Finding the right co-founder is one of the most important steps an entrepreneur can take. Launching a startup is rarely (if ever) a one-person job. Having a skilled, passionate partner at your side can be the difference between success and failure.
But how should you go about finding a co-founder for your startup? In this guide, we’ll look over how to search for a co-founder—and how to make sure they’re the right one when you do.
How to Find a Co-Founder
Write a “Job Description” for Your Ideal Partner
Start by drafting a job description for exactly what you’re looking for in a co-founder. Examine your own strengths and weaknesses, then figure out what skills you most need in a business partner to complement your own. Not sure where you excel and where you don’t? Reach out to friends and professional peers you can trust and ask for their input.
You can network for co-founders just as you would for investors. Many of the same venues will be useful for finding both, such as:
- Industry conferences
- Entrepreneur forums
- Local business organizations
You can also join entrepreneur-focused groups on social media sites like Facebook and LinkedIn.
Use “Matchmaking” Sites
There are quite a few sites designed to help you find business partners, such as:
- Startup Weekend
Remember: in today’s global economy, you don’t have to be constrained by geography. If your ideal co-founder is halfway around the world, don’t hesitate to try to make it work. In fact, teaming up with someone from a different cultural background could be just what your startup needs. Building diversity into your business model can be a great way to spark creativity and innovation.
Attend Local University Events
Plenty of university students, professors, and alums are would-be co-founders, eager to change the world. (Or at least bring their professional dreams to life.) Even if you don’t find the right business partner in that particular pool, they’re still bound to have connections. Attending local college events lets you expand your network while supporting the community.
Depending on where you live, finding a promising co-founder in your area may be a stretch. Of course, there’s always the internet. But to increase your chances, relocating may be wise. For example, if you’re hoping to launch a tech startup, you might want to move to Silicon Valley or Boston. (Not only will this broaden your search for a co-founder, but it will also help you connect with investors, as well.)
Reach Out to Past Colleagues and Friends
Maybe you’ve already met your perfect co-founder—you just didn’t know it at the time. Former classmates and professional peers can be another great network to draw from. Did you have a coworker at a previous job who might be interested in hearing about your startup idea? Reconnect and see if they might be the one.
Search for a Co-Founder on the Org
Here on The Org, we provide companies with public organizational charts. An org chart is a diagram showing how a company is structured and how the various team members relate to one another. We also offer a job board where you can advertise for an open position—including co-founder.
How to Vet a Co-Founder
Okay, so you think you might have found your dream partner. Now what? Choosing who you want to launch your startup with is no small decision, and you should never take it lightly. Here are some tips for how to vet a candidate and make sure they’re the right person for the job.
Establish a Vision
Running a business with someone requires a lot of collaboration and compromise. You need to know that you’re both starting out on a firm foundation. Sit down together and discuss the important questions, such as:
- Are you aiming for IPO, or are you hoping to target a quick acquisition?
- Do you want to get as much investment capital as you can, or would you rather retain control of your company?
- What are your core principles and values? What are you willing to compromise on?
If you and your potential co-founder have irreconcilable differences, it’s better to know about it before it becomes a problem.
Define Major Milestones and Key Metrics
Once you have a vision for your startup’s big-picture goals, take a stab at the details. Establish the milestones you hope to achieve, when you hope to achieve them, and what KPIs or OKRs you’re going to use to measure your success.
Determine and Document Roles
Co-founders often have to wear multiple hats and leave some wiggle room for their responsibilities, but the more precise you can be about your roles, the better. Who does what, exactly? By defining your roles as clearly as possible from the start, you can avoid unnecessary conflict later on. Plus, this is another opportunity to practice your collaboration skills.
Explore Shared Hobbies and Interests
A good business partnership should be built on more than just business compatibility. You and your co-founder will be spending plenty of time together. It doesn’t hurt to have some interests in common.
Take the time to learn about what you both do for fun, and if there’s any overlap—such as golf or birdwatching—consider that a good sign. Spending some time enjoying a shared hobby together is an excellent bonding experience and can help you become friends as well as partners.
Travel is a lot of fun, but it can also be a stressful experience for everyone involved. That makes it a perfect opportunity to put your fledgling partnership to the test. The longer the trip, the better, but even a quick weekend camping trip can tell you a lot about a person. (And tell them a lot about you.)
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