The insider’s guide to choose Co-Founders
Hi, I believe either you must have a good idea in your head, or you are tired of doing it all alone, that you are thinking of having a co-founder and reading this article. I would say it is always good to have a partner in crime because startups is a roller coaster ride and you enjoy it more in a friends’ company than alone.
You need one! I would say you must have a co-founder, even if you can do it alone. Two can do wonders, and you may grow even bigger than what you have planned for your company. Just think of those long and lonely nights in front of the laptop, or that bad news of getting rejected again by the investors, or the joy of sharing the good news of your success with someone who has equally worked hard.
So, its always better to have a partner in crime who can maintain the energy when you are depressed or who can stand by your side and clean the mess when shit has hit the fan and everybody has left. Although it is advisable to have a companion but not the necessary condition, don’t use ‘not having a co-founder’ as an excuse to not starting up, that’s a cop out.
Picking your co-founder is an art, and you have to be very careful. According to GrowthEnabler survey from TieCon Delhi 2015, the number 1 challenge is to hire the team, and it becomes even more critical when it comes to finding a co-founder. About 75% of the startups fail due to co-founder conflict (Noanm Wasserman, Harvard Business Review). Steve Job and Steve Wozniak (Apple) and Mark Zuckerber and Eduardo Luiz Saverin (Facebook) are the famous examples of co-founder conflict. Do not have a co-founder just for the sake of it, because if that goes wrong, your startup train can derail very soon. So, by now you must have understood that it is better to have co-founder but you have to be extremely careful about it. So, that poses the question ‘how to choose your co-founder.’
It is an equally beautiful journey like finding your spouse, and you can even compare marriage and business for a better understanding. Just like marriage you are going to have a commitment with your co-founder, the duration might be less, but the intensity has to be equal or more. You both need to compliment each other, like each other’s company and should have the liberty to bounce ideas off each other.
1-Chemistry- It is very critical to check how well you gel with each other. If you don’t like his face, don’t co-found with him. Illogical? No! If you think that he could bring few tangibles on board, and you might benefit from his credentials but you both do not get along, then it won’t last long. Sometimes we have no reasons to like or dislike a person, and if you have a strong disliking for someone, no matter what he can bring to the table, better keep away.
Date your Co-Founder: A great example of this was when Mark-Zuckerberg was ‘interview-dating’ Sheryl Sandberg for COO position. Although there were other cofounders, but Zuckerberg was in the front, driving the bus for almost a year and now he required the equivalent of a co-founder to take the company to the next level. He met her over the weeks on a regular basis at his own house where he would cook and also at Sheryl’s place where they would philosophise about the vision of where Facebook should go.
2- Complimentary Skills- Just like an old saying ‘opposites attracts’ and we have complimentary roles for male and females after marriage, the same goes for co-founders. There is no need for two MBAs. If you are a great developer, it would be better to hunt for someone who can produce a great business model and a great product. There is no need for overlapping skills.
3- A firm Believer: If you are choosing your co-founder that means you and that person have not thought of the idea together. It is your idea may be you have given some shape to your idea and now finding someone who shares your vision. It is imperative for your co-founder to believe in the idea. It is not important for an employee to believe in the company’s vision and its potential till his career requirements are being fulfilled but for a co-founder, it does matter.
4- Check His Runway Co-founder is the glamorous tag anybody would like to suffix with his name. So, when you invite proposals for a co-founder’s position, there are high possibilities of getting some non-serious candidates or serious ones with different motives. He might be interested to gain experience of running a startup so that he can launch his own later. You need to check why he is interested in joining your organization and what can he sacrifice for it. Give him extreme situations, where you have no fund for founders’ salary or where you have to bring in your personal piggy bank and then try to judge him by his answers.
5- Passion: Plays a significant role in bringing energy to your work. How passionate is he to solve a bug at work is equally important. Ideally, one must not rest till the issue is removed, or the problem is set, it should bother you till it is not done.
- Do not rush: Getting a co-founder is equally risky as it is soothing; because that puts on stake your own startup. You are giving away a considerable share of company’s control in your co-founders hand, and if he is not the right guy, your fate is at stake.
- Do not add them to increase fundability: Many a times we are tempted to bring credibility to our startups by getting some bigwigs on board, so that we can get the funding easily. Just ask yourself would you still share the control of your startup if you had not gone for funding? If no, then do not hire/ co-found.
- Assess your position and negotiate: The very title ‘Cofounder’ is a powerful asset that can help you retain your equity, and can save you from sharing 50%. As your company grows, you will have to share your equity with multiple stakeholders like investors and other team members that you may need down the line, so spend it carefully and take advantage of your position. (Learn how founders’ equity dilutes, with each round of investment)