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What to Look for in a Co-founder

November 15, 2018

This article was originally published here.

Before he was President of Early Growth Financial Services, Gadiel Morantes, was a part-time startup co-founder – an experience that taught him a ton about what it takes to be a startup and how to scale a business. One of the biggest lessons he learned was that if you want to scale quickly, you have to be working on your venture full-time. Gadiel and his partner were both part-time and eventually decided to close up shop. However, they achieved many successes along the way, and they attribute that success to being aligned.

This is key for any business or personal relationship. Almost any failed relationship can be traced back to an issue with communicating or not being on the same page. In business, it’s not about being best friends and having shared interests. It really is about having the same vision and checking in as you grow and pivot to make sure you’re still aligned.

There’s a reason companies invest in team-building workshops and retreats. Learning about how your partner works best and how they communicate can make all of the difference. Eventually, you will find your groove as partners. The trick is to consistently ensure you’re aligned and don’t make the “set it and forget it” mistake with your company’s vision. The alignment between you and your co-founder will be foundational as you build your team.

As hard as it is to believe, a successful co-founder relationship really is that simple (though it likely won’t be easy). But, what if it’s just you? How do you know if you even need a co-founder and where do you find them?

When to look for a co-founder

Timing is an important factor for the success of a company. Every situation is unique, but in general, the time to find a co-founder is when you’re ready to raise capital. Investors want to see a strong team including founders, individual contributors (IC), and advisors. They want to know that you have the technial expertise and the ability to sell your vision. For the most part, humans fall on one side of the line. We’ve identified how you should approach looking for a co-founder based on if you consider yourself a technical or non-technical founder.

If you are a non-technical founder

You have a great idea for a technology-based solution, but you don’t know the difference btween HTML and CSS and you thought SaaS (sass) was a term for attitude. You don’t need to run out and find a technical co-founder just yet. You can outsource a lot, if not all, of the development. However, once you’re pitching investors, you want to show them that you’ve got the skills in-house – someone with more skin in the game than a contractor or IC. Once you have that funding and it’s time to scale, you simply won’t be able to get high quality work turned around quickly enough outsourcing.

If you are a technical founder

You can build anything, if you could only stay in your coding zone for 168 hours every week! Instead, scaling a business means constantly talking about it, pitching investors, and getting lay people to understand your technical genius. That’s where your co-founder comes in. While you make the sausage, they’re the face of the company.

Where are they?

This may be more challenging if you’re on the technical side, because you’ll have to put on your non-tech hat and build your network. Attend pitch competitions and startup-focused networking events. Hang out at coworking spaces, accelerators, and incubators. Similar to hiring practices today, you’re more likely to find a great co-founder through a recommendation. Constantly be building your network, so when you need to tap into it, you have a pool of potential co-founders or champions who will help you find one.

Traits to look for  

You have a potential co-founder in mind. How do you know they’ll be the right fit? A lot of co-founders talk about a gut-feeling and trusting their intuition. This is good advice, and there are a few common traits among entrepreneurs that you’ll want to check off the list before splitting equity of your company.

  • Passionate – They may not be obsessed with your idea yet, but are they a passionate person who will dedicate the “blood, sweat, and tears” it takes to grow a business?
  • Adaptable – By now, you’ve learned that things can change drastically at the drop of a dime. Is this person flexible and agile enough to adapt when necessary?
  • Honest – You don’t have time for dishonesty or beating around the bush in the startup life. Does this person’s integrity match yours?

Also, ensure that your strengths are actually complimentary. Don’t bring in another “you.” Remember, you don’t have to be BFFs, you are partners with a shared a vision. Once you’ve found the right person to bring in, be sure to discuss these eight issues ASAP.

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