Tips to Finding and Vetting Co Founders
Perhaps the most pivotal building block for every startup exists on the foundation of its team. If you have a great idea or you are in the early stages of building a startup, a co-founder may provide a game-changing dynamic toward making that idea into a successful company.
While not every entrepreneur needs a co-founder, having a partner in crime from the beginning can churn huge results for years to come. Co-founders can leverage each other’s unique skills and experiences to grow bigger, faster, and more creatively. Co-founders may rely on each other for delegation and moral support as the startup grind bears a toll on time and resources. Co-founders possess a larger network than that of a single founder. Even more, selecting the right co-founder may prove necessary if you are not an expert within the field of your startup.
However, not all budding entrepreneurs begin with a designated co-founder. If you identify the need for a co-founder in the early stages of your startup, where do you begin the search, and how do you find your match?
1. Network to find co-founders.
The first step? Socialize.
Do not hesitate to reach out across your current network, even if you don’t know anyone who fits the job description. Friends, co-workers, and neighbors can connect you with a plethora of individuals within your space. Oftentimes, the best hires come from a personal recommendation.
Consider your social media networks on Linkedin or other professional networking spaces, like Meetup or Angel List. Not only can you use some of these tools to post inquiries and job listings for all your connections to see, but you can identify in-person networking opportunities to expand your network and potentially connect with your new co-founder. When feasible, in-networking provides the most direct and effective strategy toward building new relationships and engaging new connections.
Sign-up for matchmaking websites, like CoFounders Lab, to discover thousands of individuals seeking co-founder opportunities within your startup’s industry. Particularly for new entrepreneurs or individuals with limited connections in the startup world, matchmaking websites provide a much larger net across a specialized pool of talent. Check out this guide to matchmaking sites for co-founders from Entrepreneur.com to browse a variety of proven companies in the space. If people can find their soulmates online, why not discover your ideal co-founder?
2. Look for a partner from a different background.
Narrow down your search for a co-founder by seeking individuals with skills and experience that balance your own. For example, if you are a pet-owner who has identified an idea to solve a significant customer pain point, look for a co-founder with years of veterinary experience. You may possess skills in running a business, but they have the tools to pinpoint an effective product. Conversely, and more commonly, if you are a specialized expert in your field, but you don’t know how to run a business, you likely need a partner with proven entrepreneurial or managerial experience to make your startup a success. One of the most common startup downfalls arises within teams that deeply understand their field, perhaps even built a fantastic product, but they don’t know how to get a business off the ground or manage sustainable growth.
Beyond more obvious gaps in skills and experience, your co-founder should balance you on an interpersonal level. Seek a co-founder with unique and instrumental personality traits from our own. You can harness your differences to appeal to different investors, mentors, and customers.
Perhaps seek a partner with a different background or culture to broaden your team’s vision. Your co-founder may open up a whole new network to benefit your startup growth and grow your future team. Even more, this allows you to emphasize diversity on your team from the very beginning. Diversity on your founding team engenders diversity for future hires, which exponentially pays dividends toward team culture as your company grows.
Even more than a life partner, you will likely spend 40-80 hours a week with your business partner. Even in the virtual business world, this person serves as your go-to for business decisions, your primary brainstorm partner, and your professional confidant. To maximize productivity and creativity, partners need open communication and positive work culture. That means, to some extent, you need to like working with this person.
3. Do not let geography limit your search.
In the emerging virtual world of business, people no longer need to exist in the same city to start a business together. In fact, limiting your search for a co-founder based on your region can hinder you from a huge pool of talent, especially for startups in a niche or highly specialized market.
Particularly if you live in an area where startups do not traditionally thrive, a co-founder in Silicon Valley or New York City may provide a wealth of experience and connections that you would never otherwise achieve. In a world where remote opportunities become increasingly popular, a regionally diverse founding team provides a solid foundation for your future geographically unfettered growth. The more you grow your team based on remote workflow, the more easily you can identify unique talent and excellent culture fits for positions in the future.
4. Vet your co-founder.
Perform the same level of due diligence that you would expect from a corporate employer. Do not depend on a strong personal connection or an impressive resume to guarantee that a potential co-founder is a great match for your or your startup. Do not rely on a thirty-second recommendation from your YMCA tennis partner to determine that this person can handle startup growth.
Follow-up with their references and previous employers. Define a standardized list of expectations for your partner and use them to guide the conversation. Determine if this person can handle high-pressure scenarios and vast uncertainty within daily operations.
Particularly if your potential co-founder is not already a personal relationship, you need to conduct real interviews with standardized behavioral questions to extract real-life experiences from the candidates. More than anything, do not settle for the first candidate that seems safe and reasonably confident. Just as an inexperienced single founder can fail to run a business, a poorly matched co-founder can make or break your success.