How Entrepreneur First helps you find the right co-founder to launch your startup with


For Fello Co-Founder and CEO Manish Maryada, one might find it easier to find a date or a spouse than a co-founder. When he first thought of launching Fello in 2020, little did he know that getting a co-founder would be among the most frustrating challenges that he would face in his entrepreneurial journey.

Fresh off his experience of being an early employee at a startup, Manish wanted to find a co-founder to build a FinTech startup with. But, the job was easier said than done. “It was a challenging task as none of my peers were ready to launch a startup during the COVID-19 pandemic. I was looking for a working relationship where we could explore mutual synergies to build the platform.”

His search ended after he joined the Entrepreneur First (EF) programme in August 2020 and got a chance to interact with entrepreneurs from diverse backgrounds. “I found an amazing friend and co-founder in Shourya Lala who is just as passionate, enthusiastic and dedicated towards the startup as I am,” recalls Manish.

“When we started working together during the programme, our mentors at EF, Ashwin and Ashutosh gave us their honest feedback about our synergies, our growth prospects and, the positives and negatives of our partnership, which helped me narrow down my choice for a co-founder,” says the Texas A&M University alumnus.

The EF programme is a six-month programme where entrepreneurs can look to learn about starting a technology startup from scratch and then launch it. The programme supports budding startups in their growth journey by connecting them to a diverse network of high-potential co-founders, a global alumni base of 3,000+ and a group of advisors and investors. The applicants are encouraged to continuously innovate and test new ideas, while evaluating potential co-founders, and EF pays them a stipend so that they can focus completely on launching their startup, while bearing the cost of experimentation.

Launched in India in January 2019, EF has supported over 250 startup founders in starting their entrepreneurial journey. Talking about the programme's vision, Esha Tiwary, General Manager, EF India says, “The world is missing out on some of the most impactful founders as they are restricted by the lack of a co-founder, resources, time, and networks. Our six-month programme breaks down these barriers and opens the door to entrepreneurship for the next generation of aspiring founders.”

Fello was among the seven companies which graduated from the fourth cohort of EF and received a round of pre-seed funding. “We used this capital to validate our core hypothesis, build a revamped product and hire more employees. Today, we have been able to attract 2,000+ users with the Fello app, with 70 percent of the investing users being first-time investors,” says a beaming Manish.

But, why is it so important for startups to choose the right co-founder? According to Esha, the combination of the right skill sets between startup founders is critical to their success. “This is mainly for two reasons, the first being that the early-stage founders need a wide range of skill sets to win, which are hard to find in a single person. The right technical skills help founders build defensible products and avoid potential product pitfalls. Hence, they can ideate better. The right business expertise is needed to understand customer needs, shorten sales cycles and arrive at the best go-to-market approach.The right industry networks can mean saving weeks or even months in getting to the first few customers and partners. This can be game-changing for early-stage startups.”

The second reason is that right compatibility can help founders innovate faster. “The best ideas come at the intersection of two minds - you can brainstorm, debate and quickly learn with the right co-founder. Moreover, entrepreneurship is a difficult journey with a fair share of ups and downs. Having the right co-founder by your side can mean the difference between success and failure,” Esha adds.

Amidst the importance of pairing with the right person, the task of choosing a co-founder comes with its own set of challenges. For starters, it is not always easy to find someone with a complementary skill set, as Esha has seen during her experience of mentoring a host of startups. “This is difficult because people usually look for co-founders in their network — close friends, colleagues etc. They might be the people you like, but they might not have the complementary skills which would be ideal for your business," she explains.

The other challenge that many startup founders face is that not every entrepreneur shares their level of commitment or passion for a business idea. “There is a significant amount of time and effort that goes into building a company and founders need to find someone who is willing to commit to it full-time and is as passionate about it as you are.”

EF seeks to help entrepreneurs tackle these challenges by connecting them with a diverse and talented network of professionals who are as committed to launching a startup as them. The applicants get an opportunity to use EF’s proprietary frameworks that help them identify their strengths and the complementary skills they need to excel. Plus, EF connects them with a diverse and accomplished network of professionals who can mentor and guide them. The cherry on the cake is the fact that they don’t have to put in any money to begin their entrepreneurial journey.

What sets the EF programme apart from typical accelerator programmes and incubators is that it believes in investing in the potential of an individual, rather than an idea.

“While founding a startup, entrepreneurs need to know three things: what problem they need to solve, why now is a good time to do that and how they should execute the solution. This is where talent comes in. At EF, we believe in evaluating talent, but more importantly in helping aspiring founders focus on their strengths which maximises their chance of success. Most people that join the EF program don’t have a clear idea of what they will build. We evaluate and accept them based on their potential, and then help them arrive at that perfect problem to solve using our tried and tested frameworks” explains Esha.

The EF programme is an ideal launchpad for budding entrepreneurs who are looking for an opportunity to drive impact by leveraging technology.

Anshul Gupta, CTO and Co-founder, Retail Pulse, who joined the EF programme in February 2020, says, “It's well known that EF is the best place to find the right co-founder, but it also provides you with a great environment to learn and grow. Entrepreneurship is tough and can be a lonely journey. EF puts you in a room filled with some of the most talented people that motivate and help you not only during the cohort, but also after it when you are running a business and require constant support.”

Retail Pulse is an artificial intelligence-powered platform that offers real-time store analytics and insights for retail operations. The startup was among the early companies that EF backed in India after being launched. “The support we received from EF and its network helped us onboard some of the most prolific angel investors from the Indian startup ecosystem,” says Anshul.

Are you interested in choosing the right co-founder and fast-tracking your startup journey with Entrepreneur First?

Click here to apply now!

Last date to apply for the next cohort is July 15, 2021.


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