Building a startup requires hard work and perseverance. It is not something that should be done alone, as it requires a combination of technical and business capabilities, as well as industry knowledge and experience; qualities which are rare for one person to possess. You need a co-founder with whom you can share the ups and downs of starting a business.
The search for the right co-founder is not a simple thing, and almost as difficult or impossible, as the search for the partner in life. Much like marriage you are legally making a commitment to a person and much like marriage it’s statistically likely you’ll split up.
Entrepreneurship is a journey, and is often shared with other people. Choosing who you surround yourself with as an entrepreneur is critical, but choosing who you will found your business with is paramount. This is probably a major reason you hear venture capitalists say that they invest in people first, ideas second.
The first question you should ask yourself before starting to look for a co-founder is:
Do you really need a co-founder?
Define what you need, how much are you willing to give up for that? Define precisely what you are looking for, what you can take care of and what you need help with. Decide how much of your (future) company you are willing to give away to the person taking care of those needs. Sometimes it may be that you do not need a co-founder but rather should outsource development.
There is no standard formula to help you find your startup soul mate, but here are a few things to consider when choosing a co-founder—or multiple co-founders.
It’s like choosing a life partner. You’re looking for a long-term partnership with someone who can share the same vision and passion for the business as you do, a person you can trust and be honest with at all times. Given you’re going to be spending a lot of time with your co-founder, you want to make sure you’re compatible, have similar work ethics, and share the same goals and values. But while it’s important that you share many similarities, it’s also useful to have a co-founder that thinks different from you so you can avoid group think. Your co-founder should complement your skills and be able to bring something new to the table.
Similarity and multiple skill sets
Human beings tend to gravitate towards people that are similar to them. With founders, the goal is to find the right amount of similarity. Things like the candidate’s past-start experience, industry expertise, intelligence, credibility, passion/energy, communication skills, personality fit and more should all be considered.
Once the role is identified, where can you find the right type of person to fill the position?
While just like finding a life partner there is no magic formula to find a co-founder. Nevertheless there are ample opportunities in today’s world to go out with your idea and profile your possible candidates, future team members.
Announce your search and put yourself out there
One of the issues with finding a co-founder is often that most of the search will be done in the background, in the shadows. Often this is out of fear that someone may want to run with the idea, an understandable fear. Nevertheless, to improve your chances to find a co-founder, it is primordial that you put yourself out there and that people know that you are looking for a co-founder.
Finding a co-founder is very much like dating. There are various startup online communities like Founder Dating, Startup Dating community and more, which can help you find a co-founder. Just like experienced developers use their blog, you can make use of the social profiles and platforms, or your own website to build profile, and possibly already convince people they may want to make time and listen to your idea.
Network with startup founders
The first mantra to find a co-founder is often as simple as network as much as you can. In most scenes people tend to know each other. Thus networking with company owners, CEOs, startup founders who have earned their battle medals is an important thing to do. While they may not be available as co-founder candidate, they will nevertheless be able to provide you with great feedback on people when time to decide has come.
Use startup camps to scout talent
Hackathons and startup weekends or innovation camps can be the perfect location to scout candidates, both developers and possibly your co-founder. At these events you will discover how people can develop an idea, and at hackathons they will also be judged on their coding skills and quality.
Partnerships are like marriages
Treat it like a marriage. When you choose a co-founder, you are committing to a long-term relationship, so don’t just dive in — you wouldn’t get married after one date, would you? Build a relationship with potential co-founders, and find the one who’s the best fit for you.
Once you have found the eligible co-founder, don’t forget to formalize the agreement
Making your partnership legal
Entering into a business partnership with someone involves legal paperwork that binds the two of you together. An agreement is very important. For most businesses, it makes sense for co-founders’ equity to vest over time. For instance, a co-founder may ‘earn’ one percentage point of equity every month up to twenty months. This means the co-founder has to contribute to the business over the twenty months to earn their full amount of equity.
Making the entrepreneurial relationship work
One thing to note is that your partner’s duties will change over time on a monthly if not weekly basis. So, you should check with him or her to make sure that you know what each person is doing. Debates are good, but do it productively. Check the ego—only one of you has to be right for the company to win. Setting up boundaries and game rules ahead of time and then practicing them creates successful relationships.
If you don’t respect your co-founder you’re doomed. Be proud of the relationship—you want everyone to be jealous of your co-founder relationship.