philosophy in our group too.

      3. JamesHRH

        It seems as if VCs like 20-somethings for the very reason that they are too young to ‘get it’. They are whip smart on the tech and the ideas, but typically not whip smart on the street level issues.How many VCs are successful? <20%. How many are really successful<10%, I believe. Most of them are theme based investors. The rest are feel based – good luck to you all on that one.I am pretty sure – but let’s be clear, I don’t know for sure – that Allen & Co have a framework for investing that is not ‘get a bunch of 20 somethings to work like dogs, yell at them for better results if they are not superstarring it & then lean into the winners’: but that describes 80% of VCs.

        1. Guest


      4. Carl Rahn Griffith

        Compounded by the human ego and all its associated frailties and also Maslow’s hierarchy of needs.All in all it’s pretty amazing ANY 50/50 partnerships work!I don’t see it being comparable to a marriage, as has been cited by some here. It took me 3 stabs at that before I got it right – ie, found my life long soul mate and true love. The drivers in a business partnership are very different…

  28. JamesHRH

    I wish Disqus has the nifty feature of putting my replies where they are supposed to go. What is up?

    1. Guest

      Like here you mean? 🙂

  29. andyswan

    Boss Hogg: “We’ll split it 50/50″Rosco: “Good deal”Boss Hogg: “You get 50 percent of 50 percent.”

    1. David Semeria

      Good stuff Andy. I’d take 50% of 50% if Daisy was thrown in.

      1. RichardF

        Catherine Bach or Jessica Simpson?

        1. David Semeria

          Definitely the former.

          1. Mark Essel

            Old school 😉

        2. JLM


          1. RichardF

            LOL…I like your style JLM

  30. Scott Barnett

    There is no one “right” answer here. A common theme though is how the partners handle stressful situations. I’m not a VC so I have no idea the differences between partnerships in a company and a VC (Mark makes some good comments there), but one thing Fred is that your two partnerships have been wildly successful – and that does tend to overshadow most issues within a partnership – success hides many flaws. (reading this again, I am certainly NOT implying that USV is flawed!! :-)The rubber meets the road when things start going sideways or even downhill – and people start looking for who to blame, and your differences all of a sudden become glaringly obvious. It is a rare person indeed who can be gracious, understanding level-headed and calm when things aren’t going so well. Now, try to find TWO people who can both do that (or THREE if it’s a 1/3 split between three partners!)

    1. fredwilson

      true. a partnership is easier when things are going well

  31. aarondelcohen

    @fredwilson:disqus @bijan:disqus @msuster:disqus I’m surprised that nobody has mentioned Joel Spolsky’s important essay (http://bit.ly/m7u756) on founder share allocation that he wrote a month ago. Joel articulates the importance of fairness and especially the perception of fairness. I have just incorporated a new startup and Joel’s essay was so influential I decided to abandon our tiered equity structure and split it equally among our founders. Mark Suster is right that if one of my partners works 10x harder or creates 10x more value than another, it creates friction. But this friction pales in comparison to that which is caused by imbalances caused in equity allocation. I think corporate governance mechanisms (vesting, board control etc) can serve as a counterweight to Mark’s concerns about fair allocations. Of course, this only works if those with power use it prudently for the good of the organization. Earlier in my career, I found it impossible to use this power to make a change that negatively effected a co-founder, but positively changed the company. My companies suffered from the procrastination that was masked by “loyalty”. But with experience, I’ve learned that Joel and Mark are both correct. Perception of fairness is critical. Equal allocation for unequal work can be immensely destructive. Equality in economics needs to be juxtaposed with clear chain of command in governance and decision making.

    1. bijan

      great point Joel’s post hit home with me.(full disclsoure: I’m an investors in Joel Spolsky’s company, Stack Exchange).

    2. msuster

      @aarondelcohen:disqus everybody talks about the right corporate governance or vesting but that ducks the real questions:- Who decides when one founder isn’t pulling his or her weight and needs to go? Without this founder vesting is pretty much irrelevant except for the case when one founder quits. – What happens when the company has an offer to sell and the 50/50 co-founders disagree?- What happens when they disagree on fund raising?These are not reasons to avoid 50/50 partnerships altogether. But to be clear – it’s not as easy as saying “corporate governance.”

  32. Rick Bullotta

    Here’s a companion question, Fred (and Mark) : what about three headed beasts? Any experience with the dynamics of three co-founders vs two, and how that affects decision making and effectiveness?

    1. fredwilson

      it can work but it is dangerous

    2. msuster

      I had three at my first company. It proved very difficult. But there is never a set rule. I’ve backed 2 companies with 3 co-founders and both of them are managing things VERY well. Actually, probably coincidentally, but in many ways better than the 50/50 partnerships.

  33. Steve Hallock

    I think it comes down to the personalities of the founders. I have worked in 50/50 partnership, as a minority, and as a majority and from my perspective find them all to be very workable positions. I’m not a maniac about getting things my way and would never partner, at any equity level, with someone whose input and decision making I did not respect.I think Mark has chosen an in-your-face way of saying: be very careful who you partner with and under what terms, especially at the very beginning of a company.Frankly, some people are better judges of character than others, some have better deal feel than others, and some have a better sense of how long, hard and possibly successful the endeavor will be. It’s not a bad blanket policy, IMHO, to try to do as much as possible on your own when starting a company, and then smart about who you bring on and how.

    1. fredwilson

      as usual, mark has stimulated an incredibly useful discussionhave you had the opportunity to meet him yet?

      1. Steve Hallock

        we’re meeting next Friday. I hate when I introduce people and never hear back on it – so I will certainly let you know how it goes! thank you again for the intro.

  34. Peter Saal

    I had a successful start-up based on 50/50 partnership. When I was forming the company I approached my future partner (a brilliant engineer with art chops) with the idea. He proposed that we split it 70 for me, 30 for him. I insisted on 50/50 because I wanted his full commitment. A year later, when we were in early stages of being acquired, I wanted to keep developing the business, but he wanted to sell. (The buyer was a great company for engineers, but bad for business guys.) We were fortunate that we could both engage in a well-reasoned discussion about the pros and cons. In the end we went the way he wanted because I recognized the strength of the logic he used. In the end, it was absolutely the right thing to do. I would do 50/50 again in a heartbeat.

  35. Jeff Judge

    I don’t think there is a right answer here, but from my experience as a 50/50 co-founder this is tricky – especially when both people are strong drivers and like to dive into the details. At @Signal:twitter , we’ve split up the responsibilities by the CEO (me) taking on day-to-day operations, hiring, capital planning where as the President (my partner) is taking on strategic projects which require extended focus and analysis. We’ve found over time that having both of us in the drivers seat creates a lot more issues (and redundancy in planning and communications) than if we split up responsibilities this way.I’m really enjoying this discussion, it’s so on topic for me right now and interesting to see other’s perspective. Agreed with JLM that if the other partner just stops caring, that’s a big problem. Thankfully I’ve found a great partner to work with.

  36. Mark Zohar

    Here are a couple of really useful resources that I’ve used in the past to determine how to “split the pie” when founding a start-up. The takeaway for me, as noted in the articles, is that rarely should founder’s equity be split 50/50, even though that’s what most start-ups do.http://www.andrew.cmu.edu/uhttp://capgenius.com/2011/0

    1. Guest

      I had not seen that capgenius link; thanks for sharing that.

  37. Boris Fowler

    50/50 to me indicates trust and a good working relationship between business partners. This may not always be true, but hopefully anyone seeking venture capital is mature enough to call out a business partner if they see a bad habit forming, and hopefully they are mature enough to be called out as well.

  38. mikenolan99

    Surprised there is no mention of the 50/50 partnership with Gotham Gal…

    1. fredwilson

      that’s a 95/5 split. she does 95% of the work, i get 95% of the credit

  39. ShanaC

    OK- end result question: what is the best way to manage these kinds of partnerships? What causes them to be stable, what causes them to blow up?

  40. Mark Westling

    What I’m getting from this is that if you have the right pairing of partners, then a 50/50 equity split provides stability and sets the expectation that both parties will work together on all major decisions. BUT, if the pairing isn’t right, then there’s no equity split that will make both parties happy.This question of selecting a co-founder is really interesting to me. It’s much deeper than “find someone with complementary skills”. It’s even deeper than “try to evaluate the other person’s character”.My current thinking is that, short of working alongside someone for ten years, both parties need to interview the other party thoroughly and rigorously. A lot of people shy away from this because they’re afraid of appearing rude. On the other hand, why would you be less thorough in interviewing a partner than you would a VP?

    1. fredwilson

      at this point in my career i would not choose to be a partner with anyone who i hadn’t worked closely with and was 100% comfortable with. i’ve taken those risks in the past, but i don’t think i would now

  41. CapGenius

    Setting up the split in a VC Partnership is quite different from a startup and the contrast is an interesting one.In a VC partnership assuming the two founders are both GPs you should reasonably expect they will contribute the same amount of time, energy and effort, and through a collaborative approach to venture they should share in the successes and failures within the portfolio.In a startup it is rare to see a situation where the two founders will share the same title and exact same set of responsibilities like you see with GPs at a venture fund.

    1. CapGenius

      Sorry – rest of the comment got cut off:Instead, the founders are likely to take different rolesfrom the start and have a very different set of responsibilities in terms ofmaking the business succeed.If the two founders bring different skill sets, levels ofexperience and overall “gravitas” to a business, it makes a great deal of senseto recognize this up front and apportion ownership accordingly.If one person in a two person VC firm felt this way, it isunlikely they would co-found the firm with the other person as a GP, or I wouldhope they would at least have a long discussion with the other individual toshare these thoughts/concerns.Someone already provided a link to our post on this topic(that happens to side with Mark Suster in this case) @Capgenius, so we will notinclude it again here.

  42. paramendra

    I feel the other way. I am for the Knight Founder CEO. But there is no one right answer.

  43. ErikSchwartz

    With a 50/50 partnership default action in a deadlock is to do nothing. In a VC firm that means not making an investment. Given that most opportunities are passes anyways that is not catastrophic (and if you were wrong you won’t know that for years anyways).In a startup the chance to just put things off until later is much rarer.

    1. fredwilson

      great point

  44. 1683wpf1225

    Fred, in my view, you lucked out. I’ve seen far too many start-ups where co-founders get spoiled by success, and then one founder develops “other interests” (sitting on boards, playing polo, etc.) and loses the fire in the belly and the needed work effort, focus, and ambition rapidly diminishes. Buy-Sell agreements are a must in 50/50 situations. Bill

    1. fredwilson

      true. nothing worse than your partner “calling in rich”

      1. JamesHRH

        Enough already with lucky.Preparation, alignment and awareness does not equal luck.And getting educated through blunt force failure sharpens the resolve and focus. People forget about resilience and determination.You are hardly an overnight success here Fred.

    2. Carl Rahn Griffith

      Spot on.

  45. walldawg

    Thanks Fred, this is a topic I never get tired of reading about. For our startup, my co-founder and I used 50/50 as the starting point for negotiation. We hadn’t worked together before so we took our time, trial and errored a few small projects as part of the negotiations, and through a process of learning about each other’s strengths, weaknesses and other commitments, we ultimately decided on a split of 55% me and 45% him, with 4 year vesting for both of us. Skill and experience-wise, we felt very comfortable calling each other equals but the real difference came down to the fact that I put in $10k (which we valued at 5%) and that I had been working for a year on the project before I met him (also valued at 5%). It wasn’t that I had the idea, that’s just my job as CEO, it was the year of solo effort I put in toward customer development, business model generation, establishing network, etc. Once we arrived at that split, we slept on it, woke up the next day and it still felt good, so we pulled the trigger. So far it’s working well and this process really gave us a good basis for trust, communication and team-work.

    1. Guest

      Good detail description of a real world example. May I ask how old the startup is now?

      1. walldawg

        We met a little over a year ago and reached our agreement earlier this year. We just finished our MVP and are recruiting our first five real-world customers now. In terms of our partnership, we’ve had one serious disagreement early in negotiations, which turned out to be a misunderstanding from a poorly-worded email. I’m sure there will be bigger tests to come but so far we’ve been able to get a lot done in a short time, which to me is the whole point of partnerships in the first place. Oh yeah, one other thing… never underestimate the value of being able to share a beer together. 🙂

        1. Guest

          Thanks so much for replying with more information about your process.I am laughing at your beer comment. I just asked a VC if he wanted to grab a beer or BBQ while he is in Kansas City to discuss a blog post he made earlier this week where I disagreed with some of his comments. The VC and I are in NO way partners/co-founders or in business together, so the situation is different, but the timeliness of your ‘never underestimate the value of being able to share a beer’ comment really made me smile. Continued successes.

  46. Pete Griffiths

    My first company had five founders with 20% each. When we sold it (successfully) years later had everyone made the same contribution? No. But did any of us feel burned? No. Why not? Because we had always made a strict distinction between capital ownership and executive responsibility and during that period people ended up earning differently. And because we were successful and having 20% of something is far far better than 100% of nothing. Bickering about relative ownership and the jealousies and tensions it can create can be profoundly destructive. It’s hard enough getting a company on the right track anyway. Internal problems are the last thing you need. I appreciate this doesn’t work for everyone in all circumstances, but I would be prepared to give up rather a lot to avoid such internal dissent.

  47. leigh

    Just incorporating as we speak a 50/50 partnership. Jerry (Collonna) will like this – we’ve decided to put arbitration into our shareholders agreement. We are finding an executive coach that we both like now (while we are getting along famously) who can help us navigate through issues down the line (as there are likely always going to be some).

  48. Harvest Creative

    I’ve operated a partnership for the last seven years. I can say without a doubt that much (if not all) of the success we’ve enjoyed as a company is due to our compatible talents, personalities and ability to rely on the other person. It is a great thing to have a partner you completely trust. That said, I’ve also seen the bad side of partnerships. I’ve seen long time friendships and family relationships killed by business partnerships. In the end, I believe you should never go into business with family or close friends. You may become extremely good friends with your cofounder down the road, but I believe you shouldn’t start with someone where a relationship will get in the way of business.

  49. MatchMate

    what about 30/70 ? would it be a good idea to grow the company?

  50. MatchMate

    i think most of 50/50 evantully had some disagreement at some point that caused the conflict and law suit which happend not long ago in online dating worlds

  51. BuyGiftsItems

    I don’t think this is atypical. For those companies that kill it out of the box they never face these difficult fights.Kamagra

  52. Nik Souris

    A very enlightening @fredwilson:disqus counterpoint to the @msuster:disqus post because a) because it cites/acknowledges the distinction of VC/professional services vs company, b) it shows the possibility of success which I suspect evolved into disproportionate equity portions, but more importantly c) it calls out the relatively small percentage of winners amidst the relatively small percentage of success period. I can even be argue that some success was averted because of the equal partnerships. I have seen the mistake of equal partnerships countless times and made it myself on 2 separate occasions with one case involving blood relatives (a volatile corollary to the partnership topic). One point to add to Mark’s case is the increased likelihood of misleading employees, especially on “partner” differences. My suggestion to anyone starting a company and considering an equal partnership – listen to QUEEN’s “The Game” track 7 or Side 2 Track 2 for those with vinyl.

  53. vruz

    @fredwilson:disqus when you say “true 50/50”, the only way you have to know whether a dynamic duo is the real thing is if they have survived some meaningful time working together in that arrangement.the longer the partnership has existed, the more accurate your assesment of such “truth” can be.like marriages, it’s easy to be happy and optimistic in the first year or two, until you learn what life is really made of.an appearance of true 50/50 in teams of people who haven’t tested their guts out there in the wild is probably just unrealistic. or rather “true” in more of a truthiness way than truth.

  54. Eunice Apia

    I think 50/50 partnerships are great if you and a person come up with a concept together. It’s sometimes hard to bring someone as a 50/50 partner when you’ve created the concept yourself and then try to get them to understand your vision. Not that it can’t be done, but it’s hard. Someone is always a little more aggressive in partnerships whether it’s 50/50 or not.I don’t plan on having a 50/50 partnership in the first company that I’m starting, but later down the road I will love to share. I think you need a lot of self control and maturity to be in a 50/50 partnership. It’s commendable.

  55. Kevin Berrey

    @msuster, great post. You drill down into something I had tried to elucidate a month ago (http://www.avc.com/a_vc/201… and you’ve nailed it pretty squarely. The point I had wanted to make, and it’s been echoed here numerous times, was to champion fluid and wise decision-making. If you’ve vetted the options thoroughly and decide that 50/50 is the path for you, then by all means. However, I believe the degree to which sharing control by default can cause decision-making to become all hosed up often escapes founders. Having vesting, buy/sell agreements, mediation clauses, old men on the board and other practices in place to handle contingencies is critical. And while the elegance of a 50/50 partnership is great when that fits the team — it’s the default legal structure with no agreement, it’s a human ideal, it’s automatically fair — it’s ugly when it comes from a place of conflict avoidance. There is a goldmine of great subject matter here for looking at the character of founders and their companies.

  56. BuyGiftsItems

    I know, but I don’t believe this is atypical. For those companies thatkill it out of the box they seldom face these difficult fights. Kamagra

  57. Project Management Certificati

    I think the reason for the lack of debate … but he made the contents of equal value. PMP Exam

  58. Rthuston

    Agree upfront with your cofounder to work 14 hour days if you ever get behind on work until your caught up, and you’ll be fine. –Charlie Munger

  59. JLM

    The Iranian fiasco raid was led by a guy named Charlie “Charging Charlie” Beckwith who was one of my Ranger instructors in the Everglades. A truly professional warrior.In years thereafter he dissected the entire raid and every service wanted part of the action. The raid was destroyed by the inability to coordinate the process and because there was no such “off the shelf” capability which was ready to go at a moment’s notice.Today we have a well oiled special ops machine which can turn “central intelligence” into actionable “tactical intelligence” in literally an hour. This used to take weeks.We also have an intelligence gathering and evaluation capability which can detect the most seemingly insignificant piece of data — “hey, this jerkoff doesn’t have an Internet connection, WTF? — and weave it into a comprehensive view of what is really going on.Funny thing — quite a bit of this info has come from waterboarding. Torture to some folks.Would one change their opinion of waterboarding if you knew it led to taking out the head of Al Q?BTW, the picture of Osama bin Laden sitting there with a pathetic little remote looking at his pathetic little TV with the extension cords dangling has probably gutted the next generation of prospective terrorists.Who would want to join such a technologically backward beard dying bunch of old farts? No Internet?The psych ops element of this saga is huge.

  60. JamesHRH

    Could not agree more – turns out the Al Q tribe was led by the Wizard of Oz.