How to look for co-founders for your startup
However, just having co-founders is not enough. Having the right co-founders is crucial for your team to perform satisfactorily and your business to succeed in the long run. The challenge lies in finding the co-founder who is right for both- your business and yourself as a co-founder.
Your co-founder can be amongst your personal contacts or former work connections. You should network to find co-founders if needed. Attend conferences or events including entrepreneurs. You can also join entrepreneur groups on social media platforms like LinkedIn and Facebook to find professionals with similar goals.
Before reaching out to a potential co-founder, think about what you bring to the startup in terms of skills, expertise, and connections. Then, ask yourself what kind of skills and experience you need for your business. Look at the overall skills needed for your startup and compare your own skill-set to the skills needed to locate gaps. Co-founders should fill in those gaps with their skills. You should also think about how much equity and what responsibilities you are willing to offer your co-founders.
Co-founders need to have complementary skills and experiences. "If, for example, one of the co-founders is good at presentations and the technological side of things, the other co-founders should be knowledgeable about other areas of the business, such as operations, finances, etc.," said Rafid Imran, co-founder and CEO at Thrive EdTech. Khan Md. Ziaus Shams, co-founder and operations director at Sketchboard Interactive, agrees. "You might get along better with someone who does the same things you do, but it is more important that you have someone who offers something different. In the long run, you can always hire people to take care of many core technical operations. But in the early stages, partners are often required to do all the legwork themselves."
Moreover, you cannot put a price tag on chemistry. You have to work with your co-founders for years on end. Invest time in your co-founders and nurture the relationships you share with them. As Rafid Imran said, "Having good chemistry is essential. If you look at good co-founder relationships, you will see that many of them shared prior relationships with their co-founders. You need to be able to carry out conversations with the person. You need to know what drives them and what angers them, and how to resolve disputes amongst yourselves. Otherwise, a lot of your bandwidth will be exhausted just trying to resolve conflicts."
The co-founder should also be comfortable with risks. Failure is common among startups, which is scary considering how many quit their 9-to-5 jobs and hence, sacrifice stability in order to launch those startups. It is an extremely risky endeavour and so requires tenacious people who would be willing to endure bad times and can take calculated risks.
Also, consider the person's industry connections and, if applicable, potential client base. If the potential co-founders have worked at or launched startups previously, they are likely to have broad networks of connections and clients who trust them. These can prove useful for earning people's trust in your startup.
Trust is an obvious but important one. You need to be able to trust that they will be with you during good and bad times. Working with someone you cannot trust can be very draining and even counterproductive.
It is also important to have shared values and common goals. These can help you find your way through disagreements and are essential for working smoothly together. Discuss where you want to possibly take the business in the next five years. Talk about how you all like to work and how you prefer to manage employees.
On this, Khan Md. Ziaus Shams added, "One essential thing to consider, even more than technical skills, is whether your business principles go together. This includes things like whether you share a similar mindset on business opportunities to pursue, opportunities to let go, re-investing returns versus withdrawing profits, and your takes on ethical business practices."
Bijon Islam, co-founder and CEO at LightCastle Partners Ltd., said, "Finding the right co-founder is almost like getting into a relationship. You will be spending long hours every day with these individuals. Make sure that there is goal alignment and that the co-founders want the same things for the business. Ensure that they are willing to commit time and that their personal plans are synergistic with the company vision."
After you have decided on your co-founding team to some extent, discuss each of the co-founders' level of commitment to the startup. While many quit their day jobs to pursue their dreams, not everyone may have the necessary environment and financial backup to do so. Some may consider founding their own startups as a secondary source of income, while others pursue this goal with everything they have. If you belong to the latter category while your other co-founders belong to the former, you are likely to end up disappointed in the long run. Thus, make sure you have a frank discussion about commitment.
Furthermore, have a conversation about monetary compensation and how much salary, if any, the co-founders would take in the first year. Documents roles early on in your journey as co-founders to make sure there is no rivalry or tension about leadership roles later on.
Additionally, if you launch your startup with friends, remember to be professional in complicated situations. Prioritise the welfare of your business over the future state of your friendship when deciding on your course of action.
Finding the right co-founder is one of the most difficult yet critical tasks a new entrepreneur has to undertake. If you find a compatible partner, chances are you will be together for your next startup too- and the one after that.