How to find the right co-founder


Starting a business with a co-founder makes a lot of sense. An analysis of 100,000 startups (Startup Genome study) showed that solo founders take 3.6 times longer to scale compared to a founding team of two. Likewise, if you look at the analysis of startup unicorns (billion dollar private companies), over 90% were started by a team of two or more.


Finding the right people to start a company with can be hard. If you have a business idea and are thinking of finding a co-founder, here’s some guidance on what to look for.


Have a history of working together 

In the analysis of startup unicorns, 90% of co-founding teams comprise people who have years of history together, either from school or work.


This makes a lot of sense, of course. People behave differently in various social contexts – you may be great friends and get along outside of work, but the same dynamic may not work in a startup. If you have a history working together, and it worked, your chances of building an efficient co-founding team are much higher.


Find someone with a complementary skill-set

If you and your co-founder have the same skill-set, it’s more likely you will disagree over some aspect of how things should be done. If you have complementary skills, you become a stronger team. Dividing tasks won’t be a battle, and as your startup grows it will be easier to avoid sending mixed messages to your team.


Find someone with grit

Grit is a mindset of seeing difficulties as challenges to overcome and having persistence and passion to achieve long-term goals. It’s also a mindset of optimism, confidence, and creativity. There are heaps of studies that suggest “grit” is the single most important characteristic successful people share.


Find someone who shares your vision

Let’s be clear about one thing, you will pivot and your startup idea will evolve over time. Some of the most successful startups like Instagram, PayPal and Twitter are the product of successful pivots. When it comes to making such decisions, you want to be with someone who shares the vision of what you want to achieve in business.


Find someone who shares your values

With the evolving nature of a startup in mind, it’s important to have a shared set of values to keep coming back to. Without a value system in place, a startup won’t get far. You and your co-founder may have different values as individuals but together as a team, you have to define a value system.


This value system will be the setting stone of the company culture, the brand, and the overall mission. These in turn will determine what kind of people, investors and partners you’re going to attract.


Respect and trust

Respect and trust are two important cornerstones of any relationship. If you can’t respect or trust a person you’re going into business with, then don’t even bother partnering with that person.


Look for intelligence, energy, and integrity

Building a business is a challenging, demanding job, and you will experience ups and downs both as an individual and as a team. When facing the challenges that will inevitably arise, your co-founder needs to be someone you can rely on. Intelligence, energy, and integrity are absolutely critical if you want to get things done and build the right company.


Don’t settle

If it doesn’t feel right, keep looking. If you’re compromising, keep looking. You want to make sure you start your company with the right co-founder DNA, as pretty much everything will depend on it.


Raising your first round of capital? Starting a crowdfunding campaign? Want to grow your business with Instagram? StartupSmart School can help. 

Mark McDonald is the co-founder and co-CEO of Appster, a leading mobile app and product development company with offices in Melbourne and San Francisco. He writes for StartupSmart about entrepreneurship, growing a startup and personal branding.