My friend, six years more experienced than me, has invented a marvelous device that I consider has a huge potential in the market. He has already filed for a patent. The research is currently funded by university. He wants me to join as a researcher in the project, invent and file a few patents together with him. He plans to start a company in a time-frame of a few months to an year. I would consider an investment into commercializing this device as a lower-than-usual risk; but the execution of commercialization needs to be well performed.
From my perspective: I work in a somewhat different field and joining him will be a non-trivial change of field for me. OTOH by joining him, I get the opportunity to file some patents as a co-author and reap the benefits of commercialization.
I understand that the basic invention was his idea and he has already progressed with it quite far. Therefore he should definitely have the lead position in the company. I have to negotiate my future position: Should I negotiate to be called a "co-founder" of the company? Having such a "title" would give me good visibility outside the company. I fear that if I do not negotiate this, I might be relegated to an "initial/key employee" position, that is, visible mostly inside the firm. This is my current state in my present company but not very acceptable to me for the future. OTOH there is an element of doubt as I do not have much experience in this field.
I understand that negotiating the share in the company is also important, but it might be too early and awkward at this state. There is also an element of trust and "mutual consideration" (he is much like a mentor) that cannot be quantified easily.
Edit: Why is the title important? Some of you have advised me to not go for titles. However my perspective is the following: I want the title of "co-founder" as in the future I want to be a successful entrepreneur. I want to be known as a person of integrity and caliber.
However I won't take your answer simply because you say "that's nice" or "that's the way things are". To slightly digress, to me the common practice of differentiating the "core/management team" from "employees" looks unfair and divisive. It is possible that the management team members are overrated.