When starting your business, it can be pretty lonely on your own and can often be difficult. There will be skills that you lack, time you do not have and sometimes, you just need a kick up the butt. But choosing a co-founder can be like choosing the person you want to marry. Your businesses success is on the line, and you need to make the right choice of co-founder or you risk burning yourself or worse, your company folding.
What is a co-founder?
A co-founder is someone who, with one or two other people, starts a business. Each person who is involved in creation and execution from the beginning is considered to be a co-founder. The only difference between a founder and a co-founder is the founder is the one who came up with the idea, whereas a co-founder is someone who joins the founder to help enhance the start-up.
Often these terms are used interchangeably as there is no legal meaning to each title. You can have 3 co-founders or 3 founders, both will mean the same.
What do you want from your co-founder?
You need to work out what you need from a cofounder. Write a “job description” for your ideal co-founder by examining your business in depth. Conduct a SWOT analysis to see where your strengths are weakness already lie, as when you have the answer to this, you know the skills required for your co-founder. An anxious or nervous founder is often complimented well by a confident and persuasive co-founder as when it comes to applying for funding, confidence and persuasiveness can go a long way. Ideally, co-founders should have the “one builds and one sells” set up, as then each person can focus on what their best at.
You should not just focus on your immediate weaknesses, where do you plan your business to be in 5 years? Are you looking to expand into Asian markets? If so, someone with language skills would be very beneficial for you as this will stop any barriers in communication. Don’t sugar coat your weaknesses to make yourself feel better, think about what you can improve on and what you simply can’t bring to the table.
You need aligned values
When you meet a potential co-founder, make sure their values match yours. Do you want the same thing? Do they have the same passion and drive as you? Are they willing to take risks and work hard to achieve the business goals? Usually, it’s great to have someone that you have had experiences with so you know what kind of person they are and that they’re not just answering your questions correctly just to be a co-founder.
Both being excited about the business idea isn’t always what to link for, you must make sure that your potential co-founder is willing to put in the work, has the same goals as you and matched values (what you consider to be important).
Your co-founder must be willing to learn and be flexible
As you should be too. Start-up life isn’t all sunshine and rainbows, no matter how the media portrays it. When you work on a startup, it’s like building a bike whilst you’re riding it. Even if your co-founder has been around the block a few times and has valuable experience, they must also be willing to learn and adapt. Not only must they be willing to grow professionally, they must be willing to grow as a person.
Each day in a start-up is different and often there are a lot of tasks that need doing. Make sure your co-founder can rise to these tasks and is willing to work flexibly. Sometimes you may have a client across the world with a 10 hour time difference, are they willing to have early mornings and late nights/
Think about personal plans for you and your co-founder
You must think about yours and your co-founders personal life. When do you want kids? Any plans for marriage? Do you want to continue living in the area you are now? Although the latter isn’t as important due to remote working, the other two still stand. If you want to settle down at some point and have a family, you must factor in when you want this and when your co-founder wants this. If you’re both wanting children at the same time and soon, this could be an issue as your attention will be elsewhere.
But how do I find a co-founder?
There are some “blind date” style options for finding a co-founder like Founder Dating and Co-Founders Lab, but I would recommend finding people in person that you have some mutual connections with. If you do go online, don’t jump into anything straight away but spend time building a connection with your potential co-founder. If you don’t click and compliment each-other, then chances are your startup won’t succeed as well as it could.
If you have a business mentor, they could know somebody else that is a perfect fit. You won’t know unless you ask!
Ex-colleagues or classmates can be great co-founders as you know how they work, their drive plus usually you are not close friends. Going into business with friends can often cause rifts between people and can damage friendships, especially if you both start to want different things. Try to find someone who is equally as passionate as you are about this business. When someone starts to get genuinely excited by your idea, you could be to a winner.
A lot of coworking spaces hold regular events like hack-a-thon’s, networking events and dev meetups, and as they’re mostly housed by freelancers and startups, they’re a great place to meet potential co-founders. Check out the local coworking spaces in your area or head over to Meetup. Entering local business competitions can have contacts come to you instead of you trying to find them.
Always keep your eye out no matter where you are, bus, train, plane, coffee-shop… You never know where you could meet a potential co-founder!
Consider working on some smaller projects with your potential co-founder first to get a taste of their work and their time-keeping. If you do truly believe they’re a perfect fit, act quickly before they disappear to co-found someone else’s startup!
- Trust your gut, if it’s saying something isn’t right then it probably isn’t.
- Don’t go straight in and give them 40/50% of your equity, take your time to work together and make sure you’re a good match.
- Be prepared for compromise. You’re not the perfect founder and neither will your co-founder be.
- If someone isn’t right to start with, don’t try to change them because you like them. A leopard doesn’t change it’s spots.
- Use Twitter to find potential cofounders by engaging with people with similar interests.
- Understand personality types, you don’t want your whole team to be the same.
- Look for someone who understands entrepreneurship and that Rome wasn’t built in a day. Impatience can make the relationship sour.
- Think to yourself, “can I work with this person for the next 5, maybe 10 years?”
- Is your potential co-founder ready to quit their job to work on your start-up, and do they have a cash reservoir to keep them going for a year or more?
- Consider asking friends in your industry if they know of anyone who would be suited.
- Make sure you trust them.
- A coworking space can open up opportunities to find a co-founder