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How to Select Right Co-Founder for your Startup

selecting a co founder

World is changing so quickly, that a great idea today, will most likely be gone in 2 years (1 year of waiting + 6 months of coding + 6 months of tweaking and launch).

People are all Yes, Yes, Yes, when TALKING about a start-up, but most become all excuses when it comes time to get to work. You have to find those rare people that actually show up for work to co-found with.

So you want to launch a tech startup? What should you look for in a Co-Founder if you already understand that your probability of getting funded and success as a single founder is virtually zero? Below is my own take on this startup hurdle after forming teams to run FinTech startups and learning from many hard knocks in between. Here is what I suggest you look for in a C0-Founder:

Complementary Skill-Sets:

Starting a “tech startup” with your MBA buddies is a perfect recipe for disaster. If you are the business founder, look for a builder of a product first (i.e. your CTO) and play the role of market builder, product manager and handler of “all things business”. For a good while, this should be the core team necessary to get enough traction to raise a seed round or join an incubator.

How to Select Right Co-Founder for your StartupIntegrity, Energy & Intellect:

This is what Warren Buffet looks for in people and I believe it’s perfectly applicable in the startup scene as well. Why? if your co-founder lacks integrity, you are bound to get screwed when greed, envy and self-preservation kick into high gear. This situation can occur if someone has to ‘save himself or herself’ at the expense of the rest of the team which is a common case in acquihire scenarios.

selecting a co founderWorking with folks that have a moral compass and high integrity helps to mitigate this risk and also create the right corporate culture from day one. In terms of energy, the last issue you want with a co-founder is to have inequities in terms of output or commitment since the mutual goal is to learn and iterate faster than your competitors.

A startup is one of the hardest things you can ever do and it requires a significant amount of stamina. Also, if we assume that everyone else is as smart or smarter than you, then hard work can make a difference vs. your competitors. Having said that, if you add intellect to energy and integrity, then you’d be more likely to outsmart and outpace your competitors.

Matching Risk-Tolerance:

I lost a major investor with a $MM+ commitment in part due to a risk-tolerance mismatch. I’d be willing to drive an Uber at night (if I really had to) in order to make ends meet and keep a company alive. Others, with much lower risk tolerance, may be too quick to take a job and call it quits.

find tech co founderIf there’s a mismatch and you are the one with the higher risk tolerance, you are bound to be working with an employee and not a business owner, which can create a significant drag on your finances and overall psyche as you tame your co-founders fears when the going gets tough.

T-Shape Backgrounds:

you don’t want a “one trick pony” as the saying goes in Silicon Valley when referring to hiring a person that’s limited in terms of skills. Instead, the idea is to partner with a multi-faceted individual that helps the company cover more roles with less people when you’ve got less than 5 employees. Look for folks that have had a breadth of experience (a signal of natural curiosity) and depth in terms of a domain (e.g. Financial Services, Healthcare) or functional expertise (e.g. Software Engineering, Business Development, Data Science). A diverse professional background can also provide new sources of innovation (the associative property in the innovator’s dilemma) and creative problem solving.

Perseverance: 

we all have to overcome life’s struggles in order to succeed. Whether your co-founder faced and overcame socioeconomic, physical or any other form of adversity through resilience and perseverance is a great sign that when sh&%* hits the fan, s/he wont bail out on you and continue to push forward. You want people that say no to no and persevere against all odds. As you fail fast and learn quicker than others, this personality trait is extremely important.

Your Opposite:

To avoid groupthink and heading down to ‘lala land’, which is a state when startups do not question assumptions or challenge each other as teammates (also a sign of a dysfunctional team), you need to find someone with a counterbalance to your own character defects, insecurities and overall issues (we all have them otherwise we wouldn’t be human).

select a co founderFor example, if you are always too optimistic, make sure you look for someone who has a bit more pessimism because they are likely to have a plan B for the gloomy day scenario. If you focus too much on the big picture, partner with someone who is more detail oriented.

Passion For Excellence: 

success is rarely an overnight occurrence. In startups in general, there’s a common saying that each success story is 10 years in the making. The point here is to look for folks that have had a track record of success in previous endeavors whether that be school, work, sports or __. Look for signs of validation like corporate promotions, increased responsibilities, strong academic performance and a constant ability to defeat competitors.

Willingness To Learn:

no business plan survives its first launch and the need to iterate and pivot over time is inherent in all forms of innovation. Also, whether you are the business or technical co-founder, there will be plenty of new skills you’ll need to develop quickly in order to launch and operate an early stage startup with a shoestring budget. From my own experience as the business co-founder, I’ve had to learn marketing analytics, web development, securities laws, how to make videos, the ins and outs of PR and many other administrative areas such as recruiting, human resource management, compliance and contracts.

Hustle:

This is my favorite as I don’t believe it can be taught. A hustler checks her ego at the door and rolls up her sleeves to get the job done leaving very little to chance. S/he understands that s/he can’t succeed if s/he doesn’t go for it. The hustler has ambitious goals and a big vision. A hustler believes that there’s nothing he can’t do and his extreme competitiveness and drive prevent him from being complacent. It’s hard to define, but, you know it when you see it.

First Published on LinkedIn By 

Get a right co- founder for your startup and Don’t give up. Don’t let other peoples’ lack of motivation kill your enthusiasm, drive, and commitment. Just don’t do it. Just work.

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