As a founder, you know what it means to have a co-founder by your side.
If I put it in numbers, it’s twice everything:
- twice the time given and efforts made for your business’s growth
- twice the talent, twice the strength
- and twice the speed at which you can scale
When I say twice, it means two different individuals. It’s not someone who’s my complete look-alike or the polar opposite. A co-founder to me is my complementary half in some areas (like hard skills and personality) and a mirror image in some aspects (like passion and work commitment).
Through this blog, I’ll share with you the 6 most important factors/ qualities to look out for in your co-founder.
- United By Vision
Your co-founder should believe in your vision and be passionate about achieving it. This aspect is the foundation on which you’ll build your entrepreneurial bond with them. If you happen to join hands with a co-founder who aces at everything he does but doesn’t align with you on a belief (vision) level, then you very well know what the outcome of this business bond will be. You’ll have a strained relationship with her/him – both of you wouldn’t be open to opinions and might often get into arguments (that eventually does not yield any good results).
- Divided By Hard Skills:
Your ideal co-founder is an analytical type if you’re more on the creative side. If you’re a product pro, she/he must be a business genius who can spread the word about your state-of-art product in the market. You manage many areas as a founder, and no matter how diligent you are – you won’t be able to tackle them all alone. Hence, your co-founder needs to be the best in an area where you are having a hard time.
In short, a person with a complementary skill set.
There is one more important point I would like to highlight here:
Even in an industry discipline, there are differences in core operational strengths. Often you’ll see highly technical businesses have more than one technical co-founder, but there too one will be a good architect while the other has a talent for R&D engineering.
So, even if you’re an expert in one area, you might want a co-founder who can take care of the other area(s) for you.
- The Good Cop – Bad Cop Pair:
Your co-founder must be a person with a complementary temperament to yours. If you like to go all out, he should be the one that helps you hold your horses before making big decisions. If you’re the shy type who loves being behind the curtain, he should take center stage for you. By this, I don’t mean that 360-degree opposites should attract or fire must seek ice. Instead, try to find someone who will fill in the gaps around your personality and strengths to make both of you complete.
This kind of diverse combination will help you leave a good impression on employees, partners, and investors. You’ll also see that some of these people (third parties, mostly) might be more comfortable talking to you, while others with your co-founder. It only means you two can address and attract varied audience groups and speak to different groups of individuals.
- Shared View on Work Habits
While you and your co-founder can have different temperaments and talents, there’s one front where you both need to be on the same page. That is on how much effort to put into making the business’s vision a reality and your views on work-life balance and work expectations. You can think of it like this. Your co-founder’s thoughts and value of commitment and passion towards startup should be the same. Here, it doesn’t mean that the time you both enter and leave the office and the duration of your breaks are also the same, but you’re all clear on how much you both will do and who’ll be responsible for what.
- A Self-Sufficient Leader:
Your co-founder should be able to work, achieve goals, and lead and inspire team members even when you’re not around. Their actions and words will impact the employees’ conduct, their way of working and approaching things, and the team’s perception of the brand. Hence, you’ll have to be extra cautious before you forge a bond with your co-founder (even if the co-founder is a superstar in hard skills). They’ll play a role with you when you try building teams and developing a robust work culture.
- Been on the Same Boat:
It’s best to work with someone you know well or have worked hand-in-glove with them. It helps you break the ice, have easy conversations, and build trust and easy work relationships. A long-term relationship can make the learning curve of close collaboration take a plunge, which can take years to develop. But when I say someone close, it doesn’t necessarily mean your family members, childhood friends, or college classmates/buddies. They can be good contenders to be considered for the post of your start-up’s co-founder, but it’s not some rule you have to follow at all costs. Before combining strengths with anyone, what you need to know – is their mindset in times of adversity in their professional, business, or personal lives. If you haven’t been through that phase with them, you will need to prepare beforehand for situations that might occur in your business journey.
Harvard Business Review beautifully names the bond of a co-founder with a founder as the “Entrepreneurial Better Half.”
You both will go through the grind of bringing gains and goodwill to your business. You will spend a lot of time together building teams, developing a robust work culture, and leading people to do more. You will have a lot of conversations about a project you’re working on or growth opportunities you must grab. You’ll share most of the time in your entrepreneurial journey with them, celebrating the ups and learning from the downs. So, you will want someone who fulfills the above characteristics and can become your perfect partner-in-crime – No, partner-in-business!
One final word of caution: Please don’t jump the guns by taking hasty decisions just because you want a co-founder immediately. You can not decide the pace of finding a co-founder for your start-up, for some it is an instant connect, for some, it might take some good amount of time to be sure about your decision.