Starting with a co-founder


Colleagues discussing plans remember the office

I see a lot of solo entrepreneurs who come in for mentoring at the zero-stage, with just an idea. My recommended next step is usually talking to prospective customers to try to validate their idea, to test their hypothesis that their idea could be turned into a viable product or service.

But there’s another step to take in parallel that can often not only help to validate an idea but help the solo founder to succeed: finding a co-founder to partner with. See my post No one likes to go first!

Michelle Zatlyn‘s article What I Learned From Starting a Company With Co-Founders in Fortune Insiders provides some helpful tips for picking the right co-founder or founders.

Before you start that process you might want to read The Founder’s Dilemma by Noam Wasserman. He has researched tens of thousands of companies and founders and found that 65% of startups fail due to personnel problems.

You may also want to peruse my previous post Alignment of the founders’ intentions.

Here are Michelle Zatlyn’s key points. Read the article for details.

Two (or more) is company in good times and bad

When you’re a founder making dozens of decisions a day, it’s helpful to have founding partners to share both the highs and the lows with.

You have to diversify your founding team

A strong founding team will cover a lot of surface area, with just a little bit of overlap.

It’s a trust fall

Beyond liking the people you work with, you have to trust them.

Obviously the best way to find a co-founder is to use your personnel network. Once you find a candidate my advice is to date before you marry. But if you can’t find someone in your network you might want to try a site like Co-Founders Lab, which acquired the co-founder finding site Founderdating. I don’t have any experience or knowledge of either site, so proceed at your own risk.

Find ways to work with your potential co-founder(s) to test their interest in the venture and ability to contribute. Choosing a co-founder may be the most important decision you make of the thousands of decisions you will make in a successful startup. Virtually all investors invest in team first, so the first step in building your team is finding that co-founder(s).

While it may seem odd to “assign homework” to a potential founder, I recommend it. See  my post Why assigning homework works.


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.

3 thoughts on “Starting with a co-founder”

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: