One of the most critical elements of each startup are its initial founders. It might sound surreal, but team composition matters as much or even more than the product idea. One of the rules angel investors have is: “Invest on the team, not the idea”. Finding the perfect co-founders to begin your entrepreneurial journey is one of the most challenging tasks you will stumble upon.
You might be tempted to become a solo founder, but try to think about 3 founders who succeeded on their own… Hard, isn’t it? Maybe there is a reason for that. In a study conducted by MIT university, data showed that larger teams tend to do better than solo founders. This is because it is rare to find all the skills a startup needs in a single person. You need to partner with people of different backgrounds and skills to optimise your chances of success.
But, how many co-founders should you team up with? A famous quote from Jeff Bezos goes as this: “If you can’t feed a team with two pizzas, it’s too large”. Having co-founders is great, but you don’t want to team up with more than 4 people. Having too many initial founders means that your decision making process will become slower. A team of 2 up to 4 people is said to be the ideal amount of initial co-founders you need until you secure funding. Then you can start building a bigger team.
It is also crucial that the team shares the same goals and passions. If people luck some skills you can always train them, but it is difficult to make them share your goals and passions. Your startup is likely to pivot a few times before it gets it right. Having a great and passionate team on board will help you perform these changes rapidly and effectively.
Where can you find your co-founder(s)
Okay, now you are pumped up to go out there and start creating your own dream team, but where can you start? The most obvious choice is to start a company with a friend or a family member. However, hiring or partnering with a family member or individual with whom you have a personal relationship, does come with a fair number of risks. Difficult conversations and situations might be avoided and if it doesn’t end well it could very easily cause damage that persists long after the partnership. It’s highly recommended that you think this choice thoroughly, beforehand.
Your next best alternative is to partner with someone you have already worked with. A colleague or a classmate can prove to be excellent choices when it comes to building a startup. A lot of successful partnerships started this way.
Another great source for finding a co-founder can be your former (or current) university professors. They usually serve as your first mentors, but don’t be surprised if they want to involved in your project. If they see potential in you and your idea they might want to jump onboard. A great example of such partnership is the duolingo team.
Finally, another option is to look in online communities for a co-founder. There are websites that are dedicated to finding you a co-founder like: Founders-Nation, Co-Founders Lab, Founder2be or you can look at your social network connections. Share your idea with them and you might be lucky to find someone interested to join you in your venture. This is how I found my co-founder for my current project: StartupHero.
What to look for in a co-founder
But what do you look for in potential co-founders? There are some traits that will help you identify the right person, but first of all you have to make sure that you get along together.
What else you need to look for:
- Startup experience: Having worked in a startup or being a founder before, are good indications that he is an entrepreneur with valuable experience.
- Same passion: Find someone who has the physical and mental energy to pull through the tough times and has similar passions as you.
- Someone you work well with: You will be spending the most of your days together trying to solve every problem that comes your way, so it goes without saying you need to work well together.
- Skills that complement yours: You don’t want someone with the exact same skills as you. Ideally, you want someone with a different skill set. You might want to try the ‘one builds, one sells’ approach. A co-founder to build the product and one to sell it.
- Same vision: Before committing to a long-term partnership with someone, you want to make sure you share the same vision for your company. Whether it is to sell your company and become rich, or make it a lifestyle business, you have to both possess the same goal.
Finding the perfect co-founder might be a time consuming task, but the more effort you put in getting it right, the more you optimise your chances of your startup to succeed.
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