Study reveals gender differences in choosing business co-founders

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When starting a new business, choosing the right co-founder is crucial.

Should an entrepreneur pick a partner based on personal compatibility, or should they prioritize someone who brings valuable skills and experience?

According to new research from Texas McCombs, published in the Academy of Management Journal, there is a noticeable gender gap in how entrepreneurs make this decision.

Steven Gray, an assistant professor of management at Texas McCombs, led a study examining how male and female entrepreneurs select their co-founders during the early stages of their ventures.

The findings reveal that men generally prefer co-founders who offer substantial knowledge, skills, and experience.

Women, on the other hand, often choose co-founders with whom they share personal chemistry.

Interestingly, the study found that women are more flexible in their approach compared to men.

They are willing to adapt their co-founder selection strategy based on the specific needs of their venture.

This adaptability allows them to respond effectively to different circumstances that may arise in the business environment.

Previous research on gender roles in entrepreneurship has shown mixed results. Some studies suggest that women tend to select co-founders they like and trust.

Other research indicates that women might seek co-founders with significant resources to help overcome biases and improve their venture’s credibility in the eyes of potential investors—a strategy commonly employed by men.

In this study, Gray, along with Travis Howell of Arizona State University and McCombs doctoral students Jamie Strassman and Kendall Yamamoto, focused on how an entrepreneur’s own legitimacy—such as their credentials and abilities—influences their choice between a co-founder they get along with and one who can bring resources to the table.

Through analyses that included profiles on an entrepreneurial matchmaking platform and surveys from a startup incubator, the researchers discovered that:

  • Entrepreneurs who chose partners with extensive experience and skills were more likely to attract favorable attention from potential investors.
  • Those who prioritized interpersonal chemistry with their co-founders experienced more stable ventures and were less likely to see their partnership dissolve within the first year.

Furthermore, the study revealed that female founders adjusted their co-founder selection strategies based on their personal levels of legitimacy.

Highly skilled and experienced women tended to choose co-founders they could work comfortably with, while those with less personal legitimacy were more likely to seek partners who could enhance their venture’s credibility.

This research highlights that both interpersonal chemistry and professional resources are important for a successful business partnership.

However, the findings also suggest that male founders might benefit from considering the relational aspects of their partnerships more, as women do, to build more effective and enduring business relationships.