One of the more common challenges faced by entrepreneurs is not having the skills to do everything required to build a startup on their own. It’s incredibly challenging to build, validate, launch, and scale a business all on your own. Anyone can outsource work or hire employees but that often takes more time and money that an early startup might not have. The trick is to find a great co-founder that complements your skills with their own - and the best part - they will work for equity! Two heads are better than one, especially in a startup. Both of you will need to share the passion of building your company, rather than worrying about a paycheck. The ultimate challenge - finding a perfect partner.
When you start your business, you should absolutely try to start it with someone you already know and trust. You will already know them on a personal level and have probably already spent a fair amount of time with them. It’s best to not to start your company with a complete stranger or a best friend, as research shows, you have a higher chance of surviving your first year in business if you’ve known your co-founder for more than three years. This is the ideal way, but let's say you don’t get out much or just haven’t come across the right person to start a business with. Let’s start looking at your options.
Utilize Every Resource
LinkedIn is a great starting point, but another slightly less known source worth looking into is CoFoundersLab. This site is designed to help support founders who are looking to build and scale their businesses. It helps connect people who are like-minded. It’s important to choose the right social network for your industry, though. Tech companies usually stick to LinkedIn, as it’s a perfect way to search by location and title. Professionals actually use LinkedIn to find talent. Another good resource to match up with like-minded people is Shapr. You can search for people in your area by interests and goals. Try looking into universities that have MBA programs that feature entrepreneurship. There you can find MBA students who can potentially have impressive business backgrounds. You can also try searching for startups and entrepreneurship on meetup.com. Startup Incubators also host many events, usually every week. Startup Weekend, by Techstars, is a great place to find networking events in your area. Most incubators offer a sandbox and communication channels for entrepreneurs to come together, discover talents, and form businesses. There is typically a period of time during the incubation process of meeting potential co-founders. The big plus side about going to events like these is you will easily meet people who are interested in starting a business, but the downside is that it’s easy for everyone to join in, so there are lots of ideas competing for attention here. Hackathons are great, engaging ways to form new teams and compete to solve a problem. This is a perfect way to meet new people and learn their skills and work habits. It’s hard to search for the perfect co-founder and sometimes you just need to get things started, so WozJobs is a great resource for people who need the tech side of their business handled, so they can get a better handle on the other aspects.
Confront Your Weaknesses
Never expect anyone to just find you a partner, as it’s comparable to finding a life partner. Try writing a list of attributes you hope to find in a business partner. Look at your own strengths and weaknesses to help find a partner with skills that complement your own. The first step is to be honest with yourself, to call yourself out on any weaknesses. Try looking for a co-founder in many of the same venues that you would look for an investor. It may also be beneficial to join groups on LinkedIn to interact with people that hopefully meet your criteria.
Your Perfect Match
It’s difficult to say what all goes into a great business relationship. Choosing someone like you might not end up in your favor simply because you’ll have the same thought patterns. It works better to choose someone who’s skilled and thought patterns compliment your own. McKinsey & Company shared that companies with gender diversity outperform non-gender diverse companies by 15% and ethnic-diversity outperforms by 35%. For more of their stats, check out their blog post ‘Why diversity matters.’ Co-founder interest and chemistry are best explored outside of the office space. Try getting to know your potential co-founder by hanging out, maybe playing sports or physical activities that you both enjoy or hobbies, go on a few long walks. See if you can begin to establish some chemistry before you give away a chunk of your company. Use your instincts. This is usually a great way to see if you two can vibe as a team. A shared vision and working style while building a startup is crucial. If you aren’t able to work as a team now, it won’t happen in the future either.
Now that you’ve taken the time to search for the ‘right’ co-founder, don’t rush them into the company. Take them on board slowly and consider providing them with a trial period. Having the wrong person as your co-founder can potentially break your company before it’s really had a chance, so if your relationship is going to fail, let it fail fast. Finding the ‘right’ co-founder for you is one of the most important things a new founder needs to do. Especially a co-founder that has complementary skills to your own. They will be a huge asset to your company and will probably be the co-founder for your next startup. Success breeds success.