Picking the right co-founder is essential to the success of your startup. In this presentation, I share the process that helped me find my co-founder at ezClocker, a time tracking and scheduling SaaS company.
First, create the vision. What do you want to build or create? Who will it serve? How will it make an impact on the world? You may not know all the details regarding what the final product is going to look like but you should be able to articulate the concept and its purpose to your potential co-founder.
Now that you have an idea of what you are going to create, the next step is to define your role in the startup. Are you the visionary/business strategist? Are you the hacker; the one who is going to build it? Or, are you the hustler; the one who will go out and find the clients and partners? There may be different roles, depending on the type of startup you have, but the concept is the same: define the roles necessary to execute your plan. As a co-founder, you might find yourself playing several roles. Remember, however, that you will never be good at all of them, so pick the ones in which you excel and find others who will complement your role.
After defining your role, it’s time to think about who would make a good co-founder for you and your organization. I've seen entrepreneurs pick their best friend or spouse as the co-founder. On one level, this makes sense, as they already trust and get along with the person, which makes it easier to work together. On the other hand, while getting along with your co-founder is important, you don't need to be close friends. In fact, in most instances, it’s best if you weren’t, simply because of the personal connection you have with that person. It’s better to, instead, look at all the people with whom you’ve enjoyed working professionally in the past and pick from that pool. These are the people with whom you have a professional, not personal, relationship. When things go wrong or there are problems, nothing is taken personally. The bonus is that you maintain the relationship with your best friend or spouse.
Another mistake I've seen, and one I have actually done myself, is drawing up all the legal paperwork and spending money on creating a company before confirming you have a viable product. We are all guilty of this. You are talking with a friend and suddenly come up with an idea. You immediately think, “Oh this is a great idea! Let’s build it and make millions!” You then have a meeting to decide on the equity, decide whether you should make your new endeavor an LLC, and pay a lawyer or LegalZoom.com to make it official. Then, after spending a couple of thousand dollars, you build a prototype only to discover you don't have a product that people want.
Picking the right co-founder is an import part of your startup success. Most importantly, however, remember that entrepreneurship is a journey. Enjoy the ride!