What do people want in a co-founder?

by Catheryn Li, Katherine Bernstein10/21/2021

YC launched a co-founder matching platform about 3 months ago. There are now 16,000 co-founder profiles on the platform. Potential co-founders have sent 130,000 matching invites through the platform, and, with a 25% acceptance rate, we’ve seen a total of 33,000 matches.

We now have enough data to identify some interesting trends among our co-founder profiles and matches.

Who are the founders on our platform?

  • 40% of profiles are from the U.S., with 60% representing another 145
  • 42% identify as technical (i.e. “a programmer, scientist, or engineer
    who can build the product without outside assistance”).
  • 43% are working full-time (40+ hours/week) on their startup, 22% are
    part-time (20-40 hours/week), and the remaining spend <20
    hours/week on their startup.
  • Of the founders who are not currently working on a startup, 47% plan
    to start in the next 3 months, and another 21% plan to start in the
    next 6 months.
  • 13% identify as a woman.

What do founders care about?

We give founders the option to mark their preferences for a co-founder across several attributes, including:

  • Whether they are technical
  • Areas of skill (Product, Design, Engineering, Sales and Marketing,
  • Their level of time commitment over the next few weeks (40+
    hours/week, 20-40 hours/week, or less)
  • Their location
  • Whether they have shared interests (e.g. B2B/Enterprise, Biotech,

Founders also indicate how important each attribute is: whether it’s a must-have, whether they have a preference but are flexible, or whether they don’t care at all.

The two most important attributes: 79% of founders care that their co-founder can commit a certain number of hours over the next few weeks, and 74% of founders prefer to have shared interests with their co-founder. However, only 15% and 13% see these attributes as must-haves, respectively.

The least important attribute? 50% of founders don’t care where their co-founder is located, perhaps a sign of the (newly remote) times.

What industries are founders interested in?

Each founder can select interests from the following list: Agriculture/Agtech, Artificial Intelligence (AI), Augmented Reality/Virtual Reality (ARVR), B2B/Enterprise, Biomedical/Biotech, Blockchain, Consumer, E-Commerce, Education/Edtech, Energy, Entertainment, Financial/Fintech, Government, Hardware, Hard Tech, Healthcare, Marketplace, Non-Profit.

The top 6 most popular interests:

  • B2B/Enterprise (36% of founders indicate interest)
  • Consumer (34%)
  • AI (34%)
  • Marketplace (32%)
  • Fintech (29%)
  • E-Commerce (29%)

Most founders select several interests; the median number of interests selected is 3. Interestingly, the most popular interests among founders who pick only 1 interest look different:

  • B2B/Enterprise (17%)
  • Fintech (13%)
  • Edtech (12%)
  • Consumer (11%)
  • Healthcare (7%)
  • AI (7%)

What skills are founders interested in?

Founders on the co-founder matching platform can claim responsibility in five areas of skill: Product, Design, Engineering, Sales and Marketing, Operations.

  • 65% of founders do Product
  • 57% of founders do Operations
  • 52% of founders do Sales and Marketing
  • 37% of founders do Design
  • 31% of founders do Engineering

Here’s what founders want from their co-founder:

  • 62% of founders prefer a co-founder who does Engineering
  • 42% of founders prefer a co-founder who does Product
  • 39% of founders prefer a co-founder who does Design
  • 37% of founders prefer a co-founder who does Sales and Marketing
  • 28% of founders prefer a co-founder who does Operations

Engineers seem to be in high demand. Among founders who do not do Engineering, 80% prefer a co-founder who does Engineering. Even engineers themselves are looking for more engineers: 44% of Engineering founders prefer a co-founder who does Engineering.

Engineers are also looking for complementary skills though: 74% of Engineering founders prefer a co-founder who does Sales and Marketing, and 53% of Engineering founders prefer a co-founder who does Operations.

Who’s actually matching?

  • Founders on the platform have an average of 3.6 matches per person.
  • Engineers on the platform have an average of 4.8 matches per person.
  • Founders who aren’t married to an idea have an average of 5.1 matches
    per person.

The majority of matches (68%) are made up of a technical founder paired with a non-technical founder. A bigger majority of matches (72%) are made up of founders with at least one shared interest. An even greater portion of matches (73%) are made up of a founder with an idea they’re working on paired with a founder not glued to an idea.

55% of matches comprise founders located in the same country. 69% of matches are between founders in the same continent, and 61% of matches are composed of founders located within 3 time zones of each other. The rest, apparently, are from all over the world.

73% of matches contain at least one full-time founder, and 92% of matches contain at least one founder who is “active” (working on a startup idea now) rather than “aspiring” (plan to work on a startup later).

Finally, it seems that founders on the site are extremely active: 75% of all matches are accepted within 4.5 days of the initial invitation, and 50% of matches are accepted within 22 hours. Of the matches where founders indicate having met up either online or in person, 50% met within 6.2 days.

If you are looking for a co-founder, come check out the co-founder matching platform! Sign up at https://www.ycombinator.com/cofounder-matching.


  • Catheryn Li

    Catheryn (Cat) is a Product Engineer at YC focused on Startup School. Before that she was an engineer at Instagram and Facebook. Cat has a B.S. in Computer Science and Math from MIT.

  • Katherine Bernstein

    Katherine is a Product Engineer at Y Combinator, working on the Startup School team. Prior to YC, she was a co-founder and software engineer at OpenLattice.