You have identified a problem. You are convinced that the TAM is big & that the product-market fit is real. You have a vision for the technology solution you want to take to market.
But can you take this idea to market alone? Successful solo founders are not unheard of. There are founders within our Jungle family who are going it alone & achieving great things. But there is a lot to be said for finding a partner in crime.
For a start, you get more done. In the early days of a tech start-up it is all hands to the pump. Big decisions are coming thick & fast. Teams are being built. Money is being raised. You rarely have enough hours in the day. Having a co-pilot to share the burden with you can afford you invaluable breathing space.
When momentum slows you can brainstorm ideas. With so much to do it is easy to lose sight of what excited you in the first place. The compelling thought that started you on this journey. Perhaps in the chaos of early growth your passion might have waned & the vision for the product has lost its sharpness. A great co-founder always has the time for the vision. To challenge it, evolve it & celebrate it.
Finally, you have some emotional support. The journey of a start-up founder has its ups & downs. The ultimate rollercoaster. Just around the corner every success is the risk of another set-back. Not everything will go your way. Having a co-founder for whom the stakes are just as high offers incredibly valuable moral support.
WHAT MAKES A GREAT CO-FOUNDER?
- Values. It is critical that you & your co-founder are on the same wavelength. Not only when it comes to the goals for the company but also the values that will define how you do business. How will they resolve conflicts? How will they act under pressure? Are they ready to roll up their sleeves & execute with excellence?
- Vision. For some, founding a business is a sprint towards an IPO with a ‘growth at all costs’ mentality. For others it is a marathon with a patient, analytical approach that focuses on sustainable growth. Some will have high salary expectations. Others will be willing & able to get by on a shoestring. Some will work day & night. Others will expect a good work-life balance. It is crucial you are on the same wavelength otherwise clashes will be inevitable.
- Personality. You will be spending hours, days & years with this person. Building & scaling your business. It will be a very intimate experience so complementary personalities are incredibly important. Remember this person will also be one of the faces of your business. A strong, positive personality will attract investor money & great talent. They will motivate teams & inspire customers with confidence.
- Skills. None of us can be good at everything & all of us benefit from focus. A great co-founder could be someone whose specialism is very different to your own. Perhaps you specialise in sales but lack the technical skills. Bringing in a founder who can bring complementary skills to yours.
WHERE TO FIND THIS UNICORN?
Does this perfect individual really exist? Cast your net wide to find the perfect co-founder. Take your time. Talk through your idea in depth. Encourage them to express their early vision for the business. It might be only after a few minutes that the compatibility becomes clear.
- Friends. Often great friends can make great founders. Think back to your university days or even earlier in your career & think about those people who demonstrate the skills & values you require. People who you can instinctively picture yourself working with every day.
- Experts. You might not have met the right person yet. Start growing your network online, at events like hackathons or even via referrals. Identify people with the right skills & a great reputation then seek out a meeting. Share your vision & get their feedback. Even if they end up not being the right fit for you, their opinion could help you refine your idea.
- Incubators. Finally, there are always incubators like Antler or Entrepreneur First. Incubators are purpose-built for finding a co-founder, validating your business ideas, meeting with investors & ultimately building a company to be proud of.
In conclusion, imagine your co-founder as your other half. A natural leader with a shared mindset, valuable skills, deep industry expertise & a passion for your idea. Finding the right person is not straightforward so don’t leap into the arms of the first person to show interest. They must be a thinker & a doer. Someone who can inspire you & ground you. A relentless optimist & a voice of reason.
Best of luck finding your other half. We expect you’ll know them when you see them.