The Quest for a Co-founder
You Need a Co-founder. Trust Us
We are firm believers in starting a business with someone else. Our own co-founders wouldn’t have done it any other way, and we’ve talked to other business owners who agree that business is better with a buddy.
We all need someone who can share both the successes and stresses of running a business.
Sure, Mark Zuckerberg of Facebook went for it alone, but founders like him are few and far between. Plus, Zuckerberg had a ton of help. Remember that nasty lawsuit by those brawny Harvard students?
Here’s why a co-founder may be a crucial factor in the success of your company:
They Fill in the Skills Gap
Face it—there are some things you’re great at and really enjoy doing, while there are others you feel so-so about. Even if you think you can cover everything, why should you if you have a co-founder who can do it better?
Something else to consider? Different management styles. If you’ve started and grown your own business before, you know that as time progresses, different management styles work better than others.
They’re a Companion on the Startup Journey
Starting a business isn’t easy and bumps are bound to appear. This is a lot easier (and more fun!) to handle with a co-founder.
Advisors, board members, and mentors are great, but there is nothing like being able to talk to someone that is going through the exact same process as you are, facing the same risks, the same problems, and the same potential rewards.
They Can Cover For You
You’ve just spent a week glued to your computer coding and need to escape the office, but you’ve got these pesky checks that need to be signed. Guess who can sign them? Your co-founder.
We all have those days when we’re tired, grumpy, and we just want to go sit on the couch and mope. And sometimes, we want to soak up a little extra time with our families. A co-founder can cover for you on those days, so you don’t have to stress if you need a break.
They Can Point Out Blind Spots
We all have blind spots in how we manage, implement projects, and go through life. Having a co-founder gives you a peer that can point out these blind spots so you can improve. From personnel issues to how to launch a product, a co-founder will open your eyes to things you might not see.
Finding the Right Co-founder
Choosing a co-founder is more important than picking a spouse. You’re going to be sharing a lot, so you need someone you can trust who has complementary skills.
Where can you find them?
Thankfully, you’re not the only one with this problem! A ton of websites have cropped up to help entrepreneurs meet their matches:
- CoFoundersLab: Matchmaking for Entrepreneurs Find the people you’re looking for with CoFoundersLab’s extensive network. The company also holds in-person matchmaking events.
- Founder2be: Find a co-founder for your startup Founder2be hosts co-founders, designers, marketers, developers and others looking for the perfect partners.
- techVenture’s Cofounder Network: This isn’t an open network for anyone looking for partners. It’s for serious entrepreneurs only – you’ll have to apply to get in.
- FounderDating: The premiere online network for entrepreneurs to connect with cofounders. Like techVenture’s cofounder network, you’ll need to apply and pay a fee to get access.
- cofound.org: cofound.org allows you to search for the exact skills you’re looking for in a partner.
- Techcofounder: If you’re in the market for a technical co-founder, this is a great resource. You can post an ad for your startup to recruit the best.
Take It Off the “Net
It can be hard to judge whether or not a person is the right co-founder by their internet profiles, so many prefer to meet someone in person.
Here are a few ideas:
Ask around to see if any of your connections know of awesome technical people looking for co-founders. Check out LinkedIn, your university’s alumni network, and ask around when you go to family reunions, weddings, and parties.
Find Startup Events and Conferences
There are tons of startup events and conferences happening across the country, so find one that’s right for you. You might try BarCamps which will allow you to meet all types of people in an informal setting. One of these people could be your future co-founder or connect you with one.
Join Meetup Groups
Meetup.com and Startupdigest.com are famous for connecting people with similar interests. By searching entrepreneur, co-founder, hacker, startup, and other applicable terms, you’ll be able to find some groups that might offer potential connections.
Go to a Startup Camp
If you visit a startup camp like Startup Weekend to slave away over one idea for 54 hours, you’ll likely meet others who are as interested in entrepreneurship as you are.
In the age of the internet, technical co-founders are difficult to come by. Everybody wants their skills and expertise.
Part of finding a technical co-founder means putting yourself out there; find the meetups, events, groups and gatherings that are targeted at technical people and go. Don’t worry about understanding the technical stuff— use it as an opportunity to meet people that are technical and active in the community.
A few tips from David Hauser, our technical co-founder, on how to find the right person:
- Find a local Ruby on Rails community, even if you don’t understand a lot of the tech talk.
- Get involved at colleges with very technical people.
- Try out founder “dating” (use sites like FounderDating and CoFoundersLab).
You don’t find a technical co-founder, you earn one.– Jason Freedman
How to Figure Out If a Technical Co-founder is Any Good
Once you’ve found a potential co-founder, you’ll have to figure out if they’re any good at what they do. Just because someone loves your idea and spent five years at Google doesn’t mean they’re the right person for the job.
It’s tough to suss out, so start with these three questions to find out if a particular person is right for you:
What applications have they built?
You really want to see applications or side projects the person has built on their own, even if they failed, since this shows both entrepreneurial spirit and their ability to build from start to launch. It’s also helpful to find out if they’ve learned from failure.
Are they involved in their professional community and do they have the respect of their peers?
You want to make sure your technical co-founder is respected by the greater community. You’re looking for involvement, not that they’re master of the universe. See if they have a blog or a Twitter account. If you’re in the Rails community, check out Working with Rails, which provides a rating for individuals.
How do they interact with other technical co-founders?
If you have a mentor or know another successful technical co-founder, ask them to talk to your possible candidate. This should not be an interview but an interactive conversation with someone that has experience and may be able to give you some insight.
Remember, these questions should only be asked once a candidate meets the minimum requirement of embracing the same core values as you do. That’s the first step. Then, whittle down your pool of potential candidates using a methodology that includes these three questions.
The Totally Manageable Risks and Dangers of Having a Co-founder
We believe that a co-founder is an asset, but we also know there are risks and dangers to having a co-founder, too.
You might bump into:
- Confusion about leadership.
- Lack of alignment.
- Questions about ownership.
- Unclear expectations and rewards.
- Having a co-founder who is also a best friend.
These risks are a bit scary, but the good news is that these risks can be managed. With effective communication and a good planning process, you can address potential risks before they crop up. Make sure you set up agreements beforehand. Agree on vesting terms, dole out responsibilities, and put it all on paper.
Need More Info on Co-founders?
- Additional resources:
- The Ultimate Guide to Finding the Right Co-Founders | David Hauser, Grasshopper’s CTO and Co-founder
- Beginner’s Guide to Finding the Right Business Partner | Quick Sprout
- Why you should have a co- founder | David Hauser, Grasshopper’s CTO and Co-founder
- When to fire your co-founders | Venture Hacks
- The Perfect Match: Finding the Right Co-Founder | Forbes
- Please, please, please stop asking me how to find a technical co-founder. | humbledMBA