It is all too common that a business savvy entrepreneur comes up with a good idea but cannot build the product.
Conversely, there are many tech founders that lack the business and interpersonal skills
necessary to take the product to market, develop partnerships, and liaise with potential investors.
Many founders of early stage startups struggle with assembling a well rounded founding team as they don’t know how or where to find the right co-founder.
This blog post is intended to help such entrepreneurs through the process of identifying the right co-founder for their business.
What: Hire Someone With Complementary Skills
While this seems obvious in theory it is a common mistake made by many first time entrepreneurs. It is our human nature to gravitate towards people that have similar skills, personalities, and approaches as ourselves. However, this defense mechanism does not overlap with identifying a good co-founder.
Clearly, you need to be able to work well with your co-founder, but you also need to challenge each other’s ideas and ways of thinking, not to mention balance each other’s shortcomings. Start by identifying the job description or the scope of your needs. What are the major gaps in your skill sets?
What departmental roles are currently underserved or would add the most value to your business?
Who: Hire Someone That is Sufficiently Qualified
Now that you’ve identified ‘what’ you need you’ll want to begin thinking about ‘who’ would be the right person to fill this roll. Start by asking yourself a few simple questions. What are the skill sets and expertise required to execute this roll? What are the attributes that would help attract potential investors (i.e. experience growing early-stage startups, direct industry knowledge, credibility and track record, passion and dedication, and personality fit)?
What is the pay structure that will entice this person (i.e. salary, equity, a combination of the two)?
Where: Start With Your Network
Lastly, now that you know what and who you need, we just have to figure out ‘where’ to find this person. The best place to begin is your own personal network. Start by identifying any people you may know personally that fits the ‘what’ and ‘who’ criteria that you’ve come up with. If this falls short, identify people in your network you trust that may have access to candidates whom fit your criteria.
Clearly describe ‘what’ and ‘who’ you are looking for and ask for warm introductions. If your network or extended network does not pan out there are several websites and events intended to help startup co-founders meet one-another.
These sites include TechCofounder, Founder2Be, FounderDating, and CofoundersLab. LinkedIn can also be an excellent resource for identifying potential co-founders.
Finally, you can also work with recruiters that specialize in your industry or that do startup placement; however, these services are not for free.
Prepare Your Terms
It is important that you draft up a Founder’s Agreement that outlines the terms of your partnership with a potential co-founder. While you will certainly want to remain flexible and open to negotiating these terms, it is helpful to come to the table with some basic ideas surrounding roles and responsibilities, pay structure, ownership splits, vesting schedules, etc.
This not only shows the candidate you are serious but it also gives him/her the information needed to take the conversation from pitching the opportunity to negotiating the terms.