It’s all about the People! You think you have a good idea? It’s not good enough without the “right” co-founder(s) and team, for the “startup marriage” and your idea to flourish. Many early stage startups or aspiring entrepreneurs are held back by the process involved in finding the right partner and team. Not knowing;
- When and Where to start looking?
- How will you know he/she is the right person to join your “startup marriage?” Is there search thing as the “right”/perfect co-founder?
- How do you go about the process, build and retaining the relationship? (the hard work will be in the retaining part)
- How many believe you can run a business by yourself and it succeeds? What if you get hit by a break track tomorrow? So your business stops? You want full control in your business? Then be prepared to pay the full price for it. After all, you will make so much money, and spend it all by yourself in Hawaai. Right?
- A common challenge startups face: lack of bandwidth, skills, motivation, fast execution, creativity etc so you need someone who compliments you
- Don’t expect someone else to find the partner for you, since it’s really very much like finding a life partner. Your version of the right chemistry, similar values and passion for your solution probably won’t match mine while I was running WezaTele hence you have to keep searching..
- Two heads are better than one- The challenge is finding the elusive perfect fit partner
- Business partnerships are long-term relationships, so take your time getting acquainted before closing the deal. It will not take a one time networking event/date to find the right person or team
When & Where
- From the start after the creativity process, Write a “Job Description”/Checklist of the ideal partner. Looking at your strengths and weaknesses and use those weaknesses to draw your complimentary skills
- Network to find the right co-founders same way when you are chasing for investors, customers
- Where to go: Industry conferences, Strategic Hubs events, referrals from peer startups by making your interest known (seems to have been the most effective for us), Linkedln,matchmaking co-founder sites, attend entrepreneurial events even at the university clubs etc. Most important, show Up!!
Process & building a long term relationship
- It’s a process. So start with what you have, maximize on resources around you and take your time.
- Have at least more than one conversation within and out of the work environment to understand each other character, true colors, values etc Part of the convincing stage.
- Jointly define major milestones and key metrics for the startup. This process is the ultimate test of a true shared vision and working style. Building a startup is hard and unpredictable work, and people get busy, so now is the time to jointly commit. Jointly commit expenses, If you can’t work as a team now and easily agree, it probably won’t happen at all in the future. The “wrong” ones normally leave at this stage
- Think long term. It’s not going to be an instant success. “Microwave success myth”- It takes time. That is why people buy the lottery. It takes discipline in this process too
- Negotiate and document roles early, including who is the boss. No matter how equal you all are, there is only room for one at the top to make the final decision on hard issues. There can only be one CEO.
- Define and work with basic structures from the start to ensure tracking and avoid conflicts
- Have weekly meetings to align on goals and remind yourselves on the first day or vision you both set
- Seek advice from mentors/advisors and networks to also help.
- The same process is same for finding the initial A team. Belief
- Do you go for someone you know? Or a completely new person
- Do you ask your friends/family to join you- Most likely they will not. They will call you crazy.
- Does gender matter? Age? How do you gauge if they are smart or smarter than you?
- What values do they have and do they align with your values? (Integrity, self driven, persistent, Great teams persevere, and success breeds success.)
Benefits of having a co-founder
- Distribute stress, it’s not easy running a startup. Lots of challenges each day, and the support is what keeps it going.
- It’s already lonely enough running a startup so why do you want to be more lonely
- Creativity and problem solving gets energised
- Mitigate risks for investor
- Encouragement and motivation to one another. It goes a long way in rekindling the passion, momentum and keeping the vision alive. Its an emotional rollercoaster.
- Faster execution & innovation
Buy my book here, and read the Chapter “Team and Culture” to learn more about my WezaTele story in building a successful Co-founder & “A” team of talented individuals who executed quality products and build a culture that got us acquired!