March 31, 2023: The Secret Formula for Finding Your Co-Founder
plus: a special gift for you, can ChatGPT change events forever, and more
Founder FAQ: How do I find a Co-Founder?
A few times a month, we look back at our frequently asked questions and tap into our network to get them answered.
Today's Founder FAQ:
At least once a day, we are approached by potential founders with an idea who ask us, either via our Insiders Slack, email, or at an event:
"How do I find a co-founder for my startup?"
This question is often quickly followed up with, "What should I be looking for?"
The process of finding a co-founder can be broken down into three steps: understanding what you are searching for, searching for potential co-founders, and deciding on a co-founder and the way forward.
Before embarking on your search for a co-founder, it is important to know what a good co-founder looks like. You can create a checklist based on the answers to the following questions:
What skills are you missing to launch the start-up? A co-founding team typically requires someone who can build and someone who can sell. Determine which skill you need to add to your team.
What values and beliefs should your co-founder share with you? Consider factors such as risk tolerance, working style, personal investment, and other shared values.
What credibility or experience do you want your co-founder to have? Consider whether you want someone with experience running a team at a large corporation, or if you're open to someone fresh out of school.
Are there any specific knowledge or networks that would be helpful for your co-founder to bring to the team?
Once you have a clear understanding of what you're looking for, it's time to start your search. There are several places to look:
Your expanded network: Tell your friends and colleagues what you're looking for in a co-founder and ask for introductions. You may be lucky enough to find someone you already know who is interested in discussing your start-up idea with you. Warm introductions from trusted sources are the best way to find high-quality co-founders.
Events within your ecosystem: Attend tech events, industry events, and other community events to expand your network and talk about your idea. This approach is time-consuming, and you'll need to conduct significant due diligence on any potential co-founders.
Join a co-founder platform: Several programs match strong co-founders with each other to create new start-ups. Do your research on each program to ensure it fits your personal objectives.
After an exhaustive search, you have a co-founder candidate you believe is perfect. Before you commit, take the following actions:
Do your due diligence: Speak with former colleagues, classmates, and other people your potential co-founder knows to see what they have to say. Ask if they would work/hire your co-founder again, and why or why not. Verify that your impression of your co-founder is correct.
Work on a small project together: Find a task or two that you can work on together to see how it feels.
Write down your core values: Make sure you agree on how you will work together going forward.
If you still want to co-found a company together, finalize the co-founding of the company and protect yourselves by entering employment agreements with the start-up. In this agreement, agree on the shares that each of you will own and how they will vest. This protects both of you from an unexpected break-up if one of you leaves the start-up sooner than expected.
Founder programs: Entrepreneurs First, Antler, Next Canada, YC start-up school
Events to attend: TechTO
The following are suggestions from the TechTO community:
Betrand Nembot - Founder of Billdr
1) Look for people that bring you joy and can hold you accountable. Hard to make the relationship work without those 2 traits.
2) Look for folks with hard skills that can ship a product (developer, UX designer) or sell the product.
Always looking for different, complementary skills.
I.e. if you’re on the biz side, they need to be tech & vice versa
Alexander Benjamin - Founder of Lendful Loans
I’ve always found designing a RAM very helpful in figuring out what I can’t or don’t enjoy doing the work with, which can help me better evaluate who would be a great partner/co-founder.
Then, some steps like these can help.
The key, go slow, don’t rush.
Defining what the org needs first for success & define what you value, your values, and will this person's values align with yours. You're pretty much getting married.
The associated skills needed of the role.
Extensive dating process of many leads at top of funnel, cross-interviewing, spending time in-person together brainstorming.
Case Studies. Get them to walk you through scenarios that you have encountered to see how they make decisions. Can they actually do what they say they can? Evaluate and find evidence of said activity/behaviour.
For any deal that includes equity, ensure it vests and has a 12-18 month cliff to allow you time to evaluate.
Then once measured, evaluate.
Issac Souweine - Partner at Pender Ventures
Build in public.
The more people know about what you're up to, the better chance you find your match
Derek Jouppi - Entrepreneur First
Less focus on how and more focus on who.
You will likely build as big of a company as you think you and your co-founder can handle. If you have big dreams and need a big co-founder, Entrepreneur First proves you can found with a high-quality stranger.
Evan Hallward - Repeat Founder
Index highly for a complementary skillset balanced with the ability to work together.
You might love working with someone, but if you're both great at the same things, it's hard to really "divide & conquer".
I'd also offer the idea of "taking it slow" when it comes to onboarding a co-founder, e.g. starting part-time or moonlighting until it's obvious there is cohesion before putting pen to paper.
Zaheer Merali - Angel Investor
What I’ve learned through trial and error multiple times:
You need to understand and prioritize what your startup needs
You need to understand yourself and what you love to do. What fills your proverbial cup?
You need to look for people who love to do the things you don’t love doing - I look for people with skill sets that are orthogonal to mine and what I love to do
Actively seek these people by putting yourself in environments where they spend time - travel has been the most surprising one for me so far - I used to be quite “local” in my search and frustrated at not finding what I was looking for… fishing in a different pond has landed incredible candidates.
Andy Porter - Co-Founder of Porter
Only consider friends or colleagues you know and have worked with extensively. If that list is exhausted, start on your own. If you're non-technical, learn how to code.
Here's a framework you can use as you look for the right Co-Founder:
Professional - skills/experience- vision- commitment
Personal - personality (culture)- values (culture)
Let us know what your next FAQ is, and you might see it featured in a future newsletter.
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