How to find the right cofounder for your startup?
In search of a cofounder for your new startup? If you want to find the right partner to go into business with, here’s our guide to finding a startup cofounder that can help drive your product or service forward.
Every Steve Jobs needs a Steve Wozniak.
Every Larry Page needs a Sergey Brin.
Every Bill Gates needs a Paul Allen.
When you’re creating a business, it’s important to find the right cofounder to work with.
Sometimes finding a cofounder is easy. You meet them at work, or at a networking event and things just click into place. However, at other times, you have to search high and low to find the perfect business partner.
Whether you’re considering joining forces with a cofounder or need to know how to find the right business partner, this comprehensive guide will help.
- Why work with a cofounder?
- In search of a co-founder? Here are some of the qualities you need to look out for
- How to find a startup cofounder
- An important note…
- In summary: Finding a cofounder will bring lots of benefits to your business
Why work with a cofounder?
Some founders have indeed grown their businesses alone. For example, Jeff Bezos (Amazon), Sarah Blakely (Spanx), and Craig Newmark (Craigslist) all became wealthy entrepreneurs without the need for a co-founder.
However, the evidence shows that having a cofounder (or cofounders) can increase the chances of being a success. According to First Round, teams with more than one founder outperform solo founders by 163% and get 25% higher seed valuations.
Here are some of the other reasons why working with a cofounder can help your startup launch successfully.
A cofounder can complement the skills you don’t have
The best cofounder is one that has the talents and skills you don’t have, meaning you have a full and complete skill set.
Take Facebook when it was first created back in 2004. While Mark Zuckerberg was involved in the software development side of things, he called on Eduardo Saverin to look after investments and Chris Hughes to be its spokesperson. This meant the social media platform was better funded, had more promotion, and had a bigger chance of hitting the big time.
You can also choose to work with a cofounder with a different personality than yours. If you’re more introverted and reserved, a more outgoing partner will be able to sell to prospective customers and investors. If you’re more impulsive and dynamic, a more cautious partner will help you carefully consider any business decisions.
As an example, let’s look at Apple. Steve Wozniak was the easy-going cofounder who was happiest working behind the scenes, while Steve Jobs was the more serious and logical cofounder who was the face of the business.
A cofounder can open up new opportunities
When you work with another person, you immediately double your network and your opportunities.
Your business partner can introduce you to new investors, new suppliers, and most importantly, new customers. This is especially beneficial if your prospective co-founder has a lot more experience than you.
A cofounder can lighten the workload
There’s a lot that you need to do when you’re starting a business — the 9–5 working day no longer applies! The typical entrepreneur works an average of 50.5 hours a week, with some founders working considerably more.
A co-founder means you can split tasks up and cover more ground. This means you get some well-deserved respite and are less likely to experience burnout.
A co-founder will let you lean on them for support
Launching a startup is hard and stressful. When you’re a solo founder, there’s a lot more temptation to give up and call it a day.
After all, one in five businesses fails in their first year.
With a co-founder, you’ve got someone to talk to and help you get through the challenges of running a business. If they already have experience in founding a startup, they can even give you lots of valuable advice.
In search of a co-founder? Here are some of the qualities you need to look out for
What makes for a good cofounder? The answer is… it depends!
Different startups have different requirements, and you’ll want someone who can align with the needs of your business. For example, if you’re more of a developer, you’ll probably want someone who can help sell or market your product. If you want to create an app but don’t have any technical knowledge, you’ll want to work with someone with previous experience.
However, there are some qualities that all good cofounders should have:
- A passion for your business idea
- An aptitude for solving problems
- An ability to be left to their own devices
- The willingness to dedicate time and resources to your startup for the long term. You don’t want someone who will get bored and walk away after three months!
How to find a startup cofounder
While it might be tempting to go into partnership with the first person who likes your business idea, it takes time to find the right cofounder.
You want to work with someone who shares your values, has the skills that benefit the needs of your business, and, most importantly, believes your startup will be a success.
If you’re in search of a cofounder, here are our tips for finding the right person.
Think about who your ideal cofounder is
Before you start searching, it’s important to think about who you want to work with. This will help you focus on the right qualities.
- What skills do they have
- What their personality is like
- The values they hold and how these align with your startup
- What are their hobbies and interests (it sounds silly, but it’s nice to work with someone that you have things in common with!)
If you haven’t already done it, the business model canvas or lean canvas model can give you lots of valuable insight.
Refine your pitch
You’ll need to tell a prospective cofounder what your startup idea is and what your plans are for the future.
Take the time to craft a short elevator pitch that you can use to pique a cofounder’s interest. Your pitch needs to be punchy, concise, and specific.
Some of the most-skilled cofounders will be in high demand, so it’s important to sell your business idea to them as best you can.
Harness the power of your network
It might be that you already know the perfect cofounder, but you just don’t know it yet!
Review your connections on LinkedIn and Twitter to see if you already know someone who fits the bill. If you’re already working with an investor, they might be able to suggest some people who are looking to work with a brand new startup.
You can also consider friends, family, and people you work with. Be careful though, as moving from friends to cofounders is a big step to take!
While you may be the best of friends, you might not be the best business partner.
Did you know there are dedicated sites that can help you find a startup cofounder? These platforms can be a great way to reach out and find a potential cofounder that isn’t already in your network.
Think of them like dating sites, but for business partners!
Some of the most popular sites include:
- Y Cofounder Matching — a site run by YCombinator
- Cofounders Lab
- Intch — this one is interesting as it uses AI to put you in touch with potential cofounders!
Don’t be intimidated if you see someone you’d like to work with. Remember, the worst that can happen is that they say no!
A good way to find a cofounder is to look for people with similar interests to you. While searching online is great, looking offline means you can get the full measure of a prospective business partner before you take things to the next level.
For example, if you’re looking for someone with engineering experience, attend a hackathon or a developer meetup. If you want a cofounder with business acumen, attend a networking meeting or go to a seminar.
Even if you don’t find a cofounder, you may find a contact who can put you in touch with someone who might be interested in your startup idea.
Ask for credentials
If you’re looking for a technical cofounder who can take the lead when it comes to building your app, marketplace, or SaaS platform, it’s important to check that they’re up to the task.
Ask to see projects they’ve worked on in the past. This will let you get an insight into their experience and see if they’re the right fit for your startup idea.
Remember that it doesn’t matter if they have failed businesses behind them. If you’re willing to grow the business and find investment, your technical cofounder can focus on development and programming.
Plan a trial project together
You’ve found someone you think is the perfect cofounder for your business and the good news is, they’re keen to work with you too!
However, before you commit, it’s always good to complete a small project together. This lets you see if you can work together and if there are any potential concerns or a clash of personalities. That way, if things don’t work out, you can both walk away with no hard feelings.
If the project is a success though, congratulations! You’ve got yourself a cofounder!
How to find a cofounder? [An important note…]
Before you agree to work together, you need to officially formalize your business partnership and determine who is responsible for what aspect of your startup. Otherwise, things can quickly descend into chaos.
- Who will be the CEO of the startup? One of you is going to have to be the face of the company, so it’s important to determine who is the best fit. If there are arguments over this, it could be a sign that you shouldn’t work together
- What roles each cofounder will have? Discuss which one of you will be responsible for the development, sales, marketing, and finding investment
- The salary and equity of each cofounder will be entitled to. Typically a 50/50 split works when it comes to shares, but this ultimately depends on who has invested the most time and money into the business
- What will happen if a cofounder wants to leave the startup? A vesting agreement means that each cofounder has to wait a set amount of time before they can cash in their shares, so they can’t take the money and run
We always recommend drawing up a legal contract, so there is no confusion. This means you can start your business relationship on the right foot.
In summary: Finding a cofounder will bring lots of benefits to your business
Looking for the right cofounder can be hard work. However, get it right, and you’re well on the way towards your business idea being successful.
Take your time, review your options, and don’t be afraid to say ‘no’ if you think someone isn’t the right fit. It’s better to take a year to find the perfect cofounder rather than agree to work with someone that’s not a match.
And remember, it’s okay to start solo and find a cofounder later down the line. That’s what happened to Drew Houston of Dropbox.
After several failed attempts to try and get into YCombinator, the accelerator program agreed to take him on if he could find a co-founder. Drew joined forces with Arash Ferdowsi, and the rest is history!