Finding a co-founder

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You’re a non-technical guy who has an genius idea for a web technology startup. Only one problem, who’s going to build it? You’ll never be able to be successful in a technology business if you outsource your technology. Don’t kid yourself into spending thousands of dollars hiring a consultant to implement your idea. You need a co-founder. But where do you find one?

In general, your idea isn’t nearly as brilliant or unique as you think it is. Chances are, of the billions of other minds on this planet, at least one has thought of your idea or at least something real darn similar to it. So the first step to finding a co-founder is to accept that and get over it.

This is important because you need to realize it in order to find someone who will be a valuable partner in your business. A co-founder isn’t just someone who does the parts of the business that you can’t. You want someone who has different strengths and weaknesses than you have. If you’re a methodical planner, it might help to have a passionate doer as a partner. He’ll help push you and the company forward, while you’ll help keep the company on an even keel.

If you go into this with the mindset that you’re looking for a tech guy to build out your idea, I can guarantee failure. Even if you give him equal share in the company, he’s not an equal partner. He’s the guy you gave 50% equity to to build YOUR idea. Instead, you have to find someone who is passionate about your idea, who can add to it. And who you accept and trust as a partner.

You also need to realize that you’ll spend insane amounts of time with your partner. In the early days of the business you’ll spend more time with your co-founder than will with your spouse, girlfriend, dog, or parents. And the "early days" might last a year or more. You’ll need to get along with him. You’ll need to trust them to look out for your interests and the interests of the company.

As with any relationship, you’ll have disagreements. You’ll screw up. He’ll screw up. You’ll be angry about a choice he made. He’ll think you’re over-reacting. And you’ll have to get through it.

Where do you find a partner then? It’s a lot like finding a mate. Often the right person for the job is someone you already know, you just don’t realize it yet. You can socialize and network and you might find someone that way. You can advertise.

Keep in mind, however, that your partner will be an important part of your life and your business. People don’t post some ads on a dating site and jump into marriage with the first good response. You’re not going to end up with a good marriage if you meet someone at a bar and marry them a few days later. You aren’t going to have a great partnership with someone you just met.

The best way to find someone is to talk about your ideas. With your friends. With strangers and new acquaintances at parties and networking events. With the guy next to you on the bus. Don’t be afraid that someone’s going to steal your idea. Ideas are worthless, remember? It’s what you do with them that counts. Most people don’t have the initiative to execute on your idea. And the ones that do have plenty of ideas of their own.

When you talk about your ideas with people, amazing things will happen. People will point out flaws you hadn’t seen. Angles you haven’t thought of. Revenue streams that you never considered. Your idea will change, evolving into something better. And along the way, you’ll meet someone who gets as excited about your idea as you do. Someone who’s suggestions and thoughts start filling in the holes in your idea, making you more excited about it. You’ll find yourself wanting to talk with them more about your idea, spending hours over coffee and dinner talking about it.

You just found your partner.

Ryan Dickherber
January 1, 2008 6:12 PM

Great article. One question: why just one partner? Are there any advantages to having a whole team of founders?

Dan Hodgin
January 9, 2008 6:32 PM

Very insightful post. So glad that the blogging community exists, or else great content like this would never reach me. I thrive somewhere between the purely technical and the non-technical end of things. I am finishing a BA at the University of BC, but my new passion is programming. I want to get to the point where I can speak Programese at an acceptable level because The best partnerships are comprised of people with opposite skillsets- as long as you can get along reasonably well. I have had some success with networking to find cofounders. Just find any type of talk/meeting/event, and attend. Make sure to shake as many hands as possible and show up with lots of cards. You never know who you might meet. Looking forward to more interesting posts.

UK
January 15, 2008 12:17 PM

Misleading title....The title of the blog should have been "who to choose a co-founder" NOT "finding a co-founder". lots of advice on which partner to choose, but hardly any advice on "sources" to find the technical co-founder - even I knew I need to network and advertise (duh!). I hoped to find specific association/organization names, etc. People like me take titles seriously and spend time that we don't have on blogs like this...

Adam Kalsey
January 22, 2008 4:24 PM

UK: Had I titled this as "sources of co-founders" then perhaps I'd feel terrible that I wasted your time. Try reading the second to last paragraph again. I explain how to look. Unfortunately I'm not sure how someone could come up with an exhaustive list of where to look for a co-founder. It's going to be different for different geographies and industries. Where you'd go to network for a bio-tech business would be different than where you'd go for a shoe store business. And frankly, if you're hunting for the perfect place to meet a co-founder, you didn't understand anything I said at all. It doesn't work that way. Finding a co-founder is a process, not an event.

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