No one likes to go first!


One of the biggest problems facing all founders is the problem that no one likes to go first.

Why? Because they are afraid of looking foolish, being wrong, being out on a limb. This problem is really magnified when something new is involved, as is the case with all startups.

That’s why finding the “innovators” and “early adopters” in Geoff Moore’s Crossing the Chasm is so important.

But before you even have the problem of getting your first customer or channel partner or investor, as a founder you have the problem of finding your first co-founder.

Very often in my mentoring I am faced with individual founders. A lot has been written, with good reason, about how a vast majority of successful startups from Hewlett Packard and Microsoft to Facebook and Google had multiple founders. Startups are very, very hard and sharing the multitude of tasks from product development to customer development to business development to raising capital can help the startup move more quickly and successfully.

So I often tell sole founders who are just at the concept stage that their next step is finding a co-founder. If they can’t convince someone else in their network that they have a viable business concept AND that they are THE person to turn that into a real business then perhaps they need to re-examine their business concept. All founders have to be sales people, and the first thing they need to sell is the opportunity to join them in their venture.

Read For Startups Pitching VCs, Three is the Magic Number on GigaOm.

“Two to three co-founders seems to be a sweet spot,” Y Combinator partner Paul Bucheit said on a panel session at Google I/O Developer Conference in San Francisco. The other panelists — Excite Co-founder and Google Ventures partner Joe Kraus and SCVNGR founder Seth Priebatsch — all agreed venture capitalists prefer to invest in companies headed by more than one founder.

Recent research from the MIT Sloan School of Management supports this idea. The study, led by the MIT Entrepreneurship Center’s Dr. Edward Roberts, indicated that each additional co-founder up to four increases a company’s odds of success. Research of companies with five or more cofounders was inconclusive because there weren’t enough of those companies to reliably include them in the study’s findings.

But here’s another view point that says the optimal number is 2.09! From What’s The Optimal Number Of Co-Founders For A Startup? 2.09! by Dharmesh Shah.

The topic of co-founders (how to find them, what skill-set they should have, how many you need, etc.) is a popular one amongst startups.  It’s popular for good reason, it’s important.

I’ve given the topic of how many founders are needed for startups some thought.  My personal opinion is at least two, but no more than three.  Hence, the “2.09” number in the title of this article works (and there’s some basis for this, which I’ll explain later).

If you Google “ideal number of founders” you will find several other useful articles on this topic.

But if two or three founders is the ideal number and you are a sole founder your next step is to get to two founders! And two founders will, by virtue of their expanded network and proving someone else is willing to go first besides you, will find it much easier to attract founder number three.

Doing a self-inventory is one way to start. What are your strengths? These will help attract a co-founder. Where do you need help? This will aid in determining what the complementary skills and experience are needed in a co-founder. What’s exciting and attractive about your business venture? Once you have a good idea of these elements you can plan your recruiting campaign, starting with your personal network and moving outwards to your social network. So your first marketing and sales campaign perhaps should be finding a co-founder to help you build your business. Good luck!


Author: Mentorphile

Mentor, coach, and advisor to entrepreneurs, small businesses, and non-profit organizations. General manager with significant experience in both for-profit and non-profit organizations. Focus on media and information. On founding team of four venture-backed companies. Currently Chairman of Popsleuth, Inc., maker of the Endorfyn app for keeping fans updated on new stuff from their favorite artists.

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