Founder chemistry: What is it, and how do you achieve it?

Antler is a global startup generator and early-stage VC that enables talented individuals to find co-founder/s and develop a startup together.

One of the most common responses I get from people after explaining the unique concept of Antler is "it sounds like an interesting social experiment". This is probably because the program is structured in a way that it fosters organic interactions and connections among founders. But how?

Here are three reflections on ‘founder chemistry’ after my first week at Antler.

1.      Everyone is on a level playing field

One way of getting to know your fellow founders is through one on one meet-ups. Founders chat about their interests and ideas over coffee or lunch. There is a unique element about these meet-ups that helps foster founder chemistry. The founders in the program are on a level playing fielding. They have a shared vulnerability of needing to find the right co-founder - there is a power balance. People are able to step back from their previous managerial and recruitment experience and really listen to the ideas of another founder from a completely different background.

Snow Li leads a discussion during an Unconference

2.      Forget performance, let’s focus on teamwork

In the first week, founders are allocated to groups to do Design Sprints on a given topic. The goal of these exercises is to test different working styles of people under pressure, and to foster founder chemistry through teamwork.  

The focus on teamwork can easily swing by the pressure of performance. You have a group of high-achieving individuals with diverse skills and no previous working relationship presenting on an idea in front of the cohort for the first time, and EVERYONE wants to do well.

For me, this was a great exercise to find the type of founder(s) I want to start a business with. I am looking for people who can notice the team member/s who hasn’t got the chance to contribute and provide them with platforms to speak; these leaders can create more value from a team. I am also looking for people who are not fixated on their ideas and are able to move on when the team decided to persuade another idea.

At the beginning of the startup journey, the last thing you want to do is get stuck in black and white ways of thinking driven by ego, this makes decision-making very difficult. For this reason, I have found unexpected founder chemistry through the Design Sprints.  

3.      I've learned a lot about myself

The founders participated in four Design Sprints in Week 1 of the second Sydney program.

I often found myself playing different roles in different teams. For example, sometimes I was the facilitator, other times I was a follower. Like most people, I'm more comfortable in certain roles than others. So learning that different people bring out different skills of mine helps me to evaluate the founder relationships and chemistry that will complement my skills and personality. 

It has been an intense first week at Antler.

The Antler team has done a great job of designing a program that fosters founder chemistry.

This article was written by Snow Li, an entrepreneur in Antler's second program in Sydney. This article was first published on LinkedIn. Read the original here. Slight edits have been made for clarity.

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