We are Mike, Tim and Matt, the cofounders of Rightfounder. We are 6 months into the adventure of helping startup teams build better relationships and stronger businesses. Matt leads on product, Tim on marketing, and Mike on the overall business plan. In the first in our series of cofounder interviews, we've asked ourselves some questions to undercover our hidden sides.
How did we meet each other?
Mike: I met Tim at innocent drinks, we bonded over a love of music, even though he liked Josh Wink. After innocent, I wanted Tim to work for my last venture, Peppersmith, and I am chuffed we can finally work together.
Matt is the partner of one of my wife's best mates. We both have a love of outdoor stuff and startup nerdery. We felt it was time to turn the chat into action.
Matt: Mike's and my better half (The Aiden Maidens) went to university together. We had both founded startups and spent a bunch of time hanging out and swapping war stories about investors/founders/staff and the highs and lows of running a business. We kept talking about founder formation stories, which seemed to be decided with the same level of thought that you might decide on who to go to the movies with, rather than who to marry. Too many founders, ourselves included, did not think about that decision in as much detail as we should have. So after many camping fireside chats, I'm so happy we can finally work together on something we both have always cared about.
Amazingly, Tim and I have never met in person. Welcome to launching a business in the time of coronavirus! The first thing we did, apart from many a zoom call, was to take an early version of the RightFounder test to ask some, quite frankly at times, uncomfortable questions. One of the reasons I believe in our business is this very experience. Tim and I know each other, our motivations, personalities and goals in so much more detail having taken our own medicine. He's also seems like a fundamentally considered and fun person. Ideal to go see a film with!
Tim: As the headline DJ for staff parties, Mike was my warm-up act. Outside the music world, he was a big noise in the Nordic smoothie scene. After leaving innocent, we didn't get to team up for a while but came back together with the right idea at the right time on Rightfounder.
Mike always intended to intro me to Matt as we shared many similar professional and personal interests. With Matt moving to New Zealand, it never happened in person, but scoping out Rightfounder was the perfect opportunity. I can't wait for our first team awayday in Tokyo; half way for each of us!
How would you describe your cofounders?
Mike: Tim is driven, smart, earnest and cares more about people than his cynicism would ever suggest. Matt is quieter, knowledgeable and wise. He is great at putting a paragraph into a sentence, and a sentence into a word.
Matt: Mike is more detailed focused, Tim and I less so. Tim has a really good feel for our actual users, how to talk to them, what voice they need to hear, the emotions and assistance they need on the startup journey.
I am loving the fact that I am learning a lot. Often I work with teams where I am the expert (either having run businesses or running technology teams) and it's wonderful to be a part of a team where I'm the worst at almost everything. Pretty sure Mike has me on excel too, thank god that guy can't code.
Tim: When not immersed in the startup world, Mike's natural habitat is in a camper van or on the tennis court. He's a thoughtful and intelligent operator, passionate about making the world a better place. He's always learning, reading, finding inspiration from multiple sources and keen to share it with others. He makes me want to be a better version of myself.
Matt always has a chilled-out smile, a calm and steely focus, and definitely the best video conference backdrops. Unlike many CTOs I've worked with, he is always looking for a way to say Yes. He has the knack of being able to explain complicated technical things in normal language.
What makes them great cofounders?
Mike: Tim sees things before me and helps me understand the 'why'. Matt turns random thoughts into something we can sell.
Matt: Firstly, they are both fun to be around. It has to be an enjoyable journey, and comedy and fun are things that bind you together, get you through some dark times, and lift you in the great times. The startup journey is full of both.
They are experienced and battle hardened. For all of us, this is business number two, three, or four, which means a lot. Mostly we talk realistically about what will happen vs what might happen. This also means that conversations about difficult topics are happening far earlier than normal, which has to be a good thing.
They are full of ideas around how to move the business forward. Both are product and revenue focused. From running businesses before, they take practical decisions to get into the market quickly, but with an eye on the wider plan for the future.
Tim: We respect each other's different expertise, personalities, and working styles. I trust them both implicitly. They give me a sense of confidence about the business as well as myself. I'm always excited about working with them, and learn from them every day
What are their worst habits?
Mike: Tim's is not trusting anything not made by google. Matt's is not responding to emails.
Matt: Too early to say. Ask me again in 6 months.
Tim: Mike rarely turns up to a Zoom meeting on time. When he does, he rewards himself by spending the first three minutes making himself a coffee. I've found nothing at all annoying about Matt, which is annoying in itself.
What has been the secret of maintaining a good relationship through the ups and downs?
Mike: Communication and honesty
Matt: Honesty, compassion and comedy.
Tim: We've all bought into a clear vision. We always check in with each other before we start work, and we've spent time understanding each other's natural styles, personalities, and traits. That means we can see the world through each other's eyes a little more easily
What is the toughest moment you have shared together, and how did you get through it?
Mike: We are in the honeymoon period. Tough moments will come but I feel our focus and understanding of the founder dynamic will help immensely.
Matt: We are all very clear on each other's time commitments. We did this through discussions on equity, input, time and also drawing up a shareholders manifesto.
Tim: It's definitely tricky having founders at opposite ends of the world. It forces us to be disciplined with time, organised, and sensitive towards each other. We have embraced the latest approaches to the way people work these days.
Finally, what advice can you give cofounders starting out together?
Mike: 1) Do the Rightfounder test. 2) Talk about what the whole business journey means to you and what you want from it. Don't just focus on the ambitious outcome/endgame 3) Accept you likely have very different outlooks and motivations than your cofounders.
Matt: Lean into the hard conversations earlier. Find a safe way to provide feedback to each other. Make that regular. Forgive yourself. It's hard.
Tim: Take the Rightfounder test. Really. It has helped us set much better foundations for our business and for our relationships with each other.
If you are interested in hearing from other cofounders, please email us at firstname.lastname@example.org with the names of people you would love to find out more about.