How to Find a Co-Founder
You have a million-dollar idea, but you know you don’t have the bandwidth to bring it to market alone. One option is to hire a staff, but as a startup, that would probably mean spending money you don’t have. A more attractive option is to find a co-founder to help you make your vision a reality for the promise of sharing in its eventual success.
Besides finding someone to help with the work of building a startup, the idea of working with a co-founder may have other appeals. Do you really want to solve all the problems, call all the shots, and find ways to stay motivated when things go wrong? Or would you rather have a sounding board and confidant to work with and build some synergy? Finding a co-founder may also make your company more attractive to investors. Some VCs or angels may hesitate if you are setting out on your own with no support and input from a partner.
Optimizing the Search for a Co-Founder
If you decide that finding a co-founder is the best course of action, the next question is how to find that perfect partner. The process actually starts with some introspection: You need to understand your own strengths and weaknesses before you can find the yin to your yang — someone who can fill the gaps that exist in your skill set and help you build a strong business.
Your evaluation of potential co-founders should include how they stack up in these six areas:
A smart approach to take when choosing a co-founder is to find someone who has expertise in areas that you don’t. For example, you should consider finding a technical co-founder if you are unfamiliar with the technology and tech-related processes necessary to run your startup. Conversely, if you’re a techie, finding a co-founder with skills outside your wheelhouse, like marketing, sales, or managing customer relationships, could be most advantageous.
Don’t discount the importance of your potential co-founder’s personality. Are you dealing with a highly organized person who demands perfection or someone a little more laissez-faire? Can you communicate effectively? Do you see an easy path to conflict resolution? Do your leadership styles line up? Be honest — can you stand being around the person? If you can’t get along, your startup is doomed to fail. Co-foundersLab reports that 62 percent of startups fail due to co-founder conflict.
You may be all-in, but is your potential partner? Passion for your idea will drive action and fuel your commitment. Have you found a co-founder who shares your passion and is willing to put in the work to bring your idea to life?
What do you believe your startup’s mission is? Where do you see it fitting in the market? What kinds of company culture do you want to create? What do you want to achieve in the next five or ten years? Your vision and your co-founder’s vision should align.
Few people would argue that there’s an element of risk with a startup. But it’s important for both you and your co-founder to be on the same page with how much risk is acceptable to take. Get a clear picture of how conservative or aggressive your potential co-founder is when it comes to risk — it’s not only important as you build your company but as you make decisions throughout its life cycle.
You may envision working with your co-founder in the same office — but what if the perfect co-founder lives a thousand miles away? It may be possible to have a successful, remote partnership if you can find ways to keep the lines of communication open, meet regularly, and find ways to build a successful distributed team.
Where to Look for a Co-Founder
Once you have an idea of the ideal co-founder’s skills and attributes, you’re ready to begin your search. There are numerous ways to get the word out that you’re in the market for a co-founder — for example, you can share the news on LinkedIn, job posting sites, or through university entrepreneurship programs. You can also leverage your network to help you in your search. Another tactic is to keep your eyes and ears open at industry or startup incubator events, like Startup Weekend.
Sometimes the search for a co-founder is as easy as looking through your list of contacts. Although your ideal co-founder may not be a family member or your best friend, it may be worth talking to a colleague who impressed you with an exceptional work ethic and expertise.
Wherever you look, though, don’t make a rash decision. It will probably take time and persistence to find a co-founder that’s the best fit for your startup. Remember, the right one is out there.