How to Find a Co-founder – 5 Questions You Need To Ask

How to Find a Co-founder – 5 Questions You Need To Ask

Table of Contents

You need only 5 questions to find a co-founder that fits your startup. These 5 questions will also increase the chance you will find the right co-founder on the first try. I should warn you. You have to start with yourself. Ask yourself each of these questions and answer them. Then, ask these questions your potential co-founder. Finally, compare the answers. The result will speak for itself. So, are you ready to find out what questions you need to ask to find the right co-founder?

What skills do you need and don’t have?

This is one of the most important questions every founder has to ask. Do I have all skills necessary to build the company I want to build? If your answer is yes, then congratulations. Feel free to skip and move to the second question. What if your answer is no? Then, you have two options. First, you can learn that skill. I believe that any skill can be learned. You “just” need to put in enough time and effort. It will be hard work, but it is doable. Elon Musk taught himself rocket science.

The second option is to find a co-founder who has this skill. This is usually relatively faster and more comfortable solution. It can be also a better solution if your time and resources are limited. Then, you may not have enough time to learn everything by yourself. In that case co-founder with complementary skills can be a better choice. Still, remember that skills are not everything. You will spend a lot of time together. So, make sure that you will get along with each other.

This is fair a play

To some people, this might not look like a fair or honest reason for finding a co-founder. It might look like using skills of someone else to help you achieve your plans and goals. Some people could think that this is a little bit Machiavellian. I think that this point of view is completely wrong. Every person in the company should bring something to the table. Whether it is in the form of knowledge, skills or capital. Everyone has to participate.

There is no place for bystanders (I will repeat this again later). You are not using someone else’s skills in the wrong way. Remember that your co-founder will get a stake in your company and make some money. This is a fair play, win-win situation if you want. In a fact, it would be unfair to you, and people in your company, if you brought someone who didn’t add anything. That, would be an unfair. In that case, you and your teammates would be investing your time, effort and money while the co-founder is just reaps the results. You know the saying: “There’s no reward without work.

So, if you lack some necessary skill or knowledge, don’t feel bad for looking for a person who has it. Think about it is just another deal. You give portion of your company and you get skills or knowledge in exchange. Is there a way to have it even more fair?

No, you don’t need a co-founder

There is one thing we should address. What if you don’t want to have a co-founder? Maybe you lack some important skill, but you don’t think that having co-founder is a good choice. Should you still find a co-founder just because someone told you to do it? I don’t think so. We already discussed the pros and cons of having a co-founder. My opinion is that if you don’t want to have a co-founder, you don’t have to have a co-founder. One founder can build a company.

What if you know that there is some skill, or skills, you need to build the company? Then, you can hire someone who has this skill. Yes, it is that simple. Instead of finding a co-founder you can hire your first employee. Some people prefer having a co-founder because they don’t have to pay them salary. Instead, he gets a stake in your company. Who says you can’t do the same when hiring an employee? Although this is not sustainable in the long term, it will work well in the short term.

So, if you don’t want to start looking for a co-founder, and you don’t have enough money, offer people stake in your company. Some people will accept your offer and some will not. And, for some people this will be even bigger motivation than salary. The value of their stake is directly intertwined with success of the company. The better work they do, the more will they gain.

Finally, you may also ask someone to help you for a period of time, until you acquire that skill. This can be a solution in case you want to learn that skill, but you currently don’t have time to do it. I should warn you that if you don’t have enough time now, don’t think it will change later. As your startup takes off, the amount of your “free” time will shrink even more. So, it can happen that, after some time, you will hire your “temporary” help and make her your full-time employee.

What is your vision?

Almost every startup founder starts his company with certain vision. It usually starts with solving some problem. Sure, there is a plenty of people who’s only vision or goal is to copy what works and sell it for a big check. And, some of these people built successful business on this approach, Oliver Samwer for example. What do you want to do with you company is up to you to decide. Still, if you want to find a co-founder, you need to have at least some idea about what your vision is.

Founders determine which direction the company will go. Therefore, it is necessary that all founders share the same vision. Founders with different visions is a guarantee for a disaster. Imagine that you are pushing the company in one direction while your co-founder pushes the company in other direction, or opposite one. Or the opposite. You don’t need any experience with building a startup to know that this just doesn’t work. All founders must agree on single vision.

You can create your vision later

Is it possible to create this vision on the go? Yes, it is. You can find a co-founder first and create your vision later. Still, it is necessary that both of you share this vision. For some people, this is the main reason why they want to find a co-founder. They know they want to do something and they may also have the skills. What they don’t have, or know, is the big picture. If this is your case, then maybe the right co-founder will help you close this gap.

Still, I have to say that having a blurry vision is better than trying to find it through co-founder. It is easier to find the right fit (right co-founder) if you know what type of person are you looking for. Think about it as traveling. You are more likely to get to the destination if you know where it is. Saying “I want to travel” will get you nowhere. At least, you need to know where to start. Remember, you can always adjust your plans and vision on the go. So, what is your vision?

How big do you want to go?

This is relatively closely related to knowing what is your vision. And, I think that it is as important. There is a difference between wanting to build a small startup with just a few employees and building something much bigger. You don’t need to know precisely how big company do you want to build. I mean, you don’t know the exact number of employees, profits or whatever. However, you should have some idea about how big you would like to build.

You need to understand that not everyone is comfortable with managing dozens, hundreds or thousands of employees. And, not everyone wants to build a global company. Some people like to keep things small. They are happy with having a small company and team of five or six people. If this is what do you want, go ahead. There is nothing wrong with it. The same is true if you want to build something big, something on a global scale. If it is what you really want, you should go for it.

If you decide that you want to find a co-founder, you have to make this clear. Just like with vision, you need to find someone who is comfortable with building a company on the scale you want to reach. Otherwise, it is again a guarantee for a disaster. You are pushing the company to grow bigger and bigger while your co-founder wants to keep it small. Or, your co-founder wants to grow the company while you want to keep it small. This will never work, ever.

If you should remember just one thing from this article, it should be this. All founders must pull together. And, this applies to your team and just every person in your company. One company, one team, one vision, one goal, one direction. So, before you approach anyone and ask him for joining your company, think about the size and scale you want to reach. Then, address this with potential co-founder. Make sure that he is comfortable with your idea. Otherwise, look somewhere else.

How hard are you willing to work?

This question may sound a little bit weird, but it is definitely worth asking. You need to know how hard are you willing to work to build your company. You have to be clear about how much effort are you willing to put in to make your dream and vision reality. Why? You need to find a co-founder who will share your enthusiasm and, most importantly, your work ethic. Founders are the engine of the company. They indicate the pace. The rest of the team follows.

When all founders are willing to lead by example and work hard, it has an incredible impact on the morale and work ethic of the whole team. Put simply, people in your team will work much harder if they see that you and your co-founder work hard as well. On the other hand, what do you think will happen if they see you or your co-founder always just hanging around? They will not like it. They may tolerate it for a moment, but after a while you will see how the morale begin to wane.

For this reason, you have to make sure to get a co-founder who is willing to work as hard as you do or push you to work even harder. You have to avoid anyone who is below this bar. Your teammates should never complain that one of the founders is working less hard. If they do, take it as a clear sign that you and your co-founder need to talk. And, the same is true about you. If you are not willing to work hard, don’t take on board someone who is.

This will be a receipt for a disaster. Your co-founder will be working 18 hours a day while you will be working only 12? Again, this will never work. Soon, your co-founder will start to complain that you are not putting in the same effort as he does. This should never happen. It doesn’t matter what portion of the company you or your co-founder have. Founders should work equally hard.

Why do you want to find a co-founder?

This one is the last question you need to ask if you want to find a co-founder that will be the right fit. However, that doesn’t mean it is the least important. It is rather the opposite. You have to know the real reason behind your decision to find a co-founder. And, don’t kid yourself. There are many reasons why other people would look for a co-founder. These reasons are not important. Well, they might be, but they are not yours. You have to have your own reason. Dig deep.

This quest to find a co-founder is similar to looking for your future spouse. You need to know who are you looking for and why. It is not enough to know how should she look like or what should she know. Without the why, you may find an attractive woman, but your interest may fade away after a while. The why of the majority of people is usually love. They want to share their live experiences with someone and they don’t want to be alone. Another reason might be money or fame.

There are people who are looking for a partner purely because they want money. Other people are looking for gains in the form of fame. Getting famous by finding someone who is already famous is easier than building your fame from scratch. For some people, the “why” is both, money and fame. The same is true about business. It is easier to get yourself into established company than build one. However, the majority of these relationships don’t last for long. Although, some of them do.

Use your why as a compass

Whether you think these are good reasons for bringing another person into your life is not important now. Important thing is that both these reasons work as specific “why”. And, this makes it much easier to find a person who meets your conditions. It works like a compass. Yes, these can be your reasons too. If you want to find a co-founder who will fit into your company, you need to understand your “why”. Personally, I would not make any step forward without knowing it.

I should mention that it is likely that one of the previous questions will help you discover your “why”. For example, you may find out that you lack some skills and you don’t want to learn it. This is a pretty simple math. You need certain skill to get your business up and running. Unfortunately, you don’t have that skill. And, you either don’t have the time or you don’t want to learn this skill. Conclusion? Find a co-founder who possesses this skill, or who is at least willing to learn it.

Another example can be that you don’t like certain aspect of running a company. Who knows, maybe you don’t like to manage people. On the other hand, you are great with technology or sales. Then, find a co-founder who will do this job so you can be useful in areas fitting you better. This doesn’t mean that you should put together a group of co-founders to take about everything so you can then just hang around. This is not what are we talking about.

Every person on your team must have some role and participate on running the company. Building a company from scratch is incredibly hard. Don’t take on even more weight by inviting people who want only to sit and watch. And, don’t this by yourself. Otherwise, people in your team will follow your example and you will close your business sooner than you can imagine.

Knowing the “why” is not a must

Is knowing the “why” an absolute must? My short answer no. It is quite possible that you will find a co-founder based just on the three previous questions. And, your relationship might work very well, even great. If you find the right fit, knowing the “why” is not a must. You can think about it as looking for a job. You don’t have to know your “why” to find some and take it. Take a look around and you will find a lot of people who did that. Whether they like their job is a different question.

So, why should you bother with answering this question if you can find a co-founder without it? Answering this question will increase the chance that you to find the perfect fit. It increases the chance that you will find a person and you will not regret it. Like in the case of marriage, you probably want to find the right person on the first try. You don’t want to waste months or years going from one marriage to another to find the right person.

Remember that it doesn’t matter whether we are talking about partner in business or life. In both cases, it costs you time, energy and money. What you spend on one person, you can’t invest in another. This is especially truth in case of time. In the world of business, this is probably the most precious asset you have. So, don’t waste it. Understand your “why”, find a co-founder you can run a company with and make the world a better place.

Closing thoughts on how to find a co-founder

When you decide to find a co-founder, you may take a path that is as bumpy and difficult as the path to building a startup. If I can give you one last advice, don’t rush it. Take as much time as you thin is necessary. Finding the right co-founder is like a marriage. You have to think deeply about both decisions before you take the leap. The consequences are serious and sometimes very hard to reverse. So, do yourself a favor. Choose your co-founder wisely and don’t rush it.

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By Alex Devero

I'm Founder/CEO of DEVERO Corporation. Entrepreneur, designer, developer. My mission and MTP is to accelerate the development of humankind through technology.

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