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How to Find a Cofounder

Written By: Bob 23 June 2010 Other Posts By: Bob
I break down into the ingredients of finding a cofounder into three areas.

1.)  The entrepreneur
2.)  The idea
3.)  The search

Your search for a cofounder is an interrelated mixture of these three elements.  Each of these elements tell a potential cofounder a little bit about you.  The idea shows your thought processes, the search methods show your execution, and you as an entrepreneur is a representation of your personality.  The entire search for a cofounder is a litmus test of how successful you will be as an entrepreneur.

If you have a great thought process (idea), a great personality (entrepreneur), and great execution (the search), then you will more than likely achieve success as an entrepreneur.

The Entrepreneur

The most important part of finding a cofounder is you as an entrepreneur.  If you’re trying to sell your idea, you’re selling yourself at the same time.  Your personality will come through the words you type on your keyword and the words you speak in a conversation.  In a short period of time, the person you are in contact with will know if you are a person they want to continue working with.

You will also be judged by your past.  Past successes are always a good sell when seeking a cofounder.  Whether you started a company in the past, or were an all star in your corporate job, potential cofounders need to know they’re working with a winner.  You also don’t need to have professional experience to sell yourself as an entrepreneur.  Rockstar college students have a leg up on mid level corporate or startup folks.  Doing great things no matter what level you are at in life can go a long way in showing potential cofounders that you’re worth talking to.

Cofounders need to know that you work hard and you care about succeeding.  You need to be the type of person that will stay up until 8am meeting deadlines.  I’m not too sure how you convey that to potential cofounders, but you need an extreme drive for achievement.  I hate failure and I will do anything to avoid it.  If anyone’s working with me, they know I’ll go above and beyond what’s expected of me to make sure the job is done and done right.  Make sure people know this about you.

The Idea

Good ideas are a dime a dozen and execution is what really matters.

Good Ideas – Make sure your idea is a good one.  But what exactly is a good idea?

Keep in mind, your idea is a directly representation of you as a thinker.  If someone likes your idea, it means they like your thought processes.  If someone likes the way you think, they are one step closer to liking you.

A good idea solves a problem.  You need to make sure your solution will either solve a need that’s not addressed int the marketplace or will solve a need that’s being addressed better than the competition.

I’m not an expert in “good ideas”, but I do know that creating Facebook with green background instead of blue is probably not a great idea.

Make sure you ask 20 friends about your idea before looking for a cofounder.  If 20 people think it’s a terrible idea, you need to either ditch the idea, or improve the pitch.  Also, out of 20 people, a few should know if someone is doing something similar to you.

Listen carefully to feedback.  If someone says, “I’m pretty sure you can do that on Facebook.”  Don’t immediately jump to the conclusion that they “just don’t get it.”  They had their response for a reason.  Either they are correct, or you are missing a key element in your pitch.

The Search

The actual search process is critical.  It shows people your attention to detail and ability to execute.  In the same manner that the other two sections are selling your personality and your thought processes, your search is you selling your ability to execute.  Below are lists of things to avoid and things to do while searching.

Things to avoid

  • Most events with the phrase “entrepreneur networking” somewhere in the title.
    • Usually, these events aren’t very good.  Most of them are filled with consultants trying to sell their business plan services to clueless entrepreneurs.  How to find quality startup events
  • This Phrase:  “I’m looking for a CTO”.
    • I hear this at events and cringe.  It usually means,  ”I have an idea that I think will be huge.  The problem is that I don’t know where to start because I have no technical background and I’m not willing to learn.”  It can sometimes also mean, “I don’t want to pay someone to build me a prototype, so I’ll try to find a cofounder.”  Usually, this person isn’t really looking for a cofounder, but an employee – someone to build a product for them with very little input.  Please don’t be that guy.
  • Not having written criteria for an ideal cofounder
    • You looking for someone with marketing expertise, php experience, iPhone Development, branding experience, experience in the fashion industry, etc….  When you are “searching” for a cofounder, you’re searching for someone with a specific set of skills.  Make sure what skills are needed in the perfect cofounder or  you might not recognize him or her when they walk by.

Things to Do

  • Make a list of criteria for your idea cofounder
    • Make sure you put this down to every last detail.  Complementary skills, experience in the industry, past startup success, friends with Michael Jordan.  Whatever you are looking for in your ideal cofounder, make sure you write it down.
  • Send your list to close friends.
    • Don’t spam your contact list, but send this list and a brief explanation of your project to a few people you trust.  If you send this list to people you trust, they’ll probably only send you to reliable people they also trust.
  • Send emails to VCs you respect
    • Will they respond?  Probably not – but if they do, these guys are well connected and know great people that may be able to help build your company.  It’s always a good idea to have relationships with venture capitalists.  I’ve never received venture funds, but I do know these guys know a ton of great entrepreneurs and I love meeting awesome people.
  • Check out some of  the lists online where you can find potential cofounders
  • Get out to “Quality Events”
    • This is really something you should be doing just to increase your network.  I’ve met so many great startup people over the past few months at events.  Make sure you put great people in touch with other great people and become a connector.  Also, check out Startup Events That Don’t Suck and Startup Digest to avoid lame events
  • Meet in person
    • Make sure you meet your cofounder.  You’ll probably spend as much time with this person as you spend with your wife (or husband, or life partner).  Meet in person just to make sure you get along and see eye to eye on a few issues.
  • Create a pool of qualified candidates
    • Make sure you get a few more potential cofounders.  Doing this forces you to consider the positives and negatives of each person.  Rest assured, each potential partner will have strengths and weaknesses.  Make sure to assess each individual thoroughly before making a decision.

Succeed

You will face many challenges as an entrepreneur.  Finding a cofounder is one of the first.  If you’re able to succeed at finding a cofounder, you are more likely to succeed overcoming other obstacles as an entrepreneur.

Best of luck to you in your search.

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