FIP 55: Tools and Tactics to Maintain Strong Founder Relationships with Edith Elliott

Edith Elliott is the co-founder and CEO of Noora Health, a nonprofit that unleashes the potential of patients and their family members by training them with skills to tremendously improve clinical outcomes, provide care and save lives. Today she tells us about her experience as one of four co-founders. Four co-founders. That’s double, if not quadruple, the industry standard and co-founding a company isn’t seen as a “more-the merrier” situation. Edith tells us about the tools and tactics that her leadership team has used to build a healthy and trusting founder relationship.

On this episode, you’ll learn:

  • Why co-founder conflict is one of biggest reasons for start-up failure and how to build trust early
  • Get personal and build trust. Healthy co-founder relationships begin with empathy, and sharing things about meaningful areas of your life to forge a path for trust and respect. Invest time in your relationships!
  • Know when to budge. Flexibility is a necessary trait, especially for colleagues like co-founders who have equal weigh-ins. Remember to be user-centric. And trust that your co-founders are putting the user first as well.
  • Do you have a united vision for the company? How do you uncover underlying expectations and have open conversations?
  • See the resources below for some of the exercises that Edith talks about. Want to invest in the relationships in your team? Try “I like, I wish”
  • Having a diverse co-founder team is a good thing, but it could also be a potential source of friction unless you learn to trust each other’s skill sets
  • We learn the key to how Edith and her team maintain a positive and productive relationship with one another
  • It is important to have good relationships while prioritizing what is best for the organization. At the end of the day, it is a business.
  • Acknowledge communication breakdowns early – don’t let them fester. Nip it in the bud! Helps to create a culture of transparency.
  • Make time for each other outside of the office. A co-founder relationship is a relationship like any other, and dedicating focused time paves the way for great collaboration.

Links to resources:

Connect with Edith

What was your favourite lesson from this episode? Share it with the social enterprise community on Twitter by clicking here!

Holding Hands, Yoel Ben-Avraham, (CC BY-ND 2.0)

Match Made in Heaven

We often find ourselves looking for “The One”. Let me guess what’s the first thing that comes to your mind – a loving relationship with your significant other? Well, this soul searching doesn’t end here; especially if you’re embarking on your social entrepreneurship journey. It also applies to finding the perfect co-founder, the perfect “founding other”.

In the Finding Impact Podcast Episode #27 we had David Auerbach on the show. David is co-founder of Sanergy – a social enterprise making hygienic sanitation affordable and accessible in Africa’s informal settlements. In the candid conversation, we talk about how to find the right co-founder and how to maintain a good relationship, how fortuitous it can be when you meet like-minded individuals, the importance of investing in good manpower and the effectiveness and efficiency in a team. In this blogpost, you’ll find the answers to many of your founder-related questions in a nutshell.

For new and existing founders alike, David gave the following suggestions:

  • Keeping a solid union with the co-workers is necessary along with meeting and communicating regularly with one another. It is said that the relationship between you and your investors is like a marriage, but this is even more true for a co-founding team.
  • Get comfortable with how decisions are made as a team. Ask yourself – are you happy with the process when you make tough decisions? The decisions you make today, define your tomorrow – so this is definitely a very significant aspect because a lot of times there is resentment around how decisions are made.
  • As the work gets more sophisticated, it becomes relevant to raise money and hire the right people who specialise in particular roles.
  • A lot of times, co-founders get caught up in equity decisions really early on. It’s important to keep it fair and transparent – and remember there is no ideal way of doing it.
  • He also suggested a few tactics to maintain a healthy relationship, such as, keeping an open mind and listening to different views and opinions. Understanding how outsiders think of the business is a good way to grasp a third person’s perspective. And lastly of course, it is so very important to have fun together besides work, this could be going for outdoor activities, enjoying meals outside, family get togethers, and more.
  • Early on in the founder’s journey, you’ll no doubt do a bit of everything. But as the needs of the business expands and grows, it becomes more and more important for founders to move into specialised roles, and hire people with specialist skills.
  • Having a co-founding team is like having a relationship. There will be ups and downs, there would be misunderstandings and miscommunications, but if you’re willing to focus on the bigger picture and if you really want to solve the issues, then congratulations you have found “the one”!

And like any marriage, it’s important to have a healthy relationship with everyone else in the house i.e. the rest of the team!

Never miss an episode! Subscribe to the Finding Impact podcast on iTunes or your favourite podcast player. A new episode comes out every Wednesday. Thanks for tuning in!

(Written by: Akanksha Khurana, Photo credit: Holding Hands, Yoel Ben-Avraham, CC BY-ND 2.0)

David Auerbach Finding Impact

FIP 027: Founders with David Auerbach

David Auerbach is the co-founder of Sanergy – a social enterprise making hygienic sanitation affordable and accesible in Africa’s informal settlements. It’s a huge pleasure to get David on the show, he’s been a friend and peer in the sanitation sector for many years, and I’m a true fan of Sanergy. David epitomises the relentless hustle you need to be both an entrepreneur, but also one working to disrupt a very slow moving sector in Africa. He’s an alum of MIT where he met his co-founders and he has spent time working in the US and China before calling Kenya his home. David has always been available to chat, being very approachable and an all round nice guy. So I’m excited to get into this episode with him.

On this episode, you’ll learn:

  • How the Sanergy co-founders met and how their earlier experiences shaped their desire to build a scalable development venture that could impact the lives of millions of people.
  • As expat founders, they marked the launch of the company when they actually moved their lives to Kenya.
  • Getting on with the co-founders and liking each other, and being comfortable with how decisions are made as a team, is way more important than the merit of the skills that they bring to the table.
  • How Sanergy founders did a little bit of everything in the early days, but as the business evolved, they took more specialised roles that utilise their strengths.
  • How they hired team members for the senior leadership team that filled the gaps in the founders’ expertise.
  • How they developed a rule of thumb that said if any one of the founders were spending more than 50% of their time on one specific function, they would hire someone how had the actual expertise to carry out that function.
  • In terms of equity split between founders, it’s important to be fair – but note there’s not a “right way”. Get advice from people you trust.
  • If you struggle to want to work with your co-founder, then maybe it’s not the right fit.
  • The co-founders regularly meet at least twice a week, just to talk and make decisions, and work through any issues. And they don’t vote to make decisions – they talk it out, to ensure everyone is happy before moving forward.


Get in touch with David and Sanergy:


FIP 005: Not Going it Alone on your Social Enterprise Journey, with Mark Hemsworth

In this episode, I have a candid conversation with Mark Hemsworth about this subject of not going it alone and reaching out for help. This is such a big issue, because I think as social entrepreneurs, we might tell ourselves we need to have all the answers. But instead, the opposite is true. I believe a key factor of success is how much you cultivate a network of mentors and advisors and how much you reach out to that network on a routine basis.

In this episode you’ll learn:

  • Why we may feel reluctant to reach out to our network for help, but by being self-aware we can get over it
  • The dangers of just focusing on driving sales and iterating the model whilst neglecting to build robust systems and plan for the growth
  • Some suggested groups in your life who you could speak to in the early stages of your business to share your challenges and bounce ideas off
  • What an early stage mentor cohort could look like and how you could structure calls
  • Some ideas and advice on how to hire for your senior leadership team


Connect with Mark