How to Work Together

by Kevin Hale

YC Partner Kevin Hale talks about the importance of building a successful working relationship with your cofounders, and setting up processes to optimize for the strengths of your team.

Watch this if:

  • you and your cofounders argue a lot
  • your cofounders aren't doing their fair share of work
  • you want to have more effective conversations with your cofounder


Kevin: These are some guys I saw in Kyoto and they're tearing down scaffolding and I just think they're amazingly poetic in how they do their work. So in a startup, founders basically have to figure out how to optimize a relationship that lasts for like 10 years. And that's a crazy thing to do with someone you might only know for a couple of months or have only known in a sort of work setting. And the thing is like the only models for understanding that kind of relationship actually come probably from our parents.

And so I'd like to start off with some marriage research. So this is John Gottman. He studied marriages in Seattle. He's been featured in "This American Life" and a bunch of different places, and basically he has a cool magic trick. He can watch a couple fight about something for 15 minutes and predict with 85% accuracy, whether they'll be divorced or not four years from now. If he watches them for an hour and have them also share their hopes and dreams, his prediction rating goes up to 94%.

And so this is the same videos they would show two priests, psychologists, psychiatrists, marriage counselors, successfully married couples, and they don't predict better than random chance. And so John Gottman, he's figured something out. There's something about the way we will have an argument that determines longevity. And one of the most surprising things that he discovered was that it's not that successfully married people who will last a long time that they never fight. It turns out everybody fights and we all fight about the exact same things, money, kids, sex, time, jealousy, and in-laws. And time is usually what are we gonna do with our free time? And the thing that's interesting is like, I think all of these map out to the stuff that we're gonna fight about in a company. And so you with your cofounders are gonna have these issues.

And the thing is what's nice about knowing everyone fights and that you know what you're gonna fight about is that we can make a plan for figuring out how to deal with this one situation that will determine whether we will work together on the thing that we're so passionate about down the road. The other thing that John Gottman figured out is that there's four major things we wanna avoid when we're fighting. And when we do these things, they will create sort of leading indicators that the relationship is in serious trouble. I'm gonna go through each one of these.

So criticism. This is basically like you're talking with someone and you're like, Hey, you know what, I have a serious concern about this bug that we are trying to fix and I'm really worried about this thing, and I'm not sure that we're gonna be able to deploy on time. And someone comes up and says like, ''Well, you know what I don't like, is the fact that you leave a bunch of dirty dishes in the sink.'' And criticism is basically this idea that we don't fight on one topic. We start trying to bring all these other issues into play instead of addressing the one issue at hand. Dangerous.

Contempt. It's pretty easy one. It's intention to insult. So, basically, I say like, ''Hey, I'm worried about this bug and we're not gonna be able to deploy on time.'' And someone says, ''Oh, well, I don't like your face.'' Right? That's contempt. And what you want to avoid is making things personal, right? Let's run a business. This one's kind of easy to understand is that someone not owning responsibility about the problem. And so we can't move forward because someone won't admit that there's a problem out there. We defend that we haven't done anything wrong. And therefore there can't be resolution between two people if the other person thinks there's a problem.

This one is a super dangerous one. And it's when basically you're like, Hey, I got a problem, and the person just walks away. Won't engage, won't talk to you. And so there can be no way to create any kind of resolution. So just as you wouldn't do this without doing some of this, we wanna make a plan. And I'm gonna talk about four different things that we can do that helps avoid and protect us from those four horsemen.

The first one is divide and conquer. And this feels pretty straightforward, but you wanna do this early in the relationship with your cofounders in the early stages of your company. So here's our list, again, of the types of things that we might have problems with. And in the early stages of the startup, let's say Adora and I are doing a startup together. Just her and me. Then what you wanna do is just kind of say like, Oh, who's responsible for what stuff? And what this will do is like, if there's a problem in that category, then that person that we have assigned ahead of time to be in charge will be the ones that will ultimately either make the decision or ultimately are responsible. This protects us from defensiveness. So notice that you're on jealousy. This is about competition usually. And so usually in the early stages of your startup, you should not be worried about competition. Competition is not usually what kills you in the very early stages of your company.

As your company ages, it might change and look something like this. You'll sign things at different sort of positions and heads. And as a result, then when the problems come up, you know, basically that sort of is delegated. Now, what happens if things go out of hand, even up at those sort of levels? Well, basically what you wanna do is decide after you delegate who has ownership, determine what is success and failure. You wanna know also ahead of time, Hey, we've divided up the tasks, but we also wanna know is like, Hey, when is there going to be interference with the person that is supposed to be leading these decisions, what is considered like it's success enough that we shouldn't be interfering and just let them do what they think is best and what is considered really bad so that we have to interfere and something has to be done about it.

So, in this case, good examples would be like, hey, you know, if we've successfully fundraised, like we don't need to talk or like replace the person that's responsible for that. If we're shipping on time, if we're rated top three amongst our sort of peers or we've built a referral program that's working, hey, we don't need to be criticizing the person that's working on this stuff, or they're doing a good job. On the corollary, we wanna define, hey, what are the things that basically are gonna trigger conversations, really hard conversations like, hey, if we hit this sort of area, we need to put the brakes on and we need to discuss what's going on and actually try to resolve these problems.

A lot of people like to delegate stuff, but they don't have a way of saying, hey, when are we gonna have a conversation about this when there's trouble? And these are really, really easy to do. And the reason you wanna do these early while you're sober, emotionally sober, is because once you get angry and emotions come into play, then you might not be thinking rationally. Now, ultimately in the end, usually it's the CEO in the company who has final say. Now, you as a team can decide differently how you wanna resolve it if you divvy up to stuff, but ultimately whoever's the CEO usually is one who resolves it. And if there's problems with the CEO, then it's the board. In the early stages of the startup, the board is usually composed of just the founders. So you have to ultimately work it out.

The second defense against the four horsemen is knowing yourself, this will protect you from stonewalling. And what I mean is what is your attachment style? So there was all this research that was done in the 1960s about how people approach relationships. And basically, it was determined that there's sort of three major types. There's a secure attachment style. And that means basically, it's like, Hey, you know what? I don't have a problem going up to people, relying on them, and having them rely on me and sort of like us creating a relationship. I don't mind being vulnerable and I don't mind other people being vulnerable with me. That's called a secure attachment style.

There's an anxious style. So there's a type of person that will be like, you know what? I kind of don't get enough love as not as much as I want. I kind of wanna like hold onto people, and I kind of wanna have people constantly confer with me that they want to be with me. I feel like it's a little difficult. And then there's another point that kind of person is like, I find it kind of difficult creating relationships with people and I kind of wanna run away sometimes because it's really scary or I'm worried that I'm gonna mess it up. And the thing that's super important here, especially with your co-founder, is you wanna know your cofounder's attachment style because that's gonna dictate how you are going to be able to resolve and understand your differences.

Now, what it turns out, oddly enough, is that an anxious attachment person and an avoidant attachment person, these are the two most common in the world. There's not that many like well-developed secure people out there. They tend to want to be with one another. So the person that wants to run away and the person that wants to cling. And so what you have is someone who needs space to make a decision and to process problems and tension, and there's someone who needs validation constantly to process conflict and issues. And so when those two people are together and they don't realize what the other person needs, they don't realize that they're gonna have to bend to sort of make it work.

There's lots of good books on attachment styles. There's a wonderful Wikipedia page that covers it. I would recommend watching this YouTube video, it's from ''School of Life.'' And what I would highly recommend is basically understanding that like, if you're with someone that is of the opposite type that you're gonna have to do work either to reach across the aisle, like if you're an anxious person you're gonna...and you're talking to an avoidant person, you just have to realize like, oh, that person needs space, but that doesn't mean they're running away from you. And if you're an avoidant person with an anxious person that if someone needs your attention, or if you need your space, then you have to let them know, it's like, hey, I'm gonna be back. I realized that you're going to need an answer for this. I'm gonna go away, I'm gonna figure stuff out and I promise a time that we will deal with this.

Document a process. So this will protect you from criticism. And so, basically, when you're emotionally sober, it's the best time to create a process for dealing with disagreements. And the reason you wanna do this is because once you're upset and angry and filled with emotions, you are not gonna be thinking straight. And so the odds are, you might say something you regret, you might say something that you don't mean and the other person might do so, and then you will have a much different problem than the bug not being fixed and deployed on time.

So one of my favorite examples of this comes from the company called Matter, and they created a spreadsheet for dealing with disagreements. Basically, it's a disagreement decision framework. And basically it just talks about it's like, hey, when we have a disagreement, we should just document it. This helps makes things really, really transparent. It makes us understand both sides very, very clearly. We talk about the different options, we say who makes the decision, what the decision was, the date it was done and the rationale. And so when we walk through this process, if we've decided this ahead of time, then it means that we are not afraid when disagreements come up. It's like, oh, we have a process for dealing with this. And we will figure it out by filling out Excel.

There's lots of different ways to do this. You don't have to follow their sort of very specific framework. They have lots of really great justifications in their article. You just have to agree ahead of time what you wanna do. So, therefore, when you are upset, you just go, okay, great, we have a process for this. And the process says, oh, it says, go have a time out or eat a bologna sandwich, or like take a nap first, and then we'll figure out what we have to do. It could be a process where it's like, Hey, if there's a real disagreement and both sides feel equally strong, we will flip a coin, and then that will be the decision for the test of time. We will let lady luck decide it. It doesn't matter. You just have to both agree.

This strategy will protect you from contempt. So the way that you avoid making things personal is you have to figure out a way of communicating with one another in a way that will not be threatening. There's an amazing book on this. It's called ''Nonviolent Communication'' by Marshall Rosenberg, and it helps you be honest with other people without criticizing, without insulting, and without putting down other people. And the magic comes in the structure that feels somewhat fake for people who are not into being touchy-feely. Basically, when you're giving some kind of criticism, you want to basically have it in this format. So when some observation, I feel an emotion because I'm needing some universal need, would you be able to request? So we're just gonna break down each one of these different parts and they're all, every single one of these are tricky. And it's a thing that a lot of people will try to do and you'll spend your whole life trying to get really good at, and it gets really difficult.

So the first one is you need to make an observation versus having an evaluation. So basically what you wanna do is start your disagreement or criticism by anchoring it to something that is concrete. You do not want it to be something that is connected to your opinion. It should be something that you actually saw or heard because therefore you can't disagree with something that actually happened versus something I heard via rumor or something that has to do something that seems emotional or something that seems like an opinion.

So I'll give you an example. An observation would be like you said that you'd send that document last week and I haven't received it. All right. So that is a great observation. An evaluation that someone might say instead in the heat of the moment is that you're fucking lazy, right? That kind of feels like an observation, but it's not. It's evaluating the person. I'll give you another example. Your work is sloppy. That is not objective. Instead, hey, three of the numbers in this report were inaccurate. That's where you wanna start. You're always late. You wanna be really careful because that's a generalization. It's an evaluation. Observation, hey, you arrived 10 minutes late to the meeting this morning. Evaluation, you ignored me. Observation, I sent you two emails and I haven't received a response. Notice when we start with observation, we start with a fact that can't be refuted, and so we're not gonna end up arguing about something else.

Notice all those other evaluations, they immediately will trigger an emotion in you. And that's why you wanna be really careful that when you start this criticism that you don't start with one of those. The next is we have to talk about our emotions, right? So I saw this irrefutable observation and it made me feel something. And what we have to be really careful of is not saying thoughts, but instead talking about feelings, which is kind of odd, but it's connected to the next point in the structure. So an emotion will be, "I feel frustrated," right? Now, a thought would be, and it could be put in the same structure is like, "I feel that you aren't taking this seriously." And the way you can tell if something is a thought or a feeling is you substitute the phrase "I think" with "I feel" and it still works. So "I think frustrated" doesn't work. So that's a feeling. "I think that you aren't taking this seriously." Oh, that's a thought.

There's a couple of emotions that we have to be particularly careful of. One is anger because anger is usually tied to a bunch of hosts of other things. So when someone says that I feel angry, you or you realizing that you feel angry, you wanna be really, really specific about what's causing the anger, what's triggering it. The other tricky emotions are evaluative emotions. And usually, what you need to figure out is what underlines that evaluation. So I'll give you an example. So, "I feel blamed," right? Someone else is evaluating me, "I feel blamed." The impact actually is "I feel scared." Someone is blaming me, and so I feel scared. So it takes a lot of work to understand that when someone is giving me some...if I'm feeling like some kind of judging feeling, we're just at the core root of it.

Other examples are "I feel judged." The actual impact is "I feel resentful." "I feel misunderstood." The impactful statement is actually "I feel frustrated." "I feel rejected." The real impact is "I feel hurt." It's super hard. It's super, super hard. I'm gonna have a link inside of this presentation to a PDF. It's three pages of evaluative emotions, impacted feelings you probably actually are feeling, and then connects us to a universal need that you need to overcome it, which leads us to our next thing.

Every negative emotion lies an unmet universal need. And so what that means is that like, when you're feeling one of these, frustrated or blamed or scared or hurt feelings, there's something that's missing that you're gonna need. And the thing that's really tricky about universal needs is you have to be careful realizing, is it a strategy or is it a need? And is it truly universal? So I'll give you an example, right? You might be able to say, "I need a sandwich." That is not a universal need. So you have to be really careful, right? And then you might say it like, "I need a sandwich to give me nourishment." That's more like a strategy. A much better way might be, let me see here. You might say something like, "I need you to copy me on every single email." But the thing is, that's not a universal need. That becomes very, very specific.

A universal need would be "I need some transparency about this process." You have to be careful of not making needs about something that's very specific to yourself or just that situation. Because once it's a universal need, then it's something that everyone can agree that everyone should sort of have. So other universal needs are like, "I need support." And the way you turn it not into universal need is by saying something like "I need support from you" because not everyone needs support from Henry, right? But everyone does need support. And it says, you include "from you," it stops being universal. So you wanna be really careful with this.

Okay. Requests versus demands. So at the very end, so basically we said like, hey, I noticed something that can't be refuted. I told you about a feeling and how it impacts me. And I told you that basically it results in some universal need that we all can agree that we need to have. And now we get to saying what we'd like to have changed as a result. And what you wanna make is a request, not a demand. The difference is that a request is an invitation to the other person to meet our universal needs. It's much easier to be able to do than to say, like, I order you to do something.

So what we wanna do is make it very specific, our requests. So, "I request for you to be more respectful," is not that great because who defines what's respectful. My version of respectful might be different from someone else's. Your request should be something like "I request that you arrive to meetings on time." Say what you want. Don't say what you don't want. So what a lot of people would say is that "I request that you don't dismiss other people's ideas straightaway." The thing is that doesn't indicate the behavior that you do want, and so it becomes really difficult to act on. A better one would be I request that when a team member shares an idea, you ask two or three probing questions before sharing a conclusion.

And then stay curious. And so sometimes you might make a request and someone might say no. And what you need to do is not just freak out that the whole process isn't working. The idea is actually to be like, hmm, maybe I haven't put this request in a way that can meet more needs than just myself. Could I do this in a way so that they can understand and be on board for everyone to be sort of involved? If you want to learn more, there's a really great article on ''Delivering Constructive Feedback in Difficult Situations'' by Dave Bailey. Zombied him, I'll have a link to it. And it goes into far more detail as a very, very good starting point for giving out this really hard feedback.

We all know what technical debt is, right? So when we're building out software really, really quickly, and sometimes you're like, well, that's not gonna scale really well. And it's gonna be dirty and quick, but I'm going to get it out the door, and I'm just gonna put that in the back of my mind as something I have to fix later. Well, in our relationships one another, you will incur emotional debt. And unlike technical debt, you really don't want that to go for very long. You wanna pay this down every day. So it turns out also in John Gottman's research that it wasn't that people who were really good at being in a marriage only thought about really big things. It turns out they would immediately bring up stuff even when it's really tiny or small. They would never let a small thing grow to be a medium thing and then eventually a big thing. They immediately would talk about it as like, Oh man can you close your mouth while you're chewing? Real quick, it's just like, kind of bothering me right now and then do it in a way that sort of respectful. And so like when you're with your cofounders and you're in this really sensitive relationship and you're finding stuff that's being really troubling, like you can communicate those needs really quickly and you will prevent those small things from becoming big things.

The best way to start doing this is the practice. So at YC, we call these level three conversations. So level one is that informal conversation, and we have other people where it's just like data exchange, passing information back and forth. Level two conversations have some emotions, talk about some things that are personal. Level three conversations, they're relational. They're engaged with something that's happening right now between two people that is super, super important. It is a deep dive into what might be really troubling and what might be really mattering to two people. And in a startup, there's a lot of things that's gonna matter to all of the people working on the company.

So let's go through some examples of things that you guys can do after this talk. So, goals. Some good ones are, what are our short term goals for the company? You'd be surprised at how often people are not on the same page about this. Are we using the right metrics? We've got lectures on those, the answers I hope so by now. And then are we, that's supposed to be hitting our goals, not hiring our goals. Are we hitting our goals? Roles. Who's responsible for what, super sensitive, right? So is it clear who is responsible for what? Like just have that conversation. Do we agree that the current division makes the most sense? And this might be super simple answers. But if there is any kind of disagreement, we wanna hash that out.

And performance. Okay. So is our workload distributed in an optimal manner today? Do we all feel a high level of dedication and a motivation right now? Great thing to just check on every day. And then what mechanisms are in place for providing feedback to one another. Have we carved out time for paying down emotional debt? Do we feel like we can have these level three conversations at any time? Do we have a process in place for taking through this stuff so that we can be honest about where we are in our company?

Get some things up. How to work together, everyone fights. So you wanna make a plan. You need to figure out what's your attachment style, what's your roles, what's your goals, and a process before emotions get involved. Do it while you're sober. Use nonviolent communication, the share honest feedback without criticism, and then pay down emotional debt on a regular basis. This is the most healthy way that you will make sure that things will not turn into a giant blow up. You can start having hard conversations right now. There's no doubt in my mind that there's probably some issue that the two of you or three of you or four of you, or God forbid, seven of you are not talking about. Thank you very much.

All right. We're gonna open it up to questions. Who wants to share their emotional problems? Yes. Right here. Menu hashtag. Yeah.

Man 1: So one of our co-founders just walked out on us last week.

Kevin: That sucks.

Man 1: So yeah, it kind of affected us a lot, but we're just wondering if it's too early to wrap it up and put things on paper and let them sign so that there's no ambiguity in the future or anything like that...

Kevin: All right. So the question is you just had a cofounder that's left and then is it too late to do all the legal stuff you need to iron things out?

Man 1: Yeah, it is too early because we're not even registered as a company yet.

Kevin: Well, if you haven't registered as a company, then there's no shares to fight over technically. And it's only over work. The only legal thing that might be tricky is that, was there an understanding that people are supposed to be paid for their work or not, but I take it there's probably also no contracts at all. And so that's the other thing that people sometimes run into issues with their co-founders. It's just like, Oh, we've been working on this, but we haven't been paying ourselves. And then when someone gets angry and left, they had been paying themselves a minimum wage. And then it has a viable case for saying like, hey, I haven't been paid for the work I've done. I take it there's been no contract signed. It is not too early to go remedy all that so that you protect yourself. You definitely wanna put things in place like vesting and clear understandings of the relationships amongst the founders and understanding like who owns the equity, who's the CEO, who ultimately makes the decision? So that way it will prevent future stuff from causing problems.

Man 2: So as you start building out the team, how do you reconcile firing fast with forming a good relationship?

Kevin: So as you build up the team, how do you reconcile firing fast versus building good relationships? So hopefully you will do everything you can just try to establish good relationships. There are some cases where if you've done all of these things and the person does not wanna engage, they don't wanna communicate in a nonviolent way, they refuse to do the things that will prevent them. And you basically notice that there's all these conflicts with those four horsemen. To me, those are indications that like, hey, this person we've already talked about, we had a plan for how to deal with this stuff, and you're not sticking to the plan. And as far as I'm concerned, you're not meeting your end of the bargain. And so to me, again, there's a balance there, it's like you do all this stuff, yes. But if it's not working out, you need to move on because otherwise, you affect other people in the team and the other morale.

I've never talked to a founder who eventually fired someone that they were having a problem with and then regretted it. Usually, you're always like why didn't I do that sooner? The best advice I've ever heard about this is from Max Levchin, who's the founder of PayPal. And he basically says like, if there's doubt, then there's no doubt. So once you start feeling like there's something wrong, it's basically not gonna go away. And now you're losing mental energy and shares over the problem with that relationship over solving things to help the company grow. And quite honestly, it's so hard to do a startup, fighting a battle on multiple fronts mentally and emotionally is just like really, really difficult. And that's what usually eats a lot of startups. In the back there.

Man 3: There are some pretty successful founders who somewhat famously alone, euphemistically are not people-people. So if that is one of your co-founders, how do I do this, but avoid firing Steve Jobs as a cofounder?

Kevin: So there are some people who are assholes, famous assholes as founders. How do I deal with that if that turns out to be one of my founders, my co-founders? And you have to decide together what kind of company that you wanna run. And so if you together have decided that it's okay for him to have that behavior, then that's really on you to sort of decide and have that sort of compact. I'll tell you our feelings at YC. And so in the early days of YC, PG kind of selfishly optimize the program for like, I'm only gonna fund people that I wanna have dinner with every week because I got to spend a lot of time with these people. So he was like they were assholes. And not because he thought that assholes can't found huge giant companies like back in 2005, like Steve Jobs, Bill Gates, like those were the role models for founder CEOs.

But for him, he was optimizing for his time and energy and presence. And the surprising side effect was that a room full of people who were lovely to have dinner with, they help one another and they still found billion-dollar companies. And those people are really great community members inside of YC. It's one of the reasons why the YC network works out really well. They are good at hiring people, bringing people along, getting people excited. They're easy to get funding because investors want to work with them, etc.

And so for us, we optimize to not have that experience with our founders and we might leave some money on the table as a result. But because I will work with over 100 new companies a year and I've worked with over 1,000, almost 2,000 companies, then the result is I build up this huge alumni base and I can't have a bunch of assholes in there that takes away attention from one another. So again, there's plenty of counterexamples to people being good, but I would like to believe and what I would hope for everyone in start-up school is that you could have a company that's different, that you can believe that this is a much easier way to run a company than one run by dictatorship and fear. Right here.

Man 4: Other than the no asshole policy, are there any other power rails or suggestions or best practices in delineating these roles?

Kevin: Other than no assholes, are there any other guardrails or best practices for delineating these roles? I don't really talk about it here, but like, are they people you wanna spend a lot of time with kind of like what PG talked about? And so a lot of things might indicate that in different ways. It could be, it's like, you know what, this person isn't gonna bother me, isn't gonna be really needy, and so I could spend a lot of time with them. And those other people was like this guy's not very fun. He's not gonna play video games with me on our time off. I can't deal it this. And so really you're optimizing not just for like, can I work on an idea for 10 years, but can I just spend a lot of time with this person for 10 years? You might think that that's connected to the asshole, but it might be completely different, like your needs for your kind of relationship is very, very different as a result.

I can't think of anything else off the top of my head. Oh, they have to be someone you trust. If you're going to assign them a portion of the company, you're gonna give them half of the equity, then you have to believe in them 100% that they are gonna do what's right for the company, no matter what. That's gonna make it easy for you to give up the equity or split the equity between the both of you. But if you don't trust your cofounder, then it will lead to things like you will micromanage them. You will worry about what they do with their time. You will spend a lot of time thinking about them instead of thinking about the business.

So figure out how to find someone that you really, really trust or figure out if okay, are you are the kind of person that can let go and trust someone and truly share the load. Because having a cofounder or bringing on employees, it's really about being humble enough to say, like, I can't do this by myself. I need you. And that kind of vulnerability is something that most people don't realize. A lot of people think that the way they attract other co-founders is by saying is like, I'm super fucking awesome, and you're lucky to be on my bandwagon. That's not the kind of person I wanna be on. But someone who says like, man, I'm trying to make things happen, and I think we could make the magic happen twice as fast as if you were on my team. I'd be so lucky to have you on here. Do you wanna join me? Such a different attitude. Right here.

Woman: Me?

Kevin: Yeah.

Woman: How do you suggest trialing these relationships? Like doing the dating before you get married? Do you take them in as contractors first or what have you seen work well if you start solo?

Kevin: So, how do you trial out a relationship? Because like you don't like start a date by proposing to someone, and so you don't immediately like, get excited about is like, Oh, do you like blockchain? I like blockchain. Do you wanna sign this Clerky document together and join a four-year vesting agreement with me? So one way as you talked about is that you might contract someone. So if you end up having money and you wanna try out working with someone, you can do that. So a good famous example is actually 37signals. So Jason Fried hired David Heinemeier Hansson off of our forum. And basically through that relationship ended up finding a cofounder.

I would recommend you start off with something small, right? You don't immediately start with marriage. You start with like movie and a whatever. And so just do a project together. And so it might not be the ultimate thing that the company is, but maybe it's like, Oh, if you're already working on your company, maybe there's some project that you want to have involved. I would go, you have lots of other steps before that. So number one is like, have a good conversation. Can we consistently have good conversations? Can we have disagreements about ideas? Can we discover something new or more interesting as a result of us interacting? Do we make each other better without placating to one another? So like having a bunch of conversations is a good one.

And then exchanging of favors. So maybe the other person has some other ideas and you have some ideas, and so right now you're neither one of you are quite ready to give up on whatever it is that you're working on. I would exchange favors and take turns, working on each other's stuff and get a sense for like, Oh, does this person keep their promises? Do they work really hard? Do they do things that I'm not good at? Do they compliment me, etc. There's so many little things in your interactions that you're basically trying to basically build a working small relationship. I think you could start, the conversation would be like, Hey, I think you might be a good co-founder. Can we start doing all this other stuff? I feel like that's a little forward, but is a very honest thing to have. It's like, look, I'll just be honest with you, I'm looking for a cofounder. You might fit the bill. Let's start doing a couple of little things together and spending more time increasing it. Let's just put time on the calendar and see what happens.

I think this happened with Tracy. She's got a podcast, she's the founder of PlanGrid. And she talks about how she had this standing Google calendar invite with her potential cofounder. And they would just spend a couple of hours every week just brainstorming. They just thought like, Hey, we have a lot of potential between us. Let's just like talk about ideas on a regular basis and see if we come up with anything. Oddly enough, what actually started the company off is that the person she was dating at the time she had like given Google calendar access, like there was that was that modern step in the relationship. And he was like, ''What's this recurring appointment with this guy that's happening for several hours every week. What's going on with that?'' And she's like, ''Oh, we're trying to think through some ideas for this.'' And it turns out it's like building basically a way of doing construction documents on the iPad. And he was just like, ''What's wrong with you, Tracy?'' ''Don't, you know, I'm an iOS engineer. Like why haven't you talked to me about this?'' And that's how their company got started. So. Right here.

Man 5: Any steps for strengthening co-founder relationships whilst working remotely?

Kevin: Say that again? Sorry.

Man 5: While working remotely, how you strengthen those co-founder relationship.

Kevin: So if you were working remotely for the team, how do you strengthen these relationships? So actually it's really interesting. I talked a little bit about this with Mike Knoop. He's the head or one of the founders of Zapier on our YC podcast. But basically, when you're going remote, there's a lot of things that you have to now do upfront in terms of your communication and relationship building that you took for granted when you just work in a building with someone else. So number one is like, trust has to be really high. You have to be really, really clear about like what we're doing, what is shipping, what's being done, and making sure everyone understands that everyone is on the same page. You have to overshare. And that's something that a lot of companies, when they're just working together in the same space get to not have to practice very well. It just kind of naturally sort of happens in the discussions.

So in remote working, you basically have to plan it. You have to deliberately do this sort of action. Secondly, you have to be very, very good at written communication. And so you actually get really good at saying like, hey, I have a problem, I have an issue, etc. But also you have to be really good at giving people the benefit of the doubt. Like the people you'll bring on for remote working, you have to trust them because they're working from home, you can't see them. And so by default, your relationship with the other remote worker is that I trust you that I can't see you, but you're gonna still do what's best for the company. And that's such a powerful feeling to have that you don't realize that you take it for granted when you just work with someone inside of a building that immediately changes when you see the person leave, and you're like, Oh, are they even here, are they even doing anything, etc.

So to me, for remote working, all the stuff that you have to do to state all this stuff ahead of time, you actually...or is the only way that you'll be successful at remote working. And so I actually think is it's more that if you're working in an office altogether, what are the things you have to be cognizant of that you are being lazy about, right, that a remote working team is gonna be ahead of you on? And so a lot of that is communication, transparency, and trust.

Man 6: Yes. This is great advice. I'm thinking in terms of us prevention, what about if you're actually going through the conflict that you try to escalate. Do you have any tips? I'm asking for a friend.

Kevin: So what if you're currently going through a conflict right now? How do you deescalate the problem? So the first thing is someone has to like recognize, is like, we are fighting in an unproductive way. We have to declare it and we have to have everyone sort of agree that we're on the same page that like this isn't working. I'll give you a tip that we used in our company. And so, and then it had more to do it productivity, but it ended up resolving a lot of sort of conflicts. And so at Wufoo, we basically were like, look we hated meetings, we're a remote company and we were dedicating one day out of everyone's work week to customer support. And then we pushed all the meetings for the company to a half-day on Friday. So therefore Friday was a half-day and one day was support. So you really only had engineers having three solid days to do work, but we fully believe that three solid days on uninterrupted work is far more productive than someone pretending to work for 40 hours for the week. Like we don't interrupt, etc.

And so for that to be effective, we instituted a policy it's a 15-minute discussion policy. So basically it said it's like any person could immediately table a discussion if it's gone for 15 minutes. So after it hits 15 minutes you're allowed to say, it's like, Hey, you know what? Let's just put this away and we'll discuss it at the Friday meeting and we'll move on to the other items on the to-do-list. So if you ever got into some kind of thing that stuck, you should have enough things on your plate that you can just move on and that you were not gonna be stuck by one person.

The result of this policy was that people would usually sleep on it, and the next day they would just magically be like, Oh, you know what? I figured something else out. Or like, that's not a big issue anymore. Or I don't care that much now that I got some sleep. And then when we get to Friday to try to go like, all right, what are all the unresolved issues, there would almost be nothing that we'd have to talk about because usually allowing people to have a period of time to cool off and think differently about the problem and realize like, Oh, there's gotta be a better way to work together, made a huge difference.

But I'd say for you, the first thing is someone has to admit that like this isn't working well and we need to change this process. And part of this process might be like, we go through these steps that I've talked about. And then semi worst-case scenario is like you do couples counseling. So this is a common thing in the barrier. It was super rare in the early days of YC, and now it's become way more common for co-founders to go together and have some kind of intermediary who would help kind of discuss all those sorts of negative things that are going on in the relationship and help them sort of see one another and realize that like, Hey, you still have shared values and missions. You just have different ways that you would approach it. And that there's gotta be a way that both of you can get what you need, whether it's taking turns or making an agreement or making concession, etc. Last question right here.

Man 6: Do you think people can change their attachment style over time?

Kevin: Do I think people can change their attachment style over time? I would like to think so. I'd like to think that people eventually become secure and not, I would say my attachment style is definitely avoidant dismissive. That's usually is my first thing, is just like someone tells you there's a problem, like, no, no, there's no problem. It's gonna be okay. It's fine. We're champions. Let's not get into it just now. And then I like walk away. Over time I've realized like, that's what I do and I work really hard to be like, okay, my instinct is to wanna sleep on this right now, can you honor that for me? And then we will definitely discuss it tomorrow morning and work on it. And so I wouldn't say that's as getting to the secure part, but at least I'm doing it in a way that like I recognize my weaknesses and slowly get to the point where it's like, Oh, you know what? I don't need to sleep on it. I can figure out things rationally between the two of us right now. That's the goal. Okay. Thank you very much. I'll let you guys mingle.