Starting a business is complicated. Challenges pile up as we go ahead in this journey. Perhaps one of the toughest one, especially in the early stage, is to find the right co-founder for your startup.
You are motivated, and that’s why you decided to leave everything behind (a well paid job, security, stability in life) for something unsure. Now, however, you need the help of someone else. You simply can’t expect to jump on this boat and be the only one in the thunderstorm. You need a person next to you to help out. But who? And where to find her?
Usually when searching for a co-founder, the first thing that we might do is to look within our friends circle. After all, you need a person who you can trust and you know very well. However, there is a (not so) hidden threat in calling out a friend to become co-founder of your startup. Startup life is tough. It requires tough decisions on a daily basis. It forces you to be a dick and it stresses you out. So, are you sure you want to risk your friendship for this?
Another problem in looking for a co-founder is that you need to find someone who shares your vision, passion and long-term commitment. This is probably the most complicated part of the story. How can you be sure that the person next to you is motivated in the same way as you are? Are you ready to give out a piece of your dream to someone who might be in it for the wrong reasons?
Let’s say you overcame these initial questions, now you are on the look for a co-founder. What to do?
Write down what skills complete your profile.
In the same way as if you would write a Job Description, try to find out what skills you lacking and look for a partner who completes you. You cannot have a co-founder with the same exact background as you and expect to bring on the business like this. You will need to find a person who has skills and knowledge that you don’t have.
Network, Network and Network!
The startup life requires you to do one thing mainly over all the others, networking. You need to network to find clients, investors and advisors. Networking is at the basis of your initial success. Finding a co-founder requires you to do the same. Go out and network at events, meetups and so on. You can also look at online groups on LinkedIn, Facebook or Twitter. Your personal network will be the key to your success.
Dating website for Co-founders.
No, I am not talking about Tinder. However, there are quite few interesting websites out there that can help you find the best match for you. Look at StartupWeekend, FounderDating, CoFoundersLab or Startup Agents and many others.
Look for ex-colleagues.
Once we make the jump, our pre-startup life will look like a prison. Working in a company, for someone you don’t necessarily like in a job where you don’t necessarily fit. However, working in a company gives you the opportunity to meet new people and perhaps also become friends with some. Now that you need desperately a co-founders, looking back at the peeps you met during your work life could be a good option. You should have come across colleagues from different backgrounds, skill-set, that could be the perfect fit for your new business.
Move where it matters!
One of the dream I had before starting my company was to be free and move wherever I liked. I am a sea and sun lover. I thought once I have my business, I am going to go somewhere warm and work from there. Well, that never happened. Why? Because you are also in the networking business and you don’t want to miss it. Despite, not having fulfilled my dream, I made a mistake and took my startup to a smaller city, because we found investments in that particular area. The decision of moving where there’s no action, at the time, didn’t seem so crazy. However, once I decided to move back to my city, Berlin, I found out that I missed few months of the so important networking. I knew nobody and had to start from zero! Make sure to be where it matters, you will meet the right people and perhaps the best co-founder.
Don’t look for a friend. Look for a friend!
You don’t have to be friend with your co-founder. You don’t have to know him since you are 10 years old to be sure that it will be a success. However, it’s important to share some common interest with the person you are going to start a business. Why? You will spend with this person a lot of time working together or travelling. Startup life is intense and it will require you to work day and night. However, there will still be some time off and you want to be sure to have next to you someone with whom you can actually share some interest.
Align with your Co-founder.
Let’s say you finally find the right match for you. However, you have been working on the idea for a while and this person has just joined. What’s next? Revisit your plans, milestones and target with your new partner. Make her part of the plan. You are now one team!
Who’s the boss?
Probably the less comfortable topic to touch after creating a new relationship is contract. People get uncomfortable with contracts and you don’t necessarily want to ruin this new idyllic relationship talking about who’s what in the company. As difficult as it might look, this step is very important. Make it easy and painless, but go through it. You don’t want to someone joining your dream, taking a piece of it and then leave with no consequence with a piece of it, just because you didn’t feel comfortable with contracts. It’s easy, really. You can find standard co-founder contracts online, edit it at your will, print it out, discuss with your new partners, agree and sign it, both of you.
Finding the right co-founder is very complicated, almost as complicated as finding success with your new company. However, you can do it, it just requires effort and structure. The above mentioned points should give you some direction on where to start.