Bryan Thomas, PopUp Play CEO and Co-founder
Thanks to PopUp Play’s recent Shark Tank appearance, I get asked a lot of questions about the mechanics of the business. One of the most frequent questions is about my choice of co-founder, Amelia Cosgrove. So, I thought I’d take some time to explain what I believe are important considerations when selecting a co-founder and how I chose Amelia.
Choose Someone With Complementary Skills
First of all, selecting a co-founder is selecting a business partner. This is the most critical early decision you can make when starting your company, and choosing the wrong co-founder is one of the most common reasons for failure of early stage startups.
Start by finding a badass with skills that complement yours. Anecdotally, most startups are founded by engineers. It is now very easy for an engineer to write a few lines of code and be up and running with an MVP in no time. In my case, I am not an engineer, so I needed to find someone with the technical skills to make PopUp Play work.
On the flip side, Amelia (who had the original idea) needed someone with strong business and entrepreneurial skills to help build a business around her idea. Amelia brought over a decade of experience in product design and manufacturing. She has designed and built everything from heavy machinery to custom aircraft to consumer electronics. All this experience as an engineer meshed well with my experience in product marketing and product management.
Ultimately, Amelia’s involvement in PopUp Play made the business and product possible. We couldn’t have built a business without each other.
Share Core Values Pertaining To Business
Starting a company with someone is like getting married. You are going to spend a lot of time with your co-founder: they are going to see you at your best and at your worst. Because of this, it’s very important that co-founders get along and are the right fit.
As you grow your company, you’re going to add people to the team that will create your culture, but it starts with the co-founders: the team you build will reflect the relationship you have with your co-founder. In my case, I have known Amelia for 10 years. I’ve seen her at work, in the best times and the worst times. I knew that, when it comes to business, we share the same values and principles. Through all stages of growth of PopUp Play, I have never doubted that we are on the same page with respect to core business values. It frees each each of us to run the business without worry.
Establish Trust And Confidence
Finally, the most obvious: make sure you trust each other. Growing up, my dad used to tell me that you should never start a business with friends, because friends and money don’t mix. There will inevitably be arguments about equity and pay and critical decisions made that, if wrong, won’t be fixable. You need to trust your co-founder 100% without exception. If that trust doesn’t exist, that weakness in your relationship will rear its head at the least convenient and most important times, like when trying to close a funding round or make a critical business deadline.
At the end of the day, I picked Amelia as a co-founder because she is a phenomenal engineer who I’ve built trust with for over a decade and because she shares the same core values.
Of course, the elephant in the room and the question I get asked most often: what’s it like to start a company with your spouse? My answer? It doesn’t matter. Start a company with an awesome co-founder who complements your skills. Whether they’re an old co-worker, new friend of long-time spouse, complementary skills, shared values and a core of trust are all that ultimately matter.