Startups · Trust

What's more important in a cofounder, trust or their subject matter expertise?

Lorenzo Polacco Snr Director, Sales & Advertising Operations at Yahoo!

June 4th, 2015

In the process of choosing a tech co-founder, what's more important for the success of the endeavor: trust in the co-founder or their expertise?

Alison Lewis CEO/Creative Director

June 4th, 2015

Trust and problem solving go a lot further than just skills. You hire skills, you build something together with a co-founder. If I could write this in stone and hand it too you I would.

That said, having had the experience of having a co-founder that had all the passion, work ethic and trust and not the skill set, that didn't work out either. So, there is a balance. I mean you won't know everything either and co-founding requires skills you didn't even know you need and you need them fast - so adaptability is key. 

You'll have to find out what skills they lack and they will need to do a lot more than just "tech" stuff if they are going to be your co-founder. It also matters what you are building.

I've worked with beginner electrical engineers that were awesome very trustworthy and hands on. They would figure stuff out. They were 10x better than the guy with experience and argued every 5 minutes about "his way."  We got to MVP and shipped 25 samples, there was one costly mistake, but nothing worse than working with an expert you don't trust and can't talk too. 

Michael Silver President at Molecular Innovations Technology

June 4th, 2015

If you cannot trust a partner or co-worker, then it's time to find another partner or co-worker, no matter how smart he/she is. If I need to verify every statement, double-check the integrity of their work, then you are wasting precious time. Quirks and eccentricities in behavior can be dealt with; a consistent lack of integrity is a show-stopper. Sincerely, Meir Silver Sent from my BlackBerry smartphone from orange

Michael Silver President at Molecular Innovations Technology

June 5th, 2015

I totally disagree with you. No one, without exception, is irreplaceable. When faced with a talented individual who cannot be trusted, the you say, "next!". There are too many talented individuals with integrity to waste time with dishonest experts. Meir Silver Sent from my BlackBerry smartphone from orange

Alan Clayton Roaming Mentor @ SOSV

June 5th, 2015

Trust is the essential ingredient. You can't buy it,and it takes a long time to build it. When its gone, everything else goes with it. 
Skills can be developed overnight (relatively) by nearly anyone - you get a certificate, you have a list of achievements - but that's history, and no guarantee the person will apply those skills 100% tomorrow for your company.
Skills are also transitory and depreciate in value - trust lasts and is an asset.

Victor Aladekomo Partner at Pidux Limited

June 5th, 2015

I will go for Trust and Smartness! You need both and there are many Techies out there with both qualities. 

Andrea Raimondi Computer Software Consultant and Contractor

June 5th, 2015

I think the question is incorrectly framed or too generic.
There are two kinds of technical expertise (broadly speaking):

- Business
- Technical aspects (tools, practices, etc.)

What is that you mean?
if you are looking for, say, a CTO, then I don't see how can there be trust without expertise.
I mean, seriously, would you give a role as CTO for a business software to
someone who's got 1 year of experience writing Excel macros?  :)

If, instead, you are asking whether an experienced CTO can be trusted even if he/she has no
prior experience of the business domain, that's another matter. A good CTO in this case will
sorround him/herself of people who *DO* understand the business domain
(such as yourself) because that will help him design and build the right things.
Besides, good CTOs are fast learners and you'll be surprised how quickly he or she will
absorb things.

Plus, as I keep repeating, CTOs should also be good managers and that's the
difficult bit because he or she might be a walkng lawsuit.

Signs that you might have a problem down the road:

- CTO praises youth for youth's sake
- CTO thinks that the latest problem can be solved with new technology
- CTO thinks he's never ever wrong
- CTO doesn't listen to others

if you got one or more of these, then you are in trouble :)


Lorraine Wheeler President at Redstoke, LLC

June 5th, 2015

Do not partner with a person that you don't trust.  Trust is absolutely essential in a business partnership

What if you meet someone with expertise that you need but you don't have a prior relationship with them?   In this case, figure out some sort of temporary arrangement so that you get to know each other and potentially build trust. 

It has been said many times that a business partnership is like a marriage.  Getting to know each other first is essential.

Rob G

June 5th, 2015

Trust, assuming they have 'enough' expertise to get you to your goals.  You said "I have others whom I trust but may not be as experienced".  They need to have enough expertise and experience to get the job done. If not then don't bother, but don't start with someone you don't trust.

Amy Vernon Audience Development. Community, content & product. Prize-winning journalist & writer. Connector of people & ideas.

June 5th, 2015

I have known too many people who thought the skills were more important than the trust and in the end either got screwed over or pulled all their hair out before having to 86 their co-founder for being a grade-A jackhole.

The skills are very important. But if you can't work with and trust this person, you're dead in the water.

Christophe Lassuyt co-founder at Moneytis, avoiding fees on cross-border money transfers, using Blockchain

June 7th, 2015

Hi guys
Let's sum up according to me: 

1. TRUST because choosing a co-founder is choosing someone you will probably spend more time with than your wife !
2. ABILITY TO MAKE THINGS DONE because the guy you choose has to help the startup to advance, and skills are something he can learn with time
3. EXPERTISE is not the most important, but counting on an expert in a startup is a big value