Startup Confessionals: The Search for the Cofounder
I have had 1:1 conversations with dozens and dozens of founders during my time as an entrepreneurship advisor at an accelerator. From PhD spinouts to green, eighteen year old founders, I have heard some incredible stories as well as faced some difficult questions.
One of the most common ones I heard was:
“Where do I find a cofounder?”
Now, as someone who has cofounded my own startup, I stood in their shoes only years earlier facing the similar phantoms of stress and uncertainty. But, I also had an incredible rock of a cofounder by my side.
I wish I could say amazing talented entrepreneurs grow on trees, but I would be wrong.
However, I would constantly give these pieces of advice:
Have a think about what you are looking for.
No one wants to date themselves…so you wouldn’t want two of you on the same team would you? My argument there is that then there is one too many!
Teams should be lean in the beginning, and your skillsets should complement each other. If you are highly technical, then maybe having someone who is more gregarious at sales would be beneficial.
Make an audit of the skills you have and a list of the ones you would be looking for in your dream cofounding team.
Share that you are looking.
Sometimes I see solo founders sitting quietly hoping that a cofounder will come along. Often times, sadly there is no yellow brick road to the dream team.
People will only know you are looking for a team if you share it. Ask your peers, individuals from an accelerator, members in a startup meetup or organization. Let the universe know that you are looking because some of the best cofounding teams happen by referrals from other people.
Best friends don’t always make best business partners.
This is the biggest mistake I see in the university acceleration ecosystem. You have a great friend, and you get along swimmingly. But, their business habits and attitude do not match yours.
My rule is: if you cannot fire your friend and still have a friendship, then I would think long and hard about having them as a cofounder.
Give yourself time and space to see if there is a connection and aligned motivation.
Like any relationship, these things take time.
Before immediately signing a cofounder agreement, give yourself some space and time to work to see if this is a relationship that could gel. There needs to be similar motivation and drive towards advancing the business. And, these things take work: you should be able to communicate openly, set objectives with each other, and hold each other accountable. But, you should also be able to have a lunch or a beer with them and not want to run the other way.
You cannot force a cofounder relationship.
Often times, founding a team happens organically. There needs to be this constellation of factors from personal circumstances, timing, and talent to take place. I know this is annoying as I wish there was a fast-forward button as well, but trust the process.