Finding a co-founder for your startup

Why you need a co-founder

When starting a company, having a co-founder is important for three reasons. First, it helps you get more work done and do better quality work. For example, if you aren’t good at sales but your co-founder is, they can handle that part while you focus on other areas.

Second, a co-founder can be a source of emotional support when things get tough, as pointed out by Mike Thanos, one of our mentors and founders. They can help you stay positive and motivated. For example, if you're feeling discouraged after a setback, your co-founder can remind you why you got started in the first place.

Third, having a co-founder increases your chances of success. Many successful companies like Apple, Facebook, and Google had co-founders. Co-founders bring different skills and perspectives, which can be critical in the early stages of starting up.

Should you start without a co-founder?

The general advice is to wait until you find a co-founder because having a co-founder can bring many benefits, as mentioned above. However, there are exceptions to this rule. If you have absolute conviction in your idea and you can make progress on it without a co-founder, then you can go ahead and start the company. Kevin Systrom, for instance, initially started working on a check-in app called Burbn by himself, but found that the app was too complicated and cluttered. He then decided to focus on a single feature of the app, which was photo-sharing, and rebranded the app as Instagram. Systrom later brought on Mike Krieger as a co-founder to help him develop and grow the app.

So, if you're in a similar situation and you have a strong belief in your idea, you can try starting the company on your own. But if you're not sure or don't have the ability to make progress without a co-founder, it's recommended that you wait until you find one.

What to look for in a co-founder?

When starting a company, it's really important to have a co-founder who has the right skills to help you grow your business. You'll want to find someone who complements your skills. For instance, if you're great at designing user interfaces and user experiences, you might want a co-founder who's skilled at programming, building databases, and managing servers for your tech startup.

However, the most important thing is to work with someone you like and trust. If you find someone who fits that description, but doesn't have all the skills you're looking for, it's still worth bringing them on as a co-founder. Don’t get too caught up in the specifics of their skills. For example, if you're trying to build a fitness app, but your potential co-founder hasn't built one before, that doesn't necessarily mean they're not a good fit. What matters most is that they're willing to learn and put in the work. Starting a business is hard work, and there will be a lot of ups and downs along the way. You want to make sure that your co-founder can handle the stress and pressure of the startup journey. So, don't rule someone out just because they don't have a specific set of skills you're looking for. Make sure you choose someone you trust and work well with.

You also need to make sure they share your goals and values. That means you should talk to your potential co-founder about why they want to start a company and what they hope to achieve. If you’re after different things, it could cause conflict down the road. Having this conversation can help you find a co-founder who shares your important values and goals.

Tips on finding a co-founder

Tap into your own network

When searching for a co-founder, you should start by looking for people you already know. Think about your friends, family, and colleagues, and consider who might be a good fit for working on a project with you. This can include people you're already working with on a daily basis, as well as people you know from school or university. Working with people you already know can help you build trust and a sense of mutual respect, which is crucial when starting a company.

Attend events and join communities

Another way to find potential co-founders is to attend events and join communities related to your interests or industry. This can include meetups, conferences, or online groups related to your profession, hobbies, or passions. By attending these events and meeting like-minded people, you'll increase your chances of finding someone who shares your vision and values. Remember to be open and approachable, and don't be afraid to start a conversation. Building relationships takes time, but it's worth the effort if you're serious about finding the right person to start a company with.

Don't wait until you have an idea

You don't have to come up with a startup idea before finding co-founders. Instead, try to find people to work on projects with, even if those projects aren't related to starting a company. This can include building a game, creating an app, or working on a side project related to your hobbies or interests. Working on projects together is less intimidating than asking someone to start a company with you, so you have a higher chance of people saying yes. Plus, you can work on different projects with different people to see whom you work well with and what kind of skills you can bring to the table.

Build real relationships

If you want to find a great co-founder, you should make a conscious effort to surround yourself with people who have the potential to be co-founders. This doesn't mean you have to limit your social circle to potential co-founders only, but it's important to be intentional about building relationships with people who you think could make great co-founders. This means actively putting effort and thought into creating and nurturing meaningful connections with others. In doing so, you'll be better able to assess their skills, personality, and work style to see if they're a good fit for you.

Don't be afraid to ask

Once you've identified potential co-founders, don't be afraid to ask them if they're interested in starting a company with you. It's common to feel hesitant to make this request, especially if you're worried about how your relationship might change, but it's important to prioritise finding a co-founder over potential discomfort. If they decline, it's okay. Ask if they know anyone who would be a good co-founder and if they can introduce you. Remember that finding the right co-founder is a critical part of starting a successful company, so it's worth putting yourself out there and taking the risk.