Why You Can’t Be Friends with Your Co-Founders

Aaron Dinin, PhD
5 min readMar 3, 2020

Startup co-founders often describe their relationships as “being like a marriage.” They spend countless hours together working, eating meals, and traveling. They learn to deal with each other’s weird eccentricities, they learn to be comfortable around each other in ways normal friends aren’t, and, just like in marriages, they get into big fights they’re forced to resolve because their lives and wellbeing are intimately entwined. Given such close, personal, long term relationships, you’d think finding a co-founder among your friends would be a good strategy. But choosing a friend as a co-founder is a bad idea. Do you know why?

Before I explain why you shouldn’t look for co-founders among your friends, I feel obligated to admit that my co-founder of nearly 15 years in three seperate companies began as my childhood best friend. We met when we were 10 years old, and we didn’t launch our first company together until we were in our early 20s.

I realize I seem like a hypocrite for not following my own advice, but the reverse is closer to the truth. I used to think building companies with my best friend was what set us up for success, but it was actually creating challenges I struggled to recognize. Here are four of the biggest challenges we faced as friends building businesses together.

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Aaron Dinin, PhD

I teach entrepreneurship at Duke. Software Engineer. PhD in English. I write about the mistakes entrepreneurs make since I’ve made plenty. More @ aarondinin.com