One of the most important, if not the most important, decisions that can be made when becoming an entrepreneur is whether or not you should take the plunge yourself or find a co-founder (or two, or three).
While there no doubt your own skills are awesome, before launching a startup, some serious personal reflection is required.
Do you have the necessary skills to go it alone?
Is there someone you could work with?
Is there someone with whom you could enter into one of the most important relationships of your life?
We asked three Canadian startups to share their tips on finding the right co-founder. Here’s what Jonathon Moody from Versature, Kristy O’Leary from Scout & Burrow, and Josie Elfassy-Isakow from Snapshot Magnets had to say:
A Geek, a Hipster, and a Hustler
Any good partnership (romantic or professional) is built on the idea that the other person complements you, that they make you a better version of yourself. In business, this point is especially important – we all have different strengths and weaknesses. A good back-end developer needs a good business visionary. Just look at Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak.
At Versature, Jonathon and his two co-founders each bring something to the table. Jonathon is the Chief Operating Officer (COO), another co-founder takes the Chief Financial Officer (CFO) role, and the third is the Chief Technology Officer (CTO). Together their skills complement each other to build one super skillset. Similarly at Snapshot Magnets, Josie focuses on the creative side (she says she could spend hours searching for the perfect typeface!), while her co-founder/brother has the business acumen to drive them forward.
A twist on the adage that a successful business needs “a finder, a minder, and a grinder,” be sure that between you and your co-founder(s) you have a geek (the tech), a hipster (to gauge what’s cool), and a hustler (to peddle the product).
Exhaust All Your Options
Just like finding a good roommate, when entering into an important business partnership you want to avoid any unexpected surprises. No one wants to find out after the fact that their roommate (or co-founder) collects the hair of strangers in bags in their closet.
Josie from Snapshot Magnets lucked out and found her co-founder within her own family. She says it’s important to work with someone you know and trust because in times of stress, you’ll need to be able to communicate well in order to express concerns.
For those who aren’t fortunate enough to have a co-founder with similar DNA, both Jonathon and Kristy suggest putting in time at networking events like meetups, startup weekends, and university gatherings. “It’s not just about going to network, it’s about meeting new faces and working with them on small projects,” says Jonathon.
Get to Your MVP
In the startup world, there’s always talk about getting to your MVP (minimum viable product) to start shipping. But what if your MVP wasn’t your product. What if your MVP was your team, your co-founder(s)?
Jonathon raised this concept of a team MVP at Versature. “Startups are agile by design, but it’s important to apply those ideals around iteration to more than just your product,” he says.
With Scout & Burrow, initially Kristy and her first co-founder didn’t go looking for a third. Instead, they ‘hired’ their third co-founder to work for them on a trial basis because of the value she had as one of their stakeholders. This trial period allowed for everyone to assess the success of the working relationship.
A Values-Based Approach
If you’re focused on building a social enterprise and your colleague wants to build the next Google, you might have difficulty finding common ground for your company’s mission. Having common business values are integral to success.
With Scout & Burrow, Kristy and her co-founders connected around the belief that they could use their business to make the world better. “We’re committed to a mission of helping forward-thinking changemakers succeed in making both an impact and a profit,” Kristy says.
Stick To It
Finding the right co-founder isn’t going to be easy. It requires hard work and perseverance to find the right fit.
“It’s a small pool in Canada,” says Jonathon. “One thing we don’t do as Canadians is expect failure; we need to learn to try and fail and keep going. There are a lot of good skills you can find, you just have to work at it.”
So capitalize on the serendipitous experiences but also don’t be afraid to try (and fail) a few times to find the co-founder that best suits your startup.