Solo Founder Vs. Co-founding Team: Finding the right co-founder for your venture

One of the hidden and the same time very obvious things which VC looks at in a business is the TEAM. All successful businesses are built by a great team and co-founders. Be ready to face some of these questions:

  • How did you meet your co-founder?
  • How long have you known each other?
  • What makes you a great team?
  • Who are a hustler (business), hacker (engineer), and hipster (designer)?
Photo: Visual Tag Mx (Pexel)

The team plays a critical role in the business journey as well as during the fundraising process. However, one should not forget that there are many successful businesses with solo founders. It is challenging, but not impossible. Thus, the journey can be memorable and enjoyable if you have a pleasant co-rider but it can excruciatingly painful if you have an annoying one.

There is an interesting research paper published by Wharton School in January 2018 — Solo Survivors: Solo Ventures vs Founding Teams. The study analysed 3,526 startup companies and found interesting fact. The companies started by solo founders survive longer than those started by teams. Investors preferred and funded startups with multiple cofounders. However, the study found that startups with single founders tended to last longer and eventually achieve higher revenue.

Credit: Laura Wentzel

Finding the right co-founder is a difficult task. Sometimes it’s like falling in love at first sight, and other times it’s like living in a relationship before making a long-term commitment. There is, however, no correct answer. You will receive various pieces of advice from various mentors, such as:

  • Don’t formalize the relationship (incorporation) till you are sure
  • Start working and see if co-founders are aligned
  • Have a vesting clause before finalizing the co-agreement
  • Challenge and push each other to see there is the upward or downward effect

However, I believe that if you find the right match, none of this will matter. Rather than drafting a co-founder agreement, spend more time getting to know your co-founder. Important factors to consider when looking for a co-founder:

  1. VISION

When starting a business, having a clear vision is critical. The same principle is very important while looking for a co-founder. Why do you and your co-founder want to solve this problem? As Naval Ravikant mentioned that building a venture is at least 10 years of commitment. So one needs to have a grand vision so that one can accept all suffering and pains.

When someone reaches out to you and wants to launch something with you (especially among college students). Then ask the following questions to your co-founder:

  • What is their vision about the problem you are looking to solve?
  • Do you and your co-founder (s) get excited about the core problem?
  • Are you aligned to solve the problem in the same way or have a different perspective?
  • When do they want to leave their job and move full-time in the business?

You can check out this Co-founder Survey compiled by #JaneyBuzugbe.

2. MISSION

What does your co-founder see as the future? Ask your co-founder about his goals for the next five years. Sometimes, he/she will tell you every other thing except the venture:

  • Want to become a successful executive
  • Want to get a promotion and grow in the career
  • Want to find a job in some big companies

These are clear indications that he or she is not prepared, and it is preferable to have an open discussion. The real ingredient for building a successful venture is mission (Karma).

3. ALIGNMENT

Another critical factor is determining the complementary skills or roles that each co-founder will play. At the outset, assign responsibilities to each other based on each other’s strengths, rather than a choice.

I loved this quote from Tobias Lütk, CEO of Shopify:

“Shopify, like any other for-profit company, is not a family. The very idea is preposterous. You are born into a family. You never choose it, and they can’t un-family you. It should be massively obvious that Shopify is not a family but I see people, even leaders, casually use terms like ‘Shopifam’ which will cause the members of our teams (especially junior ones that have never worked anywhere else) to get the wrong impression. The dangers of ‘family thinking’ are that it becomes incredibly hard to let poor performers go. Shopify is a team, not a family.

Each team member must play to their strengths. It is critical that each co-founder understands it from the start. You can make use of some excellent tools. You can use some great tools PrincipleYou and/or some other tools like HBDI® (Herrmann Brain Dominance Instrument). If you discover that your skills and personality do not align, you will need to do some preliminary work.

4. SPEED

People will tell that a building venture is not a sprint but a marathon. However, I feel that it is infinite numbers of sprints that collectively become marathons. The early warning signs are that co-founder (s) is not attending meetings, finishing tasks, setting milestones, and does not show fire in the belly to work. This means that it is not for them or maybe he/she is not sure. Moving forward is the best course of action.

4. COMMITMENT

If you can not speak with your co-founder at least once a time in a day or multiple times in the week. This is the warning sign. If you and/or your co-founder are busy in your day job, busy with family in the evening, and busy with personal activities over the weekends, then the venture is not your priority. Just have a plain chat and move forward.

There are some platforms that can help you to find the right co-founder, which I have discussed in the latter part of this article.

Entrepreneur First — It is an excellent platform if you are looking for a co-founder. EF runs cohorts of amazing people, where you can meet co-founders and build technology startups from scratch.

CoFoundersLab — It is an online community, where you can find co-founder(s) based on interests, skills, and location. However, you will need to carry out the vetting process.

Reddit — It is also an amazing platform if you are looking to build a technology startup. I personally know a couple of founders, who met each other on the Reddit platform.

In last, I would say that what are you looking for in others should also lie within you as well.

About The Author

Jaspal Singh is the Co-founder of Mobility Innovation Lab (MIL) and Host of the Mobility Innovators Podcast. He loves to talk about startups, mobility, and technology.

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Co-founder @MobilitySandbox, Director @UITP. Previously at @Uber, @TheOtherHome. Twitter: @TheJaspalSingh

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Jaspal Singh

Co-founder @MobilitySandbox, Director @UITP. Previously at @Uber, @TheOtherHome. Twitter: @TheJaspalSingh