Co-founding a company with a Startup Studio — Yay / Nay?

Michael Steinmann
Dec 3, 2020 · 12 min read

My first 100 days at Builders — A review

One hundred days ago, I embarked on a new journey to co-found my own tech company with Builders, one of the leading startup studios in the Netherlands. And as 100 days in, you have a pretty solid understanding of what you signed up for, in this article I’d like to share some of the learnings and insights from those first 100 days of my journey. Like this, I hope to make the startup studio model more accessible for everyone interested in it, and also help anyone considering to partner up with a studio to better understand what they can expect, and what they might need to be ready for.

The power of a Startup Studio

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When I first came across the startup studio model some years ago, I recognized its power as it was perfecting what I had practised in my professional life: helping an organization scale various growth hurdles, and then equipped with all those learnings and experiences going back to the roots to help another organization doing the same. Just a little faster each time, as it incorporates all previous learnings into its model by documenting, reflecting on, improving and professionalizing the process of creating and scaling great ideas into even better businesses — all while being surrounded by a great team of like-minded people working on the same goals to shape the world.

That is why, when I decided to go back to the roots and build something new from scratch again, I knew that I wanted to do so in the fastest way possible and learn a whole lot about company building along the way — and chose to partner up with a startup studio.

First 100 days — key insights

So how have these 100 first days been? Would I make the same decision again? And more importantly, if you are currently thinking about getting engaged (in the truest sense of the word) with a startup studio, what do you need to be ready for to truly thrive in this kind of environment?

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Here is a shortlist of my main takeaways from the last 100 days.

What I came to appreciate about the model:

  • A true partnership — If you thrive on freedom and responsibility, I can only recommend looking into partnering up with a studio. Already very early on, I was impressed by the openness, honesty and trust that I encountered starting already within the recruitment process. And today I can say the remainder of the 100 days was no different. I experienced a true partnership on eye-level during my first 100 days. Actually every single day of it: My ideas and input are highly appreciated; when it comes to the venture that I am building, but also when it comes to the studio as a whole. So really take a moment and be honest with yourself: What are the conditions you need to thrive professionally?
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  • A systematic approach for entrepreneurship — I love working with a studio as it allows me to follow a systematic approach to entrepreneurship. Every studio has built up their very own playbook on how they build their ventures. This allows any new venture to benefit from the learning made in the other companies, but also provides a solid framework to build and run their business which has been validated and iterated on through all the previous ventures. This also allows me as a person to further improve my own personal toolbox when it comes to company building and made me realize the importance of the easily underestimated validation stage (see next point).
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What do you need to be ready for?

Partnering up with a startup studio and co-founding your own business is not for everyone. These are a couple of points you need to be aware of before embarking on such a partnership.

  • General entrepreneurial journey — first of all, I cannot stress enough how important it is that you are ready for the entrepreneurial journey that awaits you. This is not a job, where you can hide behind anyone else in your team, neither can you become successful without getting your hands dirty. You need to have a clear bias for action, but also stay distanced enough so that you are still able to steer the ship into the right direction. And like every (early stage) entrepreneurial journey, you will have successes where you will feel like you are on top of the world and nothing can stop you, as well as lows where you feel that all you do is just spinning your wheels without making any progress, or perhaps even worse doubting if you are pursuing a meaningful idea at all. Be ready for those emotions, embrace them as part of the journey, and know that this is what almost everyone goes through. So acknowledge it for a moment, then move on :)
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  • This is not a quick shot — Most important when you join a startup studio is that you do not expect this to be a quick shot. While partnering up with a startup studio does help you to accelerate your entrepreneurial journey — do not engage in a partnership if you only have a short term focus. While of course some companies are being built within a couple of years to an extraordinary scale, the timeframe you likely are looking at easily amounts to 7–10 years. So ask yourself: Are you ready to commit 7–10 years to work on and building that company? If the answer is that you most likely won’t hang around that long, better be honest with yourself and look for an even better fit somewhere else. The truth is building outstanding businesses takes time, as almost all meaningful things do. Be ready for it, or move on.
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  • Trust in the(ir) processes — When joining a startup studio, you need to remember that you are going to build a company with people you probably do not know yet. That presents a big opportunity to get a crucial part of the equation right: the team. Unlike ending up recruiting your friends into your startup, co-founding a company with a startup studio allows you to search in a bigger pond of talent and if done right, empowers you to qualify your future partner on more comprehensive skills and experience. At the same time, you will be partnering up with people that are most likely unknown to you. All startup studios have developed comprehensive frameworks around how to ensure the best fit between the future co-founders, but you need to trust in those processes and frameworks to basically single out the right co-founder for you. Of course, as the co-founder you also have a say in these key partnering decisions, but as your network probably is more limited than the one of your studio, you will most likely need to rely on the information and analysis that will be provided to you when selecting your co-founder, which in particular on the personal side will probably be less complete compared to partnering up with a friend of yours that you have known for a very long time already. So it would be best if you had confidence in those processes to eventually bubble up the right co-founder match. So yes, please go ahead and ask about how the studio will be matching you to someone else before you partner up.

Conclusions

So how do I look back at the first 100 days? Personally, I am extremely happy to have joined the Builders crew and am very thankful for the support and friendship I have encountered already on the way. But should you go for it?

Of course, this is a question only you can answer. Allow me though to share a couple of pointers what I think would be very worthwhile for you to explore to answer this question:

  • Do the work beforehand — validate the idea before you commit on your own, too. Read into the market, check out the studio — and take everything with a grain of salt. Whoever you talk to, they will have their own views on things that will be coloured by their own subjective experiences, and perhaps even preconceptions about who you are, and what you like. Keep in mind; ultimately, the fit needs to feel right for YOU.
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  • Where does your passion lie? — How much passion do you have for the idea and the general context it is placed in? As the studio normally spins out internal ideas, this is not a way to fund your own ideas, unless you are in the lucky position to have had similar thoughts. Is the idea still in an area where you are passionate about or can at least relate to? This is true for the product: do you truly think this is solving a relevant problem in the world? And equally so for the audience: what do you know about your future customers and how do you relate to their mission, visions, values and beliefs? Both will be important to fuel your fire and feeding your energy — when speaking with stakeholders, but also when transmitting your passion for the mission internally to your (future) team. Remember though — that having doubts is allowed, as you are also shaping this idea going forward and can turn it into what you truly believe is lacking in the market currently.
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  • Embracing the unknown — How much security do you need in your life? Joining a startup studio, like any early-stage startup means you need to be ready to embrace and even thrive in the unknown. Creating something from nothing needs to be what gets you going, seeing ideas take shape needs to be a driver for you. If you enjoy and are looking for security — well then this might not be it. But honestly, security also does not wait for you outside of a startup studio (see previous point).

So, what’s next?

For me, I surely am excited for the next 100 days, as those will see us putting a lot of our learnings into our product. For you, I genuinely hope that this article has given you a little bit more of an insight into what to expect when you partner up with a startup studio.

If now you feel ready for taking on a co-founding challenge, many startup studios are currently looking for either tech or commercial co-founder. A great list of startup studios for every region of the world can be found here.

Of course, also at Builders we are always looking for the right partners to jump on board — both on the commercial as well as on the tech side. Additionally, we are also wrapping up my own tech co-founder search — read what we are up to here. If you feel you could be the one we are looking for, please feel free to connect with me personally.

To keep following what we as a studio are doing, the easiest is to subscribe to the Builders universe here.

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Whatever you do, I wish you all the best with it, and I hope you’ll enjoy your journey! 🚀🚀🚀

If you’d like to follow mine, slide to subscribe here:

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  • About Builders: Builders is one of the leading independent startup studios and venture builders in the Netherlands. As such, the studio brings together bold ideas, exceptional co-founders, operational support and investment capital to build and grow the defining tech companies of tomorrow.

Builders Universe

We build technology companies from spark to champagne.

Michael Steinmann

Written by

Entrepreneur In Residence at Builders | Passionate about creating and scaling start-ups/scale-ups in the prop-tech and ed-tech space.

Builders Universe

Builders is a startup studio designed to build and grow technology companies from scratch. Explore our universe, where we share updates and news about our studio and ventures.

Michael Steinmann

Written by

Entrepreneur In Residence at Builders | Passionate about creating and scaling start-ups/scale-ups in the prop-tech and ed-tech space.

Builders Universe

Builders is a startup studio designed to build and grow technology companies from scratch. Explore our universe, where we share updates and news about our studio and ventures.

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