A common challenge many startup founders face when building a company is finding the right co-founder. Life as an entrepreneur, especially in the early stages of a business, can be lonely and exhausting. This is the reason why you need someone who you can trust and who can take on the responsibilities, the joy and the sorrow of everyday workload; a person who has complementary skills to yours and can help you take the business to the next level.
In many ways, finding a co-founder is like finding a spouse – and that either happens out of luck or it’s far from easy and it takes you years and years. You have to go over the joy and excitement of right now and really consider the possibility of conflicts and issues in the future.
You have to think long term when you really are at the idea phase and that’s why we want to help you out in taking the key steps that will help you find the right co-founder.
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Why Do You Need a Co-Founder?
Chances are you have already started a business or are considering to. So you’ll soon see how difficult managing a new business really is. There is tons of work to be done, the stress levels are constantly rising and you’re always needed, everywhere.
Think about decision making – you’ll have to take tens of decisions a day. Wouldn’t it be better to get a second opinion from someone that knows the business? It really is easy to convince yourself that you’re right and your ‘guts’ might not get it right 100% of the time. Here comes your complementary co-founder, bringing in annoying arguments into the conversation that will actually lead both of you to an ultimately better informed decision.
You’ll notice another great plus in having a co-founder if you look at recently funded startups. Investors are actually more likely to invest in co-founded companies since two minds are (usually) better than one and co-founders tend to complement themselves and lead the business to meeting its goals even more so than single-founders companies. Plus, splitting the early expenses and risks will keep your head a bit lighter.
What Should I look for in My Co-Founder?
You will need to carefully put together a list of what you’re good and not so good at. Then look at it again and think about someone you know that’s great at exactly what you’re not. Before going deep into thought, do ask yourself some questions.
What would be the right skill set and type of personality that could complement yours? What role will your co-founder be performing on a daily basis? Can you influence this person have the same dedication and passion you have for this business?
A most important point is to really consider character and personality. You will spend most of your time with your co-founder and you’ll share almost everything towards growing the business together so make sure you’ll get along. Obvious but worth mentioning is that you should also look at his or hers industry experience, credibility and communication skills levels.
Where to Look For the Right Co-Founder?
This shouldn’t be the most difficult part. Start by looking through your own group of friends and acquaintances and browsing your entire network of contacts. You might have an out-of-touch connection on LinkedIn that actually matches all your criteria or could at least put you in contact with someone else that does.
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If your own network doesn’t cut it, there are a number of websites that can help in finding a co-founder. Spend your evenings browsing StartupWeekend, Techcofounder, CoFoundersLab and Founder2be attend startup and entrepreneur events such as the Web Summit or join related Meetups. Another trick that could do it is creating a job opening on sites such as LinkedIn, Monster, Craigslist or freelancers websites.
Found Your Co-Founder? What’s Next?
You’ve found your co-founder! We’re sure you’ll put together a great business plan so we’ll leave you to that – but not before we mention some of the most frequent misunderstandings and conflicts that appear between co-founders, so that you consider them before they happen.
Ownership and equity split is one of the most common disputes co-founders have. This thought might have not yet crossed your mind, but at some point, both of you will want the ownership clearly split up and the equity shares clearly determined. Don’t fall into the trap of ruining your relationship with your co-founder over numbers. If you do, you’ll most likely also lose your investors and risk for the entire business to fail. Discuss and negotiate, get a lawyer to facilitate the conversation and advise you both but stay in this together.
Role distribution. While some founders don’t care much about their titles, there are always people whose only desire is to have CEO written on their LinkedIn page. The best solution is to distribute these positions according to your and your co-founders expertise and actual responsibilities in the company. Don’t focus too much on what title you get, startup founders usually do a bit of everything and invest all their time into it regardless of what the title says.
Decision making is a strong pro point for having a co-founder. It’s great to be able to discuss and get to good decisions together, but what if this time, the argument seems to never end? If it’s difficult to get to an agreement on important issues, try to better define your arguments and maybe even look for a third person’s advice, someone who has experience in the matter in discussion. And remember, there is often no right or wrong decision, it all depends on the execution of the ideas.
Who works more? It’s less common that both co-founders work the exact number of hours and put the same effort in a partnership. Take into consideration that the effort needed to be put in highly depends on the nature of the work done, personal commitments outside the business and individual way of working. Have a clear understanding of each other’s contribution from the beginning and discuss as soon as something becomes an issue.
Tips for Successful Cooperation
Whether you’ll have a successful cooperation with your partner depends on a number of different elements and we unfortunately can’t help you find out in advance if it’s going to work out or not. If you’ll be considering all the important aspects we mentioned you can make the base for a really great partnership.
Keep in mind that communication is of highest importance as you’ll always need to discuss everything clearly with your co-founder, from day one. This way you can avoid most of the unpleasant situations that can arise. If you have some concerns, share them – it will make you feel better and it is much easier to resolve one small issue at a time rather than a massive multi-layered conflict that grows as time goes by.
As a last tip, consider setting legal grounds for your relationship with your co-founder. This might sound a bit too much for the beginning but don’t think about it as lack of confidence in each other but a deep understanding of how things can change and are better secured in place this way. Getting some well-written agreements signed will help you avoid a lot of difficulties later. As co-founders, trusting each other is a must but there are numerous examples of failed startups that might have been saved if their co-founders took the time to put everything on paper in advance.