Are you planning to start your company and join the startup world, but you are alone in your future venture?
Well, first and foremost you must decide if you are the right fit for the startup environment. It might seem like an obvious first step, but there are a lot of people which don’t take the time to analyse the pros and cons of the startup world before starting their company. It is extremely important to decide if your expectations fit the reality of the volatile startup environment. This exercise is not very difficult or time-consuming, but it is crucial to make sure you know that the path you are choosing is the right one for yourself.
The introspection is now over. Great! You are prepared to become an entrepreneur. All you have to do is find a great problem to solve, figure out how you can make money out of it, research if there are people willing to pay for it except for your friends and family, build a prototype, test the prototype, define the perfect user, refine the prototype, do a bit of marketing, create a legal entity (“For a startup?! Maybe it’s too early.”), find investment, motivate yourself when times are tough (which is most of the time), network to find potential business partners, build the product, test the product……and the list goes on.
As one might imagine, you most likely won’t be able to do all these things alone. Ideally, you would need a co-founder that has the complementary skills, the passion and the drive to share both the hard work that lies ahead, as well as to celebrate success together. But how do you find the right co-founder? Where do you find him/her? And how do you get him/her on board?
Criteria for selecting a co-founder
There are of a lot of things you should consider when looking for the person that you will onboard on your future successful startup. You need to look at their background, analyze both their hard and soft skills, see how passionate they are about your project, as well as their motivation behind doing a startup. These criteria can be grouped into 3 main categories.
Skillset. Look for the skills you are lacking or those that you are not the best at. Being a handful of people at the beginning (usually 2 or 3) you need to make sure you cover all the long list of tasks that lie ahead.
Experience. As we just mentioned, your founding team will comprise 2-3 people. They should be the best at what they are doing right? A startup doesn’t have the time or luxury for the founders to learn all the skills necessary to create a successful business.
Character. To tie everything together, determine if your future co-founder has the right attitude and motivation. Even more, a co-founder needs to be nimble, accept feedback, have a low ego when having constructive conversations, can keep calm during difficult situations, have some basic social skills and be a strong team player.
Where do you find a co-founder?
After you’ve nailed down the profile for you perfect co-founder, it’s time go out there and find him/her. But where should you start first? Most entrepreneurs have paired up with friends, co-workers or people they’ve worked closely with in the past. This is the handiest and straightforward solution. You’ve known these people for a while, what their technical skills are, how they work in a team and if there is that special chemistry which will allow you to work together as one.
If you’ve done a quick scan of the people close to you, but nobody seems to fit the profile, then the hard work begins. You must reach out to your extended network: acquaintances, friends of friends or colleagues and your professional network (the almighty LinkedIn is the obvious choice here). Sure, it can take more time than your first option pool, but it could definitely be worth the effort.
Tried that as well and still nothing? Yap, you are now at the point where you’re looking for the needle in the haystack. You need to be more creative and start trying out every other option you can think of: post on social groups, place ads on recruiting websites (as almost nobody does it, your announcement will definitely stand out), stalk people (careful to be GDPR compliant here), network at every event possible or join a dedicated event, such as the Startup Matchmaking - Co-Founder edition we’ve put together at TechHub Bucharest. Truth be told, the needle is out there there “waiting” to be found.
The right fit: from the first discussion to signing the papers
Beware that the first person that seems to have the right co-founder material for you and your startup could not be “the chosen one”. Decide if their values and motivations for starting the company are aligned with yours, have a trial period working together and see how you are managing difficult situations together. Marius Iatan, CEO of RenderStreet views it as “a long-term relationship, so take your time to know the other person”.
Once you’ve decided that you have found your match, take into account that the business may fail at some point and plan accordingly. Discuss the roles, responsibilities, share structure and shareholder agreement before making everything official. And don’t forget to vest all the shares for co-founders as well!
“Co-founders are like marriage. Before you marry you need to be completely sure not to have reserves. You need to feel like you want to spend the next possibly 5-7 years with this person. If the answer to that question is "I'm not ready" then don't do it, find someone else, because in a startup there will be plenty of bad situations or things that can go wrong, so if you don't make a good team together from the beginning the fort will fall.”
Now that you are better armed with the knowledge necessary to find your co-founder, register to the Startup Matchmaking Event - Co-founder edition to pitch your idea, network with the audience and find your match!