How Do You Find a Cofounder?
If you’re at the point where you are asking yourself this question, this article is going to really help you in making your final decision. The question of whether to find a cofounder or not is a huge choice that you must make as you are starting your business as it can make a drastic impact on the short and long run.
If you decide to find a cofounder with a complementary skill set in the beginning, you have the ability to get more done faster as you are starting up. However, in the long run, you sacrifice the value of the equity that you decide to portion off to that cofounder.
If you decide not to find a cofounder as you get off the ground, everything is on your shoulders. Entrepreneurship is by nature a lonely game, especially if you don’t have a cofounder there fighting against the many obstacles that will arise. If you’re able to charge through by yourself though, you are rewarded with a full ownership of the company.
I’m not here to tell you which is the right decision. Rather, I’m here to offer advice from my experiences starting multiple million dollar companies on how to find a cofounder and what questions to ask them once you have interested candidates.
To get it kicked off, I want you to keep one thing in mind as you think about a cofounder…
This is someone you need to be ready to work with for the next 10 years.
Let that sink in.
That’s a lot of time and something that most founders don’t consider when they’re starting up.
Okay, let’s get into it.
Where Can You Find a Cofounder?
The first step in adding a cofounder to your team is knowing where to find them. You’re looking for an extremely unique personality that is passionate about entrepreneurship, has been looking for an opportunity to start a business or has already started a business in the past, and who has a skill set that is radically different from yours that will help the company grow.
From my book, Free Up Your Business: 50 Secrets to Bootstrap Million Dollar Companies, I present 3 core founder types that are key to success for early stage online companies. Before I tell you where to find these cofounders, I want you to understand who you may be looking for.
1. The sales wiz
This is a cofounder that lives and breathes selling the product to the end customer. They have an amazing track record of selling and creating relationships with people based off the products that they represent or have created. They should be able to lead a team of people towards bringing in more sales of the product that you continue to iterate.
2. The marketing guru
This cofounder has a strong expertise in digital marketing and advertising strategies. They understand how to drive traffic to a website, build a strong SEO foundation, create high quality content, and build relationships with other influencers in the industry. Over the long run, they will be the one responsible for setting up advertising strategies for the company as well.
3. The techie
This cofounder is your web/software developer that has the skills to build your website, design your user experience, create any software your company will need, among many other technical tasks that the other two founders won’t be able to achieve on their own. In the long run, they become extremely valuable as more and more users interact with your site and programs (if applicable).
Okay, do those three founder types make sense?
Which one do you most closely associate with? Where do your greatest strengths lie? How are you going to be able to help your company grow fastest?
You want to ask yourself these questions as you are making a decision of whether or not to find a cofounder so that you can understand who you are looking for.
If you are a strong marketer and have experience from a corporate company in that area, you may need to find a strong sales or tech cofounder to join your team.
Likewise, if you are a web developer who has minimal experience with business tactics (marketing and sales), you will need to find a cofounder that can bring that skill set to the table.
Do you have the cofounder profile that you think you’re looking for?
Places to Find a Cofounder
Here are some suggestions of where to look for a cofounder once you know exactly who you’re looking for.
1. Coworking spaces
Are there any coworking spaces in your local area? If you live in a big city, they 100% are there. Find events that are going on at the space and attend them looking to network with local entrepreneurs and business owners that work out of the space. Network with people and tell them that you are looking for a cofounder for your business idea that has these specific skill sets. Ask them if they know anyone in the space that fits that mold and if they’d be willing to make an introduction.
If you want to take it a step further, buy the cheapest membership for the coworking space and start spending some time there during the week getting to know the people on a day to day basis.
2. Tech & startup meetups
Similar to the coworking space, go to Meetup.com and search for “startups” or “entrepreneurship” or “CEOs” or “tech” and find relevant meetups where your type of cofounder is going to be attending. These meetups are great opportunities to network and meet people that may be a good fit for your project.
3. Your group of friends
Take a look through your group of friends and see if there is anyone else that is pursuing the entrepreneurial route or who has the skill set that you’re looking for. Sometimes a history with someone can make being cofounders easier because there is an increased level of trust between you from the start. Dive deep into your friends too. Sure, if there is a natural fit with one of your best friends, investigate, but also look at people you haven’t talked to in a few years.
4. Your family members
Working with family can be tricky, but sometimes it can be an amazing situation that pushes both cofounders even more. Look into what your cousins are up to and see if anyone has the skill set you are seeking. Having a conversation can’t hurt and maybe they even know someone that would be a better fit if they’re not interested at the time.
5. Facebook groups
Head onto Facebook and search for groups revolved around “startups” in your local area and “cofounders”. Try to get involved in the conversations and make a post every now and then about your company you are trying to start and the cofounder you are looking to find. You never know who may know someone that could make a great fit.
LinkedIn can be an amazing resource to targeting exactly the skill set that you want for your cofounder. Search the skill sets into LinkedIn and connect with candidates that look like a good match. Private message them expressing your interest and see if they’d be willing to grab a coffee to chat more if they have any interest. I’ve met handfuls of amazing people by just reaching out and offering to buy a coffee on LinkedIn.
7. College campuses
If you’re still in college, scour your campus for someone else in the business school or engineering school that has the skill set you need for your team. I’m confident you’ll be able to find someone that is interested in giving it a shot while they are finishing their education.
8. Cofounder dating sites
There are a bunch of cofounder dating sites out there that you can check out. I don’t have any experience using any of them, but they continue to pop up so they must be helping some startup owners. Search “cofounder dating site” into Google and I’m positive you’ll find some sites that I’m talking about.
Alright, there are 8 potential places that you can find a cofounder for your startup and they don’t require much other than strong networking and…
Being able to pitch the position and your business idea in a light that makes it attractive to the person listening.
In this next section, I’m going to share how you can present the cofounder opportunity so that it is appealing upfront and lays out the expectations of how they would be involved. You want to be able to present the cofounder position and the business opportunity clearly and confidently so that it instills inspiration from the beginning.
How Do You Present the Cofounder Opportunity?
As you start to get into the different rabbit holes that I explained above while trying to find a cofounder, you need to make sure that your pitch is spot on. Inevitably, potential cofounders are going to want to know the details of the business as well as the potential promise of them joining the company.
Here are the common questions that you should be prepared to chat about as you talk to potential cofounders.
1. What is the business idea? How’d you come up with it?
2. How far along are you in starting the business? Is there competition?
3. What will I be paid? Is there equity involved?
4. What will be my core role?
5. How large of a time commitment is it?
6. How are you paying for the startup costs?
7. How long do you think until we start to make money?
8. What is the 1 year plan for the business?
If you’re prepared to answer these questions, it sets you up to have a productive conversation with potential cofounders or people that may know cofounders. As the founder of the business idea, you need to be able to discuss these topics and show that you’ve thought about them in depth.
By showing that you’re prepared and set on finding a perfect cofounder to help grow your business, it sets the bar high from the beginning and will show that you are serious about getting this idea off the ground.
If you walk into cofounder conversations or networking events without a clear idea of who you need, what you want to build, and how you will compensate them over time, you’re going to leave the events frustrated without leads.
Take the time to answer these questions and know how you want to handle each component of adding a cofounder. If you’re unsure about any of the topics, seek out a mentor who has started businesses before for advice. (That could be me!)
Once you’ve gone through the initial networking steps and have found a handful of interested cofounders, it’s time that you sit down with them to see who is the absolute best fit for your business. Keep in mind that this first hiring decision will be one of the most important to the longevity of your startup. It’s one of the biggest decisions that you’ll make as a business owner so you want to get it right.
In this next section, we’ll get into the questions that you should ask your potential cofounders to weed out the best possible fit to join you in your entrepreneurial journey.
What Questions Should You Ask Potential Cofounders?
The process of finding, interviewing, and bringing on a cofounder can be a tedious task (as can be seen from the loads of steps provided above.
However, it could be a decision that makes a sifnicficant difference in the growth trajectory of your company. Imagine now getting a technical cofounder and your business requires a good amount of development work as it is scaling?
If you had that person on the team from the beginning, you could have grown much, much faster. It’s something to think about as you are starting up.
Below is a list of questions that I’ve used while interviewing potential cofounders for my businesses and I’ve found them to be extremely valuable. Use them as you will and look up what other entrepreneurs are saying online about recruiting and interviewing potential cofounders.
1. Why are you interested in this opportunity?
2. What are your greatest strengths?
3. How do you see yourself growing the company in the first year?
4. What aspects of the company do you NOT want to be involved with?
5. How much time can you commit to this on a weekly basis?
6. How long can you go without a regular salary?
7. Are you prepared to commit the next 5 years to this business?
8. Do you have any plans of moving in the next 5 years?
9. In the ideal world, how does this turn out for you?
10. Will you make the business your #1 priority?
All of these questions get at the core question to which you want answered…WHY? Why does this person want to commit the next 5 to 10 years of their life to working with you on this business idea?
And HOW committed can they really be with it? If commitment is an issue, it’s not the right fit. You want someone that is ready to put their all into it just like you are.
In Conclusion: How Do You Make a Final Decision?
Making a final decision is an extremely difficult internal process, but taking the steps above should place you in a position where you have all of the facts surrounding the various candidates. With all of the information laid out in front of you, you want to pick the cofounder that:
- Adds real value in terms of their skill set to grow the company
- Is the most passionate about the business idea and being an entrepreneur
- Is committed to the idea for the long run
- Is the person that you trust the most
Filter through your potential cofounders with those factors in mind and see who comes out on top. Go with what you feel is the absolute best choice for the company. You may learn from it years down the line if it’s the wrong choice, but if it’s the right one, you gain the potential to build greatness. I’d always risk a lesson learned to build a company with another smart individual that could positively impact people’s lives.
But, that’s just me.
Which way are you leaning? Do you want a cofounder or are you going to do it all on your own? Please share in the comments.