Written by Sam Altman · Illustrated by Gregory Koberger · Spanish translation

Part II: A great team

Mediocre teams do not build great companies. One of the things we look at the most is the strength of the founders. When I used to do later-stage investing, I looked equally hard at the strength of the employees the founders hired.

What makes a great founder? The most important characteristics are ones like unstoppability, determination, formidability, and resourcefulness. Intelligence and passion also rank very highly. These are all much more important than experience and certainly “expertise with language X and framework Y”.

We have noticed the most successful founders are the sort of people who are low-stress to work with because you feel “he or she will get it done, no matter what it is.” Sometimes you can succeed through sheer force of will.

Good founders have a number of seemingly contradictory traits. One important example is rigidity and flexibility. You want to have strong beliefs about the core of the company and its mission, but still be very flexible and willing to learn new things when it comes to almost everything else.

The best founders are unusually responsive. This is an indicator of decisiveness, focus, intensity, and the ability to get things done.

Founders that are hard to talk to are almost always bad. Communication is a very important skill for founders—in fact, I think this is the most important rarely-discussed founder skill.

Tech startups need at least one founder who can build the company’s product or service, and at least one founder who is (or can become) good at sales and talking to users. This can be the same person.

Consider these criteria when you’re choosing a cofounder—it’s one of the most important decisions you’ll make, and it’s often done fairly randomly. You want someone you know well, not someone you just met at a cofounder dating thing. You can evaluate anyone you might work with better with more data, and you really don’t want to get this one wrong. Also, at some point, the expected value of the startup is likely to dip below the X axis. If you have a pre-existing relationship with your cofounders, none of you will want to let the other down and you’ll keep going. Cofounder breakups are one of the leading causes of death for early startups, and we see them happen very, very frequently in cases where the founders met for the express purpose of starting the company.

The best case, by far, is to have a good cofounder. The next best is to be a solo founder. The worse case, by far, is to have a bad cofounder. If things are not working out, you should part ways quickly.

A quick note on equity: the conversation about the equity split does not get easier with time—it’s better to set it early on. Nearly equal is best, though perhaps in the case of two founders it’s best to have one person with one extra share to prevent deadlocks when the cofounders have a fallout.

Read the original article by Sam Altman here. Click on “Tiếng Việt” on the menu for the Vietnamese translation provided by 500 Startups Vietnam.

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