Just wanted to check-in and see how the first day of TA training went?
This is a typical message I might send to my cofounder and co-ceo, Catherine. Notice the start Hey sis as in “hey sister”, and the end Much love as in “I love you a lot” — definitely unconventional communication for business partners in the high growth, startup world.
But Numida itself is working towards a very unconventional change — a world where African small businesses are no longer held back by the high cost and inaccessibility of credit. In order to get there I had one unconventional founding principal when launching the company:
I would only build a company with people I love.
Numida is my second start-up and from day one I knew how important it was to build a strong founding team. The founders needed to have the skills, experiences, and long-term commitment to actually create the social impact Numida is working toward. Also, I believed strongly that our founding team needed to be diverse. And most importantly, I would only found a company with people that I loved.
Naturally these criteria really narrowed down my options for potential cofounders. Catherine, Ben, and I have a very close and loving relationship — we have been doing life together for nearly a decade (Ben and Catherine actually shared a cell phone back in their early 20s). We’ve worked together in the past in West Africa (Ghana & Burkina Faso). We’ve previously built things together (Ben and I failed together as cofounders of a previous social venture), and we have extremely complimentary skill sets (tech, management & data, fundraising, sales & comms).
Start-up investors and advisers often emphasize the importance of having cofounders. In fact, several accelerators like Y-Combinator only accept ventures that have more than one founder. I would take this a step further and say it’s not just important to have cofounders, but cofounders you love. Choosing your cofounders is by far the most important decision you will take for your startup, so don’t take it lightly.
Starting a venture, let alone a social enterprise, is an incredibly rewarding yet painful experience. It is full of the highest highs and lowest lows, moments of desperation and hope, laughter and frustration, self-doubt and confidence, and extremely long days. I can’t imagine traveling this journey with people that I did not love deeply.
Beyond this, I believe that there are many practical reasons why love should be the cornerstone of any startups founding team. As loving cofounders at Numida:
- We can have any conversation with each other. It doesn’t mean that it’s always rosy, but it means that fundamentally we strive to provide all feedback with love. We are not afraid of hurting anybody’s feelings, which also means we can be very critical of each other without fear or backlash.
- We have 100% trust in each other. We spend no energy worrying about whether we fundamentally believe in each other, our capabilities, and our commitment to the change we’re creating. Transparency is natural…no one is hiding anything.
- We know what deeply motivates each of us — why we are here doing this work.
- We want the best for each other, as opposed to for ourselves. This directly results in an organizational culture built on investing in others.
- Founder conflicts are the least of our worries. Our team can weather any internal storm.
- When any of us are struggling, we can easily reach out to each other for help without fear of judgment. Simply put, when you’re having a hard time, who better to speak to then someone you love?
I’ll end this by challenging that if you can’t confidently say that you love your cofounder(s), you better believe strongly that you will someday. Otherwise, when things get tough it’ll be easy to give up.
Working with Catherine and Ben on Numida has been an incredible experience. I can’t imagine doing this work with anyone else and I’m confident that the love we have for each other will accelerate Numida’s growth and social impact as we move forward.
*if you enjoyed this read, please show the Numida team some love by tapping that nice little heart below and sharing it! Thanks so much!