TLDR

  • Complementary not duplicatory - A co-founder should complement your skills and strengths rather than duplicate them. A CTO-CEO relationship is likely to prove more fruitful than a CEO-CEO or CTO-CTO relationship.
  • Rapport - Entering into a relationship with someone who you trust and get on well with will make any working relationship that much easier.
  • Personality - Slightly different from rapport is a personality assessment. How much do your values and goals align with that of your co-founder? Ideally you want a co-founder whose motivations and principles are similar to yours.
  • Can they handle the stress? - Building a startup is a stressful endeavour. You want someone who can help you navigate the emotional highs and lows.

Finding a co-founder is one thing. Finding the right co-founder is another thing altogether and is arguably the most important part of starting a company.

In essence, the right co-founder is the person you can go farthest with, in the shortest time possible. Below are some tips on how to find the right co-founder for you.

Complementary skill sets

One of the most obvious things you should keep at the forefront of your mind when looking for the right co-founder is their skillset. Not only do you want to make sure they have the right skills for the company you are going to build, but you want to ensure that their skillset is complementary to yours. If you’re a CEO type individual with business experience & acumen rather than technical building ability, you might want to look for someone with technical know-how and experience who could fulfil a CTO role. Similarly, if you’re uncomfortable with public speaking and communication, you might want to find a co-founder who is more confident speaking to others, such as investors or potential customers. Finding a co-founder whose skillset is completely complementary to yours is not essential and certainly shouldn’t be seen as a deal breaker, but when looking at teaming up with a co-founder, if they have the exact same skills that you do, this may prove problematic later down the road.

Rapport

Finding someone who you will have a close, trusting and harmonious relationship with is another important factor to consider when looking for the right co-founder. You will be spending an inordinate amount of time with this person and so you want to ensure your relationship is one characterised by mutual respect, clear communication, understanding, collaboration, honesty, authenticity and comfort. Ask yourself, are you excited to spend the next decade working side-by-side, day-in day-out with this person?

Personality assessment

Do you and your (potential) co-founder align on values and goals? What do they want to achieve with a startup? Do they have the same long-term goals you do? Are they hoping for a financial reward or are they pursuing entrepreneurship for personal growth and intellectual challenges. Are you risk averse and are they risk taking? Do they want to build a small successful company whilst you're gunning for unicorn status? Ensuring your motivations are compatible and that your values align, or at minimum ensuring you are both aware of one another’s driving factors, will help you avoid potential pitfalls and conflict in the future. Ultimately, you want to ensure you are both moving in the same direction and share a vision in what you want to achieve.

Stress test

You're going to spend a lot of time in stressful situations with your co-founder. An important factor that will determine the quality of your relationship, and thus productivity, will therefore be how they handle stress and how they help you handle stress. You do not want a co-founder that is great to work with when things are plain sailing but crumbles under pressure and cannot continue in stressful periods. You want a co-founder who supports you mentally and emotionally and who motivates you. Not only will this mean your productivity remains high, but that you will continue working when the going inevitably gets tough.

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