Pooja Jain and Savannah Price, Co-Founders of Serene, talk Navigating Co-Founder Relationships
What does a “good” co-founder bring to the table?
We think that the ideal co-founder complements your skills with their own expertise, shares your vision to fully commit through ups and downs, and brings leadership with complementary networks and resources.
In our case: Savannah is an ex-athlete and entrepreneur who has bult several businesses from scratch across sectors, and has lived experience caring for financially vulnerable siblings. Being an Oxford MBA graduate, she also brings sharp business and strategic acumen, as well as a wide network, to the table.
In contrast, Pooja has a background in neuroscience. Prior to Serene, she founded and led an award-winning healthtech startup, CogniHealth, to profitability. She has taken several digital health solutions from an idea stage to the market, working collaboratively across academics, healthcare professionals, and relevant industry bodies. Through her customers at CogniHealth, she too has experienced the challenges health vulnerabilities can have on one's finances.
While we share common experiences and common values, we embrace our differences. Savannah has a much higher risk tolerance and is excellent at building relationships. She's a visionary and excels at setting and executing Serene's strategic direction. Pooja perfectly complements this with her detailed and evidence-based approach and her operational discipline. Pooja ensures that we stay lean, focused, and adaptable, whilst always ensuring we are being customer-led, without compromising on our core values.
What are the most important questions that you should ask a potential co-founder before embarking on your journey?
Here are four key questions that we asked each other that have helped us so far:
- How have you responded to major failures, stressful situations, and conflicts in past roles? This sheds light on work style and personality tendencies.
- How do you envision both of our roles evolving in the next 1-3 years as we scale? This helps to set common expectations.
- What is your philosophy on work-life balance and self-care? Mental health will take hits, so it's good to understand someone's baseline.
- What are your financial needs and expectations? Everyone has different obligations, and it's good to know upfront how long you can work without pay, and what the minimum income is that you need to survive comfortably. After all, we know better than most how intricately linked mental and financial health are!
What advice would you have on navigating a successful co-founder relationship?
We believe that one should not underestimate the importance of personality fit.
The pressures of startup life can strain even the closest relationships. Therefore, finding a co-founder that shares your values and where there is a strong personality fit can provide the glue for weathering unpredictable ups and downs. However, it is equally important to acknowledge that diversity and contrarian viewpoints can be a huge asset – this helps to avoid confirmation bias, as well as to offer an alternate viewpoint when it comes to problem solving – and trust us, there are many problems!
What is the most important piece of advice you would give to any to aspiring entrepreneurs?
Be obsessed with the problem you are trying to solve and have a very clear idea about the impact you want to make (and for whom).
Don't get too attached to your idea/ solution as it will inevitably change and evolve – if it isn't, you're doing something wrong. Stay relentlessly focused on solving a real problem, and always be customer-led. In the excitement of starting a company or launching an exciting product, it's easy to get caught up in the innovation and lose sight of whether what you're building is what your customer wants. Keep the end user front and center at every turn. Truly understand your target user's needs, pains, and desires. Keep talking to them. Ideate based on their feedback.