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Co-Founder Duties and Responsibilities

Identify Market Opportunities

Before a product can enter the market, a co-founder needs to identify opportunities or areas where consumers may want or need a product that does not yet exist. A successful co-founder takes a big-picture view of their market segment or industry, identifies what is working and what needs are not yet being addressed, and determines whether that market presents an opportunity to establish and grow a successful company within that space.

Manage Product Development

A co-founder also plays an important role in product development and implementation. In the early stages of a new startup, a co-founder takes a very active role in developing a product, determining specifications, and bringing that product into production, whether it's a physical product or a digital solution (such as a website or application). This aspect of the role is hands-on and critical, as successful product development can determine whether a new venture is ultimately successful.

Direct Marketing and Promotion

Co-founders are also responsible for conducting early marketing and promotion for their product. Well before a product arrives on the market, co-founders need to network and build anticipation for their products to ensure that there is demand once the product moves into production. This part of the job can include building a social media presence, crafting press releases, and attending industry events to build word-of-mouth.

Develop Financial Estimates

Co-founders are in charge of developing financial estimates and setting milestones and timelines. A co-founder estimates costs to bring their product to market, develops financial plans to determine break-even points and ensure long-term solvency, and sets budgets as the company grows. Part of this role can also involve seeking out additional funding and investors for a new venture.

Create Business Plans and Documents

Another responsibility of a co-founder is creating business plans and important documents, which can include financial information, hiring documents, and business registration materials. Co-founders work together with legal experts to structure their businesses and create legal documents that outline each co-founder's responsibilities, shares of equity, and terms of a partnership or corporation.

Build and Lead Teams

As a company grows, a co-founder also needs to build and lead effective teams. This aspect of the role involves high-level decision-making as well as the ability to identify areas where it benefits the company to bring in new personnel. The ability to inspire and lead teams helps companies scale up as their market share increases and helps hire and retain staff members who are dedicated to the company's success.

Co-Founder Skills and Qualifications

Co-founders need to balance big-picture thinking with the day-to-day tasks that go into building a successful organization. Co-founders can come from almost any educational background, but all tend to have the following skills:
  • Strategic thinking

    - co-founders need to excel at strategic thinking in order to identify product opportunities and make business decisions that ensure long-term success and growth
  • Market research

    - it's also vital that co-founders are able to conduct market research and analyze trends and data to make well-informed business decisions
  • Product development

    - in the early stages of a company, co-founders take an active role in product development, making both high-level and minute decisions regarding their products before they go to market
  • Marketing and promotion

    - co-founders need to successfully promote their products before they go to market, building anticipation and creating demand through social media, advertising, and networking
  • Personnel management

    - as a company grows, a co-founder needs to excel at recruiting, hiring, and retaining talented and dedicated staff members who can help bring the co-founder's vision to life
  • Financial planning

    - co-founders need a solid grasp of financial planning and forecasting and should be able to set milestones and budgets to ensure solvency and long-term growth

Co-Founder Education and Training

There's a lot of variety in educational backgrounds and levels for co-founders, ranging from business administration to computer science. Some co-founders may not even finish their college degrees, choosing to instead begin developing their products and figuring out strategies to bring them to market. The ability to think critically, identify trends, and create original ideas for products are the most important qualities for co-founders, so a bachelor's degree in a field like marketing, business administration, or finance can provide a foundation that a co-founder can then build on.

Co-Founder Salary and Outlook

Co-founder salaries can vary widely, especially in the early days of a company. A co-founder may work for equity as a company gets off the ground and may only receive a salary once the business is established for several years. Additionally, the co-founder's role can dramatically change as a company grows, and many co-founders end up transitioning to become CEOs or COOs once the company reaches a certain size.

Helpful Resources

If you're interested in co-founding a startup, we found several resources on the web that explore the role of a co-founder and provide tips:

"The Secret to Successful and Lasting Co-Founder Relationships" this blog post examines why co-founder relationships can fall apart and provides tips for company founders to build long-lasting partnerships

The Startup Playbook: Founder-to-Founder Advice from Two Startup Veterans two veteran startup co-founders provide tips and practical advice for readers interested in starting their own companies

"The Four Roles of a Company Founder" Tony Navarro of the Young Entrepreneurs Council explores the role that a founder plays in successful companies

The Founder's Dilemmas: Anticipating and Avoiding the Pitfalls That Can Sink a Startup Noam Wasserman provides a roadmap for potential entrepreneurs, illuminating the journey from an initial idea to a successful company

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Co-Founder Resume FAQ

How do I properly list co-founder/CMO on a resume?

Starting a business is a significant accomplishment worth highlighting on your resume — but what’s the best way to do it?

You can list your experience as a co-founder in the work experience and professional summary sections of your resume. In your summary, share the most impressive details about your company, whether it be company size, revenue or recognition. Then, in work experience, use bullet points to drive home other salient accomplishments, citing quantifiable achievements as much as possible.

What are the duties of a co-founder?

Co-founders are entrepreneurs who join forces with a partner to start a business. Top duties and responsibilities include:

  • Identifying big-picture market opportunities to ensure the product or service being sold fills an important niche.
  • Developing a product by setting specifications and helping move it into production.
  • Creating a marketing strategy to build anticipation and bring attention to the product.
  • Making a budget and forecasting financial expectations to secure long-term solvency.
  • Building effective teams by finding and hiring talented personnel.