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Starting up a new business can be tremendously exciting, but it can also feel like the loneliest place to be. You’re faced with making all the key decisions and shouldering all responsibility. It’s not surprising that most of the entrepreneurs who achieved the greatest success didn’t go at it alone. Partnerships like Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak, or Bill Gates and Paul Allen relied on teamwork as much as talent to achieve their goals. Finding a co-founder can be vital for so many reasons – to bring on board another set of skills, a fresh perspective, and someone to support you when the going gets tough. Research conducted by Startup Genome has shown that startups with two founders reach the next stage of development much faster than those with a single lone founder. However, if you’re starting up on your own, this process may seem confusing and somewhat daunting.
Know what you need
Before you start your search for a co-founder, it’s important to understand exactly what you’re looking for. Like any recruitment process, you’ll need to be clear about the criteria for your co-founder, and be critical in your search for them. It’s helpful to first of all assess yourself: what are your strengths and weaknesses? What areas are you skilled at, and where do you need more help? Perhaps you’ve got a brilliant idea, but lack the technical knowledge to make it a reality. Also, try to consider your business in the long term. It’s not easy when your company is in its early stages, but if you have a clear vision of where you see your business in the future, you’ll have a better idea of the type of person who will fit into the picture.
One way of seeing you and your co-founder’s roles is the “one makes it, one sells it” model. One person in the team is focused on the process of building your product, and has the technical know-how to do so. The other is skilled at influencing and persuading people. They’re able to whip up enthusiasm about your business and build up a solid audience base. Of course, these roles are likely to overlap, but finding someone who makes up for your shortcomings in one of these areas can help you form a balanced and productive partnership.
However, there’s more to a successful working partnership than just a list of attributes, and choosing the right person can also come down to your gut instinct. You and your co-founder will need to be able to support each other through the highs and lows of entrepreneurship. You’ll probably spend a lot of extra hours together, and the early stages of getting your business off the ground will no doubt be challenging. So finding someone who you connect with outside of work is essential. Actually enjoying your time together will help to motivate you, and a partnership that’s built on friendship is more likely to last.
Where to find a co-founder
So once you have a better idea of who you’re looking for, what’s the next step? Your own personal connections are a good starting point. Spread the word about your startup and what you’re looking for across social media. Even if there’s no one obvious who comes to mind, you might have a connection you’ve lost touch with who could be the answer. Or alternatively, your contacts may know someone who fits what you’re after, which has the advantage that you’re getting a person who has already been vetted and recommended.
If you’re out of luck with your immediate network, there are countless events that enable you to make more contacts in the startup world. Schemes like Startup Weekend give you the chance to work with a group of new people over a concentrated period of time, giving you a real opportunity to figure out whether someone would be right for your business. These hackathons also give the opportunity for you to develop your idea.
Alternatively, shared co-working spaces like Google Campus are a hub for the startup world, and also hold various networking and training events geared towards entrepreneurs. There are also a huge variety of websites which connect you with other entrepreneurs, like Founder2be, or if you’re specifically looking for a technically skilled co-founder, TechCofounder.
Entrepreneurs have even been seen to post on job sites such as Escape the City to find likeminded thinkers to join their venture.
Another potential avenue is through talking to your mentors. As well as receiving valuable advice, you can also take advantage of their network, which is probably much wider than your own. Ask them for introductions to people they think might be relevant, based on your startup’s needs and ambitions, as well as your own strengths and weaknesses.
Finding the right co-founder is not a straightforward, or quick process – you may need to try several people out before you find the right fit for your business. But in the long run, it’s worth the extra effort to help your business reach its potential.