While a co-founder isn't essential to start a business, there are numerous benefits to having one, including complementary skills, an extra pair of hands and somebody to share the highs and lows of start-up life! You can read more about the advantages of having a co-founder here.
If you already know you want a co-founder, the next step is to find the right person. Many people say the co-founder relationship is like a marriage – it's a big commitment, you're stuck together through thick and thin, and divorces can be complicated. So, it's not a decision to be taken lightly!
Of course, the perfect co-founder will be different for everybody, depending on your business, skills and personality. Here's 10 tried and tested ways to go about finding them:
Write a job spec: Before you start your search, be clear about why you need a co-founder and what skills and personality will best complement yours. For example, if you're a technical person, maybe you need an expert in sales and marketing. If you're pretty reserved, maybe you need somebody more outgoing. Everybody has strengths and weaknesses, so filling in the gaps should be your top priority.
Be clear what you bring to the table: On the other side of the equation, make sure you can confidently sell your own expertise and experience, as well as your business idea. Be ready with examples of why you're qualified for the job, whether that's due to industry experience or technical nous, and have a solid business plan to share. Any co-founder candidates need to buy into you and your idea if they're going to take the plunge.
Friends and family: The first place to look is amongst your immediate circle of trusted friends and family. After all, you already know them well and trust them (hopefully!) But a word of warning – just because they're friends or family, doesn't mean it's a dead cert. You should also check them objectively against your job spec, and if they truly don't match what you need then look elsewhere.
Past colleagues and associates: You need to know you can work with your co-founder so another good place to start is ex-colleagues, associates or clients. Think about who you've had a successful working relationship with in the past and if nobody springs to mind, have a scroll through your LinkedIn contacts for inspiration. Then simply arrange a coffee with any likely candidates to scope out their interest.
Network: If nobody within your existing contacts fits the bill, then networking is your friend! If you're not already doing so, start attending events for start-ups and investors to see if you have any luck there. And remember, even if you don't meet a potential co-founder at an event, you might meet somebody who can introduce you to the perfect candidate; investors in particular tend to be very well connected. Social events can also be useful – two of Digital Risks own co-founders met while playing tennis, which shows the right introduction can happen anywhere!
Online co-founder sites: Complement your offline networking with some online tactics. There are a number of sites dedicated to matching up co-founders, such as Founders' Nation, Co-founders Lab and Founder2be, which are definitely worth a try.
Join an incubator, accelerator or co-working space: While many accelerators and incubators only take founder teams, there are some that focus on pairing up co-founders. For example, Entrepreneur First is for aspiring founders to enter individually, with the objective of finding the right co-founder during the programme. Similarly, by joining an entrepreneurial co-working space, or hanging out at Google Campus, you're sure to find plenty of like-minded individuals.
Do a trial project: You might meet somebody who seems like the perfect match, but it's impossible to know for sure until you've actually worked together. So, unless you're old colleagues – and even if you are – it's a good idea to set a test project or pilot to work on, before making a final decision. Doing so will help you understand if your approach and temperament are compatible – before you commit!
Align your vision and motivations: It's also important to ensure you're aligned in terms of your ambitions and objectives for the business, before finalising anything. Are you going into business for the same reason, whether that's for the lifestyle or the money? What are your expectations in terms of growth? And work-life balance? Be honest with each other. If you're not on the same page now, it could lead to serious misunderstandings and resentments further down the line.
Agree on roles and responsibilities: Finally, it's vital to agree who will do what in your business and outline the chain of command. While you and your co-founder should naturally have your own areas of focus, it's also important to define who's the boss and has ultimate decision-making responsibility. If you don't decide now, you'll be in for worlds of confusion further down the line!
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