10 Super Successful Co-Founders, And Why Their Partnerships Worked

jobs Wozniak

Photo: revolweb via Flickr

Not all entrepreneurs need co-founders, but many successful companies — including Apple, eBay, and Twitter — were built by multiple leaders with productive relationships. How did these individuals find their business counterparts? And what made their combined skill-sets a recipe for success? 

Not surprisingly, many were long-time friends, classmates, or relatives.  Others, however, did not get along initially. Some still are not amicable, despite their joint achievements.

There is a common trend: the most well-rounded pairs recognised their individual limitations and respected what the other could bring to a partnership.  Many of these duos have gone on to run some of the most successful businesses of our time.

Larry Page and Sergey Brin

Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak

Evan Williams and Biz Stone

Bill Gates and Paul Allen

Company: Microsoft

Year Founded: 1975

How their partnership was formed: Bill Gates and Paul Allen were childhood friends from Lakeside private school.

They shared a love of computers and were hacker partners-in-crime during high school.

Why their partnership works: Although it can be dangerous to mix friendship and business, the two pulled it off thanks to a shared obsession with computers and a passion for entrepreneurship.

Once Gates left for Harvard, Allen followed him to the Boston-area and they began plotting business ideas. With Allen's encouragement, Gates took the plunge, dropped out of college, and created Microsoft. Their billion dollar company spun out of a nerdy passion and a life-long friendship.

Source: Wired.com

Bill Hewlett and Dave Packard

Company: Hewlett-Packard

Year Founded: 1939

How their partnership was formed: Bill and Dave were classmates in Stanford's engineering program. Following graduation, Hewlett and Packard went on a two-week camping trip.

Spending two weeks in the woods with the same person would drive most people insane. Instead, Hewlett and Packard became close friends.

Shortly after, with the encouragement of Stanford professor Fred Terman, they started HP.

Why their partnership worked: Hewlett and Packard were best friends with similar strengths and managements styles; they complimented each other. As managers, Bill and Dave were openly involved in projects. They created a social, supportive work environment that contradicted the times. It was their innovative work ethic that enabled HP, its employees, and their business partnership to thrive.

Sources: HP Corporate, Lemelson-MIT program

Ben Cohen and Jerry Greenfield

Company: Ben & Jerry's

Year Founded: 1978

How their partnership was formed: Like Gates and Allen, Ben Cohen and Jerry Greenfield were childhood friends. Born four days apart, they met during high school gym class in 1963. They quickly became inseparable and even double-dated.

Sharing a love of food, the pair took a correspondence course in ice-cream making in 1977. After mastering the course, the twosome made a $12,000 investment and opened their first ice cream shop, Ben & Jerry's.

Why their partnership works: Ben and Jerry were able to turn their friendship into a successful business thanks to a joint passion for food and a desire to do more than just profit.

The pair are adamant about giving back to the community, and this resonates with their customers. Greenfield has said, 'We measured our success not just by how much money we made, but by how much we contributed to the community. It was a two-part bottom line.'

Sources: Inc.com, Entrepreneur.com, Evancarmichael.com

Pierre Omidyar and Jeffrey Skoll*

Company: eBay

Year Founded: 1995

How their partnership was formed: Skoll and Omidyar were casual acquaintances when Omidyar built the code for eBay.

Skoll, a recent Stanford MBA graduate, initially scoffed at the auction website. 'First he told me it was a stupid idea,' Omidyar wrote for Time International, ' and then he agreed to come on board.'

Skoll was the first employee on the payroll and was hired to write Omidyar's business plan. As eBay began to take off, so did their business relationship. The pair led the auction site to an IPO just 3 years later.

Why their partnership works: Skoll and Omidyar share democratic values which has strengthened their business and their partnership. According to the LA Times, 'They didn't talk about customers; they talked about 'the community.''

The two were also charitable. 'Shutting the community out of EBay's upcoming IPO--a practical necessity--seemed ungrateful,' the LA Times reports. 'So they decided that EBay would endow a charitable foundation with pre-IPO stock and share its wealth that way.'

Loyalty to customers and giving back to the community are values that have made the pair billionaires.

*Although they were business partners, eBay was soley founded by Pierre Omidyar. As Pierre's first employee, Skoll worked very closely with him and partnered on many aspects of the business, but he was not a co-founder.

Sources: Los Angeles Times, Notable Biographies, Omidyar Network

Gordon Moore and Bob Noyce

Company: Intel

Year Founded: 1968

How their partnership was formed: Moore and Noyce were rebels. They were two of the 'traitorous eight,' a group that left Shockley Semiconductor Laboratory to begin their own rival company. Shortly after, Moore and Noyce united to create their own business, Intel.

Why their partnership works: Noyce, co-inventor of the microchip, was the visionary and inspiration for Intel. Moore was avid in technology. The two talents joined forces to create a laid-back company built on cutting-edge innovation.

Sources: Silicon Valley Historical, Entrepreneur.com

William Procter and James Gamble

Company: Procter and Gamble

Year Founded:

How their partnership was formed:
Most in-laws can't stand each other. For William Procter and James Gamble, marrying the Noris sisters led to one heck of a business partnership. Both were entrepreneurs, a candle and soap maker respectively, but had never met. Once they became related, their father-in-law coaxed them into creating a company.

Why their partnership worked: Family and business values brought them together. Procter and Gamble helped each other create mass quantities of their products which led to a distribution deal with the U.S. army. From there, the two reaped the benefits of their partnership.

Source: PG Corporate

Jerry Yang and David Filo

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