In the beginning, there was one.
Or two. Let’s face it: no matter how talented or driven you are, building a company from scratch is a heavy lift. Maybe you can do it on your own – but it’s almost guaranteed to be easier with the right cofounder on your side.
Don’t settle for any old Joe or Jane off the street. Look for these five broad traits and skill sets in your next startup partner.
1. Play the Matchmaking Game
Don’t be shy. Create a profile on founder-first sites: web platforms built by and for startup founders seeking co-founders, advisors, investors, and high-level employees.
Startup Weekend is a great option; CoFoundersLab is another, lower-profile choice that many entrepreneurs swear by. It doesn’t really matter where you’re listed, as long as you cast a wide net. The important thing is that you’re swimming in a high-quality pool.
2. Reconnect With Old Colleagues
Many entrepreneurs recruit co-founders from their personal networks: old colleagues, classmates, even friends or family members.
“The ideal cofounder is someone with whom you have an easy working relationship,” says serial entrepreneur and early-stage investor Vivek Rajkumar. “You’re going to spend a lot of time working in close quarters, and you need to get along.
3. Enter a Startup Competition
And if there’s no one who fits the bill in your personal network? Consider entering a startup competition, where you’ll come face-to-face with dozens of bright, ambitious entrepreneurs and advisors. Your next cofounder may lurk among your competitors.
4. Create a Job Description for Your Ideal Cofounder
“Many of the smartest founders whose businesses have gone sideways – or who ran out of cash before they found the right market fit – have an interesting reaction,” writes 1871 CEO Howard Tullman. “They don’t sulk. They don’t make excuses. They don’t expect the world to owe them a living. Instead, they get busy.”
You want people like this on your team.
Or maybe you don’t. The point is, you need to say loud and clear what exactly you’re looking for in a cofounder. The easiest way to do this is with a posted job description – yes, literally a job description – to which you’ll fit all prospective cofounders.
Just like any new hire, your eventual cofounder might not tick all the boxes. But at least they’ll know what’s expected of them.
5. Articulate Your Vision Early and Often
It’s just as important to articulate your vision for your startup, especially when it’s pre-revenue. Beyond their skill sets, credentials, and past experiences, your prospective cofounder needs to understand where your company is going – and, it follows, share that vision.
No Match Is Perfect
Anyone who’s played the online dating game (more like roulette) knows that there’s no such thing as a perfect match.
This is doubly true for startups, where the stakes are far higher than app-enabled relationships with sell-by dates shorter than the milk jug in your fridge. (Seriously, throw that thing out!)
Just as the dating game rewards patient, discerning players, founders do better when they don’t jump on the first potential cofounder with measured praise for their business plan. It’s in your best interest to bide your time and pounce only when you’re ready.