The biggest issue first-time entrepreneurs face is finding a co-founder when there is no "perfect one" in your personal network. Don't end up compromising rather explore alternative options.
You know you cannot do everything alone in your startup. You have limited time, money, and energy. It is not possible to execute the coding, designing, marketing, and sales alone. Your startup needs a co-founder for multiple reasons. You can distribute work, have a second opinion on decisions, and you need a shoulder to cry when things go wrong.
But how do you find a co-founder when you don’t see any of your friends interested in being part of a startup. Your colleagues love to talk about startups, but they are busy impressing their manager to get that 'next promotion'.
You cannot convince anyone to join you in a startup…or can you?
What Paul Graham says about finding a co-founder
"If you don't have a cofounder, what should you do? Get one. It's more important than anything else. If there's no one where you live who wants to start a startup with you, move where there are people who do. If no one wants to work with you on your current idea, switch to an idea people want to work on."
You don't have to stop working on your startup, but your priority should be finding a co-founder.
First of all, let’s look at the qualities of a potential co-founder
- He or she should understand you vision. Not just understand, that person should be passionate about solving the same problem that you are solving at your startup.
- There should not be a significant gap in your responsibilities and liabilities – that means both of you should be at same level of emotions and finances.
- He or she should understand your end objective. It will not work if you are building a startup that will be profitable one day and your co-founder wants to make quick money even if it is by selling your startup at a moderate valuation.
- He or she may or may not have complementary skills but must be ready to learn new things.
Once you are clear about the expectations from your co-founder, start looking for ways to find such people.
I have seen people ‘Looking for a co-founder’ in the Facebook groups, and a lot of non-serious guys respond to such posts. If you make non-serious efforts, how can you find a genuine co-founder?
If you are looking for a trustworthy guy, then you have to prove that you are worth his consideration. Isn't it?
In my view, the search for a co-founder starts with you telling a story about yourself. Good people join other good people, not fancy business plans. Tell people about your vision, what you were doing before your startup, why you left your previous work, what motivates you, what problems you want to solve and why.
Your products may change, but your vision remains intact (unless you are just another hypocrite in startups). Sell your vision to your potential co-founder. Tell them why you are the best person to rely on.
People will gravitate towards you when they believe in you. You will receive interest from like-minded people if you have shared a detailed story about yourself.
Once you find someone who is interested, find if the applicant has all the qualities that you are looking in your co-founder. Discuss about your life goals and why startups excite you. Feel the connection if you want to befriend that person.
The equity, compensation, investment, roles and position should be the last topic of the discussion. If you see the hunger for equity or position, then don’t go ahead. He or she will back out if they feel that you are not open to giving equity and position. If possible, involve your mentor in such discussions.
So, you have written a beautiful story, now post it on your blog and share it with your network and Facebook/LinkedIn groups. Try to find some bloggers in your niche and spread your story through their articles. List yourself on co-founder platforms and ask people to read your story before contacting you. Meet a lot of people in startup events like Startup Weekend, In50Hours, Saturday ventures, and TechSparks. Tell them your story and mention explicitly to read your story blog when exchanging your visiting card.
If everything goes well, you will get hundreds of applications if not thousands.
Don’t make the mistake of hiring anyone in a rush. Even if everything seems perfect, the real test happens when you work together. That's why it's always preferred to work with your friend or co-worker because you know your work compatibility.
Shortlist one person and ask if they are open to working with you on a ‘no strings attached’ model. That means they can leave anytime if they do not like you and you can also say 'No' anytime without any guilt. I did the same when I joined my second startup; I worked with my co-founder on an assignment for a month without discussing equity or compensation. It worked very well for me, and I was able to prove my worth for his startup.