How to Avoid Mediocre Co-Founders

by Alexis Ohanian1/31/2010

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.


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  • Alexis Ohanian