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Part 2: Finding a Co-Founder

No matter whom you choose to become your co-founder, you need to make sure that it’s someone whom you trust and like.

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Benefits of having co-founder(s)

Helps to sort your work-pile 

As an entrepreneur, you will always have a huge load on you. Some of those loads of fear, anxiety, frustration, disappointment, project execution, real-time shaping of your business strategy can be shared with your co-founder. And it helps if that falls in the domain of their competence. Splitting up the workload means that projects can get done faster and your company can continue to run smoothly.

Multiply your network 

With your venture growing, you will find growing-up pangs; daily issues with new macro business ones will keep popping up. Right from, making decisions on people, process and what’s good for your business. Having a co-founder would give you additional resources, especially her/his network of expert connections to reach out to.

Newer ideas, and honest critique of the old ones

As a founder, over a point in time, due to culture & organisational hierarchy, your teams don’t question your decisioning as much as they would like to or should be doing; in this lone time, having someone your peer to nudge you, provoke you and to ask tough points for you to think on, would be beneficial.

Keep a check on your accountability 

A peer can hold you accountable on a daily basis in your venture. Rarely do employees have the ability to maintain that “moral compass” as it could get misconstrued as interference or even insubordination.

Could make “You 2.0” possible 

A good co-founder, with whom you share your journey can help you on a personal level to develop (yourself) constantly. Successful entrepreneurs have always unlearnt and learnt new ways quickly. A good co-founder can transform you on a daily basis by sheer presence in their own way; in short, it could be “sweet competitive pressure” for you to learn or even a silent role model or newer ways of looking at experiences that come up to you for decision making.

Search for your co-founder

Write your expectations of roles of your co-founder

Writing a job description of sorts might help. List what skillsets you expect your potential co-founder to have; add to it, the wishlist of competences, network, and attributes you are looking for in such an individual. Half the search battle is won, if you get this right.

Network. Network. Network.

Searching for a potential co-founder means that it would help to use your contact base. Use that network with a frenzy. Don’t be shy of asking people in your network. And don’t be prejudiced in asking only those high-up in social / entrepreneurial / investment-world hierarchy for leads about potential co-founder. You never know if your current vendor or even the junior admin guy in your office building knows someone who could potentially be a candidate for you to meet. Never under-estimate any of your network.

Meeting & meet again.

‘Love at first sight’ is a great romantic concept . In the cut-throat competitive startup world, you don’t have that luxury of making mistake in choosing the co-founder that way !

Even if you liked the individual in the very first meeting, meet again & again. Meet at different locations and at different types of locations like coffee shops, 5-star fine-dine, local Udupi restaurants and even a quarter-system bar if you so please . Try and have a long meal together. One can be super charming in one meeting; it’s difficult to maintain the same poise, composure and charm once you start meeting in different times, locations and meals.

Role clarity & hand-shake

Once you think you have found your co-founder, both of you have to agree on roles that each of you will play; and more importantly whose judgement will prevail for each of the business function, if you have a deadlock of opinions.

Good advice is worth its fee

In the long run, what you perceive as expensive fees for a good lawyer would be repaid multiple times.

Once you have agreed with your co-founder on the terms that both of you would engage, draw up the legal agreement with a good lawyer. Such an expert would also help you think through points that you and your co-founder may not have thought of !

Timing

Finding a trustworthy partner to ride the journey is not a joke or a checkbox item. So do not compromise on this by telling yourself that you need a co-founder to start the company. If you already have someone in place, that’s ideal. But if not, no fret - get started with trusted lieutenants and you can elevate someone to be a co-founder later as well. Increasingly, this seems to be the best strategy for single founders who have a burning desire and passion and an initial idea to seed a business but haven’t figured out the co-founder piece, yet.

Dealing with tough situations 

One question to ponder after all this is: do these guarantee success? 

Well, in short - No. 

In today’s world - there is no guarantee for anything. However, let’s look at how to deal with challenges when things go south. The core principles to adopt in times of difficulty are trust, mutual respect, empathy towards one another and an objective assessment of the interests of your stakeholders (includes employees, customers, partners, investors, regulators, Board members, advisors etc) and proactive open communication. 

Further, when having those uncomfortable conversations amongst yourselves in such difficult situations, ensure you keep sight of a few critical points:

  • Why did you get together in the first place and has that vision changed?

  • Are you getting enough time to engage and interact on a regular basis? 

  • Are you listening enough? 

  • Are you seeing transparency in the communications with one another? If not, have you flagged it / called it out ? And if yes, how have each of you reacted and have you behaved true to the value system that you stand-by? 

  • Are you side-stepping the core issue and dealing with symptoms than the cause?

  • Is there a third-party driving a wedge knowingly or unknowingly and you are letting that happen?

Many a time, a minor difference can snowball into a massive erosion of trust. Watching for the above signs and keeping the core principles at the heart of the relationship go a long way in improving your ability to build a successful enterprise and enjoying the process of building your venture to scale, profitability and more importantly to the basis of all - “customer delight”.

Conclusion

No matter whom you choose to become your co-founder, you need to make sure that it’s someone whom you trust and like. This process will take time. Never rush into a partnership because you are tired of having met 30 candidates and the 31st looks marginally better. That’s a terrible metric to use, for a decision to be made, albeit forcefully.

At the end of the day, what matters most here is learning as much about the other person as you possibly can. Make sure you have all the information and time needed to make a balanced and objective decision. After all, you are risking your venture and it’s potential success.

If you are a founder-entrepreneur, there is still time to get / find your co-founder even now. But don’t rush yet.

Disclaimer: The views expressed in the article above are those of the authors' and do not necessarily represent or reflect the views of this publishing house. Unless otherwise noted, the author is writing in his/her personal capacity. They are not intended and should not be thought to represent official ideas, attitudes, or policies of any agency or institution.


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founders entrepreneur Magazine 21 Nov 2020

Srinath Sridharan

Independent markets commentator. Media columnist. Board member. Corporate & Startup Advisor / Mentor. CEO coach. Strategic counsel for 25 years, with leading corporates across diverse sectors including automobile, e-commerce, advertising, consumer and financial services. Works with leaders in enabling transformation of organisations which have complexities of rapid-scale-up, talent-culture conflict, generational-change of promoters / key leadership, M&A cultural issues, issues of business scale & size. Understands & ideates on intersection of BFSI, digital, ‘contextual-finance’, consumer, mobility, GEMZ (Gig Economy, Millennials, gen Z), ESG. Well-versed with contours of governance, board-level strategic expectations, regulations & nuances across BFSI & associated stakeholder value-chain, challenges of organisational redesign and related business, culture & communication imperatives.

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Karthik Prabhakar

Venture Capitalist

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