I'm Praveen Suthrum. After 13 years of building and running NextServices, a healthcare technology/management company, the challenges and opportunities in the industry leap out at me. I also get early access to industry trends and changes.

Whether you are seeking to start or grow your healthcare business, my weekly insights will make you spot opportunities and stay on top of your game. It'll help you think differently about healthcare.

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If cofounders are such a pain, why do you really need them?

If cofounders are such a pain, why do you really need them?

If cofounders are such a pain, why do you really need them?

Just the other day, my cofounder and I argued before getting on a conference call. From the pauses, I could tell he was frustrated with me. I heard myself say, "We never know where the call can lead to. Screw caution. Let’s be open."

Bang, bang, bang. I continued unabated. 

Once that got over, we immediately got on the call. Despite our arguments a minute ago, we were singing the same tune for the other side.

Anyways, the call turned out annoyingly as he had anticipated. He was more right. And I was more wrong.

That’s what I love about working with my cofounder. He brings balance to my madness.

We met years ago as MBA students. I first recall seeing him in our student lounge with other students. He’d always be wearing a hat, grinning widely.

Word eventually got around that I was planning to start a business in healthcare. A friend suggested that I speak to a doctor who was in the evening MBA program. I reached out. And he looped my future cofounder in.

We ended up taking the same entrepreneurship courses. Friends would joke that we were holding board meetings during class. 

Soon we started up in the student lounge and there he built our first website.

Eventually we shifted to a real office. 

14 years later we continue to run our business in US and India.

How do cofounders help?

Entrepreneurship is a long and lonely journey. More people will say “no” to you than “yes.” If you survive it’ll be on top of a whole pile of failures. Some of those can disillusion you. 

Cofounders can help you stay put during these lows. They share the journey with you and somehow make the ride a bit easier. Even fun.

Cofounders can bring balance to your personality and thinking. Organizations often begin to look like their founders. When I look around at my team, I see all my strengths and weaknesses in them. A cofounder who thinks differently from you can be invaluable in reaching more well thought through decisions. 

Cofounders can contribute skills that you don’t have. One of my biggest mental bottlenecks for starting up had to do with logistics. I just simply didn’t know how to register a company in the US. There was this resistance to even research and find out. Years later, I still have no idea or patience or skills or experience to deal with many things that go into running a company.

Cofounders can give you time to breathe. Building an organization is emotionally and mentally taxing. It requires an infinite supply of energy and enthusiasm to fight the odds against you. I take time away by trekking in the mountains every year. For a few days, I’m completely disconnected. With my cofounder around, I can breathe more easily during my time away.

When does it not work?

Cofounders can become a pain when individual interests or politics take center stage. When you can’t speak your mind to the other. When you feel you are doing all the work or questioning the value of the other. When you use others on the team as crutches to convey your distress. When there’s space for deceit. When there’s lack of ownership to do whatever needs to be done. 

Such dissonance takes a toll on the team. It confuses everyone. The organization invariably suffers. Your clients can smell your fight. 

Remember that it’s primarily work that brought you together. That’s the glue. Make that the priority over other personal travails that you have.

How to find cofounders? And what to look for in them?

I’ve always found that when you announce your intentions, people will join you on your journey. A moving train going somewhere is more appealing than the one that’s going no where. 

Go where the fish are. Conferences. Workshops. Educational meetings. Online courses. Share more openly about your plans. If you are looking for a cofounder, say so.

Ask these questions when gauging the fit of your cofounders:

  1. Do your core values align? From ethics to broader vision of the industry.
  2. In case of conflict, would this person prioritize the team or herself?
  3. Can you trust this person with money and other key areas of business?
  4. Would you get your own space to function?
  5. Is he/she better than you in more than one aspect?
  6. Would you have to run behind him/her to get work done?
  7. If you had to work together for the next decade, would you do it?
  8. Can you simply hang out and have fun?

Once my cofounder told me the story of a twisted French movie. It must’ve been after a long, tiring day at a medical conference. As usual, we would’ve built the booth, stood for hours demoing, selling, hustling for business. 

A few months later I watched that movie. It was so weird that I loved it. And I found myself thinking, oh he’s cool, weird and human too. Somehow it made me glad we worked together.

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