How to find the best co-founder for your startup
Starting a business is challenging, especially if you’re doing it alone. Being solely responsible for operations, legal, growth, and all business areas is a challenge for anyone.
Any successful business relies on its founder's diverse set of skills and the people who work for it. Many entrepreneurs find success by outsourcing some of the work of hiring employees, but sometimes a different approach is needed.
In the early stages of a startup, money and time can be in limited supply, so hiring employees to manage the workload isn’t always viable. Finding a co-founder with complementary skills is often the best approach in this situation.
Why a co-founder might be needed
Two heads are often better than one when making decisions and finding solutions to problems.
It offers you the chance to combine your skills and reduces your workload without compromising on the time devoted to growing the business.
Interestingly, research has shown that investors tend to be biassed towards startups with multiple founders. Companies with more than one founder are more likely to secure funding from investors than those run by a single person.
But finding the right co-founder can be a make or break for a startup.
How to find the right partner for your startup
Before you begin your search, you need to know what you’re looking for. This should start by evaluating your own strengths and weaknesses and determining the kind of person that your business needs.
Once you have this profile of the ideal co-founder, you’re ready to begin looking for that perfect fit. Here are some steps to help you.
Write out a job description
Although you won’t be posting a real job description, writing one out can help you determine your ideal co-founder's profile. You should think about the skills and experience they would need to complement your own.
Use business partner sites
Today, there are a lot of great sites that you can use to explore potential options for co-founders and business partners online.
Sites such as CoFoundersLab offer opportunities for startup founders looking for a partner. You can search for a co-founder based on their skills and location for the best results.
Attend networking events
Although online searches can yield great results, doing it the old-fashioned way shouldn’t be overlooked.
You can attend networking events in your industry to meet like-minded professionals who may be interested in joining your startup as a co-founder.
But you can use online platforms such as LinkedIn and entrepreneur groups to network with people around the world.
Speak to former colleagues and associates
Many startup founders meet the perfect co-founder right under their noses at their current or prior jobs. It’s a good way to find someone who you personally know has a good work ethic and the right skills for the position.
However, be careful to avoid conflict of interest and non-compete clauses!
Consider your location
Your location will make a big difference in the kind of talent you’re able to find. If you live away from a major city, you’ll find far fewer candidates than if you live in a startup hub.
You may want to consider relocating if you’re unable to find suitable co-founders where your business is currently based.
However, a lot of companies now operate remotely, so it’s possible to find a co-founder online and have a virtual 1-2-1 instead.
Case study: how Monzo's co-founders met
UK-based online bank and tech unicorn Monzo is a major success story. The company reached its £1 billion valuation in just three years, and as of April 2022, it has 5.7 million customers.
The fintech company is now the UK’s most recommended brand, with customers drawn to the high level of transparency and the simplicity of managing their finances through an app.
Monzo was created by Tom Blomfield, Jonas Huckestein, Jason Bates, Paul Rippon, and Gary Dolman. Like many startup founders, they met at their previous job. All four men worked for rival online bank Starling.
As they had all worked together previously, they understood each other's skills, strengths, and weaknesses. In addition to this, they already had a good rapport.
While not every startup will become a unicorn, having the right co-founder or co-founders can help your company achieve success. Your search for a co-founder doesn’t have to be complicated either.
You may already know and work with someone who’s a perfect fit. Networking and exploring common interests outside of work can be key to finding the right people for your startup.
Things to consider when choosing a co-founder
Your search will likely turn up several potential candidates, and you’ll want to assess each one before you make a decision. When choosing who you want to work alongside you, consider the following:
Let's start with trust. It's critical when choosing someone to partner with and make the best decisions for your startup. Trust can take time to build, but honesty and transparency will help.
Effective and transparent communication is one of the most important factors in building a strong and trusting relationship with your co-founder. Ensure that before you work together, the goals and metrics of the business have been established between you both.
As for skills, when you choose a co-founder, you should be sure they have skills that complement yours. For example, if your skills focus more on product and delivery, you’ll need someone that's good with money.
Your skills should combine to make an effective team, and it’s important to outline roles and responsibilities early on in the partnership. That's a key part of our Agile Partnerships framework.
While skills and trust are undoubtedly very important, you shouldn’t overlook passion.
Startup founders need to be passionate about their ideas to bring them to fruition, and your co-founder should share your passion for the project that you’re working on together.
The best startup partnerships are formed through a shared passion that then leads to a successful idea.
Finally, diversity. One thing that holds back a lot of startups is not having enough people from different backgrounds in the business.
Many startup co-founders share similar backgrounds, which can lead to missing out on talented people and new ideas. There is talent all around the world from all different cultures, and making the most of it can enhance a startup's chances of success.
A co-founder can be the key to taking your startup to the next level. However, finding the right person is never easy.
Before you embark on your search for a co-founder, make sure you’re clear on what kind of person would complement your skills and experience.
Knowing what kind of person would suit your business best is key to having a successful search.