They say choosing a co-founder is a lot like choosing your life partner. You will spend countless hours together and your future, your success and your happiness will be intermingled. You will be in it together (hopefully) for life.
Two friends get an idea, start a venture, grow wealthy and live happily ever after, that’s the ideal story, right? Wrong! Many a time such partnerships end poorly. Most startups sink due to failed partnerships and bad relationships between co-founders. The atmosphere, the culture, the synergy may make or break an enterprise and much of those depend on the relationship between the co-founders.
Therefore, picking up the right co-founder is the very decision that could determine the fate of your venture. Nothing can be perfect but we can learn from other’s experiences to help us take rational and intelligent decisions. So, before you look for your co-founder, keep these points in mind:
1. Alignment in Thoughts
You have to realise that if you want to work with people to develop your venture; you have to share the same passion for the cause and be aligned in thoughts (vision, objectives, principles, etc.) It’s important for business partners to have their objectives, their values and their passions in sync with each other, more so for social enterprises, to ensure that they together establish short-term and long-term goals and are on the same page regarding the future of the company. This will make the tough calls a lot easier.
2. Complementary Skills
Unfortunately, while searching for a co-founder, many don’t realise what they’re looking for might not be what they ought to look for. Many a time, people look out for people exactly like them (the validation is enticing). Sure, the ideal business partner shares similarities with you but s/he should have a different set of strengths, opinions and habits. Your co-founder should bring everything you’re missing on the table, so, as a team, you’re a complete package. People with complementary skills have different perspectives towards overcoming the various challenges faced by the company, which helps in generating innovative ideas. A complementary ‘One build, One sells’ approach where one founder is responsible for building and the other is responsible for selling the product is a perfect model for a startup.Your skill sets should complement each other so that personalities and business strengths are balanced. For instance, Varun Sheth, the founder of Ketto (a crowdfunding platform) has a background in finance. Of the other two co-founders, Kunal Kapoor is a famous Bollywood actor and Zaheer Adenwala has a degree in mechanical engineering and was a product manager before he had joined Ketto. Their diverse skill sets complement each other perfectly.
You can take this from your parents. Never rely on “fair weather friends”. On the lookout, consider if the person is driven by an entrepreneurial drive. Most people would be excited to work with you and develop the venture but would they share the same enthusiasm when the times are tough? This separates the ones who are in it for themselves from the ones who are in it for the enterprise (even better, in it for the cause!). This drive will stem from their passion for the cause and this one thing, a shared passion for a mutual cause will make all the difference.
4. Entrepreneurial Quotient
We all know, working at a startup differs from working at mainstream enterprises. The work culture, flexibility, perseverance, open-mindedness required are not suitable for everyone. For social enterprises, working with someone who shares the same entrepreneurial mindset to solve problems and someone who adjusts to unexpected obstacles will make running the enterprise a lot smoother. An ideal co-founder should be someone who doesn’t sweat the small stuff and understands the flexibility necessary in building a startup.
As with any relationship, compatibility between co-founders plays a huge part. Compatibility is built upon trust and friendship. It is important to find someone whom you can get along with. Building a venture from scratch is taxing. Tackling those roadblocks is much easier if you get along well with your co-founder. This is tested at times of conflict. When you have disagreements, do you and your co-founder listen to each other? Are you arguing for what’s best for the company or to win the argument?
6. Flexible and Adaptable
In the ever changing complex market dynamics, the social startup is likely to encounter many unexpected challenges and hurdles. Thus it is crucial to look for a co-founder who is emotionally stable and can quickly adapt to the changing situations and take tough decisions when required. A business partner has to be flexible; should be able to mould himself to assume any role and responsibility, vital for the growth of the business. Initially, the startup might not have the funds to employ adequate workforce. In such cases, the co-founder needs to be flexible enough to also handle the small tasks like answering phone calls, office maintenance, etc. The co-founder should also be humble enough to accept that he might not know everything and has the will to learn new things to take the business forward.
7. Strong Character
At the ownership level, there are many activities and actions, legal or illegal, which can destroy the credibility and disrepute the startup. It’s critical to seek a co-founder who is honest, ethical and has morally strong principles. While starting a new company errors and mistakes are bound to happen. But if the co-founder is trustworthy and honest, it becomes easier to fix the issues.
8. Respect and Appreciation for everyone on the team
Founders with different levels of experience and strengths need to have mutual respect and appreciation for each other. At a startup, the founders will be assigned different roles and responsibilities and there might be instances where one founder is more competent and has more experience compared to the other but that gives no one the right to undermine their partner’s’ contribution towards the growth of the company. Thus, it is imperative to find a co-founder who has like-minded core values, ethics and temperament.
Once a potential candidate is selected for the position of a co-founder, the entrepreneur should take some time before entrusting the person with a substantial amount of work and responsibilities. It’s advisable for them to first work together on a few small projects to see if their distinct working styles don’t clash. Only on the successful completion of the test run, it is advisable to appoint the candidate as a co-founder.
Featured Image Courtesy: Business Insider