How many co-founders should you have?

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My friend Austin announced yesterday that his company, Blockstream, just raised a $ 21M ‘seed’ round. While I was checking out their website to learn more about his company, I noticed that Austin is one of eleven co-founders. That got me thinking, how many co-founders should you have? Is there such a thing as too many?

Back in my VC days it was prevailing wisdom in our fund that we would not invest in companies led by a sole founder. Why? Being a founder is tough. You need a partner in crime. You need someone to live through the highs and lows with. And investors need that too. We can’t place all our hopes on one person.

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The role of a Seed Stage VC

Seed stage VCs come in all shapes and sizes. Some, like 500 Startups, write small cheques into a large number of companies. Others, like Mantella Venture Partners make a small number of investments but get heavily involved in each of them (not sure if this is still true, but Mantella used to have all its portfolio companies in its office. That’s hands on involvement…).

Now, the best entrepreneurs can choose who to raise money from. As a result, they look for things beyond money in choosing who to partner with. Usually they’re looking for some differentiated access (network), differentiated expertise, or both. Knowing this, the best seed VCs will specialize in a few areas in order to stand out.

When I was a VC I only did SaaS and e-commerce. Both of those businesses are heavily data and metrics-driven, and hence lend themselves well to what I know how to do (I did have one location-based zombie game sneak into my portfolio. But again, that’s heavily data-driven). Matt Golden of Golden Venture Partners is 100% mobile-focused. That gives him an edge over more generalized investors.

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Closing the gap in Canadian exits

Techvibes reposted some extensive research from the folks at MaRS on exit outcomes in Canada along with a long list of observations and recommendations for all of us building startups in Canada. There’s much I dislike about this research. For one thing, it’s all very backwards-looking. Also, seeking the insights of a fund that has long since run out of capital and stopped making investments (in Canada or anywhere) just because they have the historical high water mark in terms of number of US investments seems silly. Finally, the conclusion that we need to go move (in whole or in part) to the US is just downright annoying.

But lets park those concerns and focus on one issue: Exit sizes.

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