Whether you’ve just launched your startup or you’ve been running it for years, the idea of taking on a co-founder has likely crossed your mind. Maybe you put a bit of time into looking for potential founders, but hadn’t really sussed out what kind of person you were looking for, so stalled your search? Or perhaps you want to take on a co-founder but you weren’t really sure where to start your search?
Whether you’ve just launched your startup or you’ve been running it for years, the idea of taking on a co-founder has likely crossed your mind.
Maybe you put a bit of time into looking for potential founders, but hadn’t really sussed out what kind of person you were looking for, so stalled your search? Or perhaps you want to take on a co-founder but you weren’t really sure where to start your search?
We’ve come across many founders who’ve gained a lot from taking on co-founders. So, in case you do decide to take on a co-founder in the near future, here’s a few things worth considering before you start your search.
1. How much of your business should you give to your co-founder?
Do you give them fifty percent of your business? If so, what are the pro and cons of doing that? If you don’t give them fifty percent would there be an imbalance? If you do, are they bringing as much to the table as you are?
These are important questions that you need to consider before agreeing to take on a potential co-founder. It can feel unfair to give up half of something you’ve invested time, energy and money into. It’s your baby. Are you going to be able to hand over half of it to a stranger?
Remember the old adage, 100% of nothing is nothing. A co-founder who brings a substantial amount to the business could increase it’s value by 100% in the first year alone and your decision to give up 50% will have been justified.
Make sure you know what your business is worth (not what you think it’s worth, but a realistic valuation) and what you think a co-founder is going to add. If you have the capital to hire the potential co-founder for a period of time before you offer up equity, this is a great way to test the water and see if they’re as good as you hope they’ll be.
2. Do your skill sets complement each other?
When looking for a co-founder it’s important to find someone whose skill set complements your own. If your business is tech based for example, and your skills and experience are predominantly in community building and marketing, you’d benefit massively from working with someone who has strong tech background and expertise.
It’s not a given that finding your counterpart will result in success but it’s more likely to work if you’ve both got clearly defined roles within the company. Most startups require a technical lead and someone in the marketing/sales/partnership/growth space. In reality, it’s never this simple but having 2 people who can manage key aspects of the business will put your startup in good standing.
3. Are your personalities compatible?
While it’s important to find a co-founder with a complimentary skill set, there’s no point in taking on a co-founder whose personality will inevitably clash with yours.
When you initially meet with a potential co-founder ask yourself if you connect with them on a personal level. Meet for a drink, get out of the office and avoid solely talking about business. You don’t have to be best mates but you’re going to be seeing your co-founder more than you will your own romantic partner so it’s critical that you work well as a team.
4. Use your network
When looking for a co-founder, start by using your existing network. Are there individuals you know from university, past jobs, events or through family and friends who stand out as potential candidates? If no one springs to mind, turn to your business network on LinkedIn. Maybe you have some connections who might be worth approaching? If there’s someone you don’t know but you’d like to suss out as a potential co-founder, ask a mutual connection to introduce you. This is a better way of reaching out to someone than simply cold contacting them with an out of the blue LinkedIn message.
Networking events and co-working spaces are a good way to meet potential co-founders too. It might be that they have a business but would like another challenge or their startup is similar to yours. Be creative when it comes to finding your co-founder. A bit like dating, you’ve got to shop around before you settle.
5. Use Founder Websites
If you’ve exhausted your personal and professional network, don’t panic. There’s loads of websites out there that entrepreneurs use to source co-founders. Sites like Co-Founders Lab, Founder2Be, StartHawk and FounderDating are highlighted time and time again as the best ones to use. However, don’t discount lesser known, new or basic looking sites that facilitate co-founder searches. You never know where you’ll find your perfect co-founder and they might offer up a really suitable candidate for your business.
Co-founders are rarely found on a whim. It generally takes time and a fair bit of patience to find a suitable candidate.
A bit of prep and organisation can make your search for a co-founder a little easier. Take the time to consider the kind of skill sets and personality types you're looking for in a co-founder and use your personal and professional networks to suss out potential candidates.
Whenever you decide to start your search for a co-founder, I hope the 5 points listed in this article will help you put a bit of structure on your search.