Choosing the right co-founder is without a doubt one of the most important decisions you can make not only for your startup but also for your overall quality of life during your startup journey.
It’s not a surprise that people equate founding a startup together to getting married. In the early years of the venture, you are likely to spend more time together with your co-founder than with your actual spouse. And just as a lot of marriages end in divorce, interpersonal conflict between the early startup team is the second or third most common reason for startup failure.
If this is the case, why not realize your idea as a solo founder?
Even though finding the right co-founder is hard, making a startup work on your own is even harder. In fact, according to the startup investment fund First Round, co-founder teams outperform solo founders by a whopping 163%. Moreover, according to their data, the optimal number of co-founders is two. It’s not surprising that most investors are wary of ventures founded by solo entrepreneurs (according to First Round solo founders got on average 25% lower valuations) – the founder represents a single point of failure and increases the risk.
There are many reasons for this, but the three major ones are:
- The overwhelming workload required to make a new venture successful.
- The emotional support that a cofounder can provide – motivation and accountability to each other.
- The idea output is of higher quality thanks to having a unique point of view from a person just as invested in the project as you.
So, here are the two major rules you need to follow to find the right person for your venture:
1. Make Sure That Your Expectations And Values Are Aligned
Ideally, you want to found your startup with a person with whom you already have a relationship. Ex colleagues are ideal because you have experience working together, but e.g. college friends with complementary skills could also work very well.
If you don’t have people in your network who’d like to embark on a startup journey with you, then you should try to let everyone in your network know what kind of person you’re looking for so that you’ll increase the chances of getting a referral. If somebody you trust and respect can vouch for a person, you will reduce the risk of finding someone incompatible a great deal.
If this doesn’t work out, then your best bet is to start work on your idea on your own, to be active in your local startup community, and to keep your eyes wide open for people that could be a good fit. Co-founders joining you at a later stage is definitely possible.
Once you’ve found a candidate, you need to make sure to get to know each other as fast as possible. Spend a lot of time together and discuss deeply your vision of the future and your expectations from the venture.
You shouldn’t talk only about the idea, but also about your values – do you expect to work on the startup 24/7, or are you aiming for a work-life balance? Do you want to go for a high-rise rapid growth path, or do you prefer slower but more sustainable growth?
Such questions need to be clarified as quickly as possible because if they come up late and the two of you have a different opinion, this could grow into a major problem.
2. Make Sure Your Skills Complement Each Other
The cliche is that each tech startup needs at least a hacker and a hustler. Whether you are looking for a co-founder or an employee, it’s key to search for one of the two if you are the other.
If you are a technical co-founding team, make sure you realize at least one of you will have to sell your product and idea in order to have a chance of success. One of you needs to get comfortable to constantly communicate with all your stakeholders, and you shouldn’t be afraid to ask for outside help (or to hire help if you can afford it).
If you are a marketing team, make sure to attract high-quality technical talent to your venture whenever you can afford to – as consultants or as employees. No-code tools make it possible to put together an MVP, but you shouldn’t delay involving technical people too much.
In summary, building a startup with a co-founder is not a deal breaker but can make a significant difference in your venture and life. Look for someone who complements your skills and aligns with your values and long-term expectations.