How to Avoid Mediocre Co-Founders

Said Livingston, "Above all else, never hire a B player - B players hire C players and then you find yourself with a mediocre team. My best advice is to always hire someone more competent than yourself."

Echoing Livingston's sentiment, Fast Ignite CEO Simeon Simeonov wrote an excellent guest post for Venture Hacks entitled, When to Fire Your Co-Founders. Simeonov argues that weak teams get built when founders fail to anticipate a pivot from the original business plan or model and when they do not spend the time expanding their recruiting network. He offers ten rules for building agile founding teams including using your investor network to recruit, setting clear expectations and agreements and my personal favorite, "[hiring] generalists early and specialists later."

We've all seen the early-stage company with one great founder / generalist and an entourage of childhood friends who are ill-equipped to help with anything beyond their lackluster specialities. As Simeonov points out, VC's just think, "Shoot, this is a backable entrepreneur and the idea may have legs but the two other founders are B players and a poor fit for the company at this point...Frustrating... this could have been a good seed deal. Now it's too complicated. I'll pass using some polite non-reason."

You can't afford to miss out on funding because your uncle fancies himself a salesman or your cousin lent you money and thinks he can dictate your operations. In addition to today's Venture Hacks post, ReadWriteWeb's articles on hiring an A team andhiring for the company's life cycle will help you get the info you need to make the right recruitment decisions.

At the Girls in Tech Catalyst conference last week I gave some advice about hiring that I learned from Joe Kraus, but the attribution somehow got lost along the way to this article. Joe is a favorite guest speaker at Y Combinator and one of his great bits of advice is to hire very carefully: "A players hire A players; B players hire C players; and C players hire Losers." Everyone a startup hires should be a star at the kind of work they do.

Applications open for summer 2010; note earlier deadline

Applications are now open for Y Combinator's summer 2010 cycle. Summer 2010 will be our 5th anniversary, and since we fund startups twice a year it will be the 11th group of startups we've funded. We've funded 171 companies so far, so there's a chance we'll hit 200 this summer.  At 2.5 founders per startup, the YC alumni network is starting to be big enough to fill a decent sized auditorium. (Despite its size it is still remarkably cohesive, probably because everyone has been through similar experiences.)

For summer 2010 we're making a big change: we moved the deadline almost a month earlier, to take some of the heat off applicants who get offers from the increasing number of YC-like organizations that have appeared over the last couple years.  In the past, many of them have tried to pressure startups into accepting offers before they had a chance to interview with Y Combinator.  That caused a lot of stress for applicants, and the problem was only going to get worse as the number of YC-like organizations increased.  We hope that now that we're all deciding at about the same time, no one will have to take an offer that's not their first choice.

(Now it's us who are going to be stressed out, because the only place to fit interviews was immediately after the winter cycle's Demo Day.)

Another thing we're changing for summer 2010 is that we're going to try to engage more with people during the application process. So this time groups that apply early will have a significant advantage.  Usually half the applications are submitted in the last two days.  We strongly advise applicants not to do that this time. The reason a lot of people wait till the last minute to apply is that they want their application to be perfect before we see it. That was probably a mistake before, and it definitely will be now: now it's a better strategy to submit successive drafts of your application as you modify it.