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How to Choose a Co-Founder for Your Startup

This article was written by Rohallah Ghasemi, Lead Investment Manager at SFC Capital 

So, you have decided to seek a co-founder to help rocket your business to sky high proportions. But how do you find the right one? Finding the right co-founder is critical to the success of your fledgling enterprise. Make or break, do or die – it is common knowledge that most early-stage startups fail due to founder disputes rather than the substance of the business. Here we take a look at the skills and attributes needed to find the perfect co-founder for your startup. 

You and your co-founder should work like a couple in an ideal marriage. You are an established unit, and as such, you present a united front to the outside world. Take time to think about what your founder unit’ needs to take your business to the next level, and beyond. It needs to be calm in the face of any storms or extreme challenges, yet resourceful and flexible to resolve difficulties. You and your fellow founder must be passionate about the business, focused, and determined to succeed.  

In the words of well-known serial entrepreneur Sam Altman, the unit needs to be unflappable and more like Bond.” Think about it, James Bond epitomises some of the most vital characteristics your collective needs to succeed: 

  • Cool, clear thinking whatever the situation. 

  • Flexible thinking unconstrained by tradition that comes out on top in almost impossiblelooking scenarios. 

  • A ready arsenal of tools to make the best of things. 

  • Never gives up whatever the odds look like at first. 

In order to build this Bond-like unit, there are several things you must look for as you filter the candidates in your hunt for the ideal partner. 

Look for someone who complements your own skillset. If there are any skills you know you lack, someone who can bring that extra knowledge to the table is key. For exampleyou may be outstanding in your ability to think creatively and come up with novel ideas, but flounder when it comes to making a business presentation to acquire much needed investment capital.

Equally, you may be great at coming up with big ideas, yet struggle to cope with everyday tasks such as record keeping, or perhaps numerical analysis is not your strong suit. This is where you can leverage a co-founder who slots together with you to form the ideal, fully equipped package with a full armoury  much like Bond himself. 

Seek stability in your co-founder. You want emotional stability that will allow for clear thinking under pressure, but also financial stability. You cannot afford to bring anyone on board who will give you any cause for concern on the money front. When the going gets rough  and it will you will need someone to help you shore up your own defences, not someone you fear may crumble at the first hint of anything other than clear weather sailing. 

Never say die, is the kind of attitude you want. Your co-founder must have the ability to see your vision through, grinding through the bad times to get to the good. In many ways, this ties in with complementing your own skills. You and your co-founder should also be able to act as emotional and motivational support to gee each other up and turn a face of positivity, optimism, and a growth mindset to the rest of the world. 

The need for both parties to be mutually supportive leads on to some other aspects to consider in your hunt. Remember, you will likely be spending more time with each other than with many of your family members. As such, you must be able to work well together  singing off the same hymn sheet in terms of goals, approaches, and general outlook. The last thing you want is regular points of friction between the most crucial people in the business.

As you will be working so closely together, you also need to have a similar work ethos and preferences – meaning that, if you are an early bird, it is best your co-founder is too in order to maximise your collaboration time. That is not to say you want a clone who will always be in complete agreement with you. Bear in mind your partner needs to understand healthy conflict and to be able to challenge ideas in a constructive way to reach the best decisions.  

In summary, you need someone who completes your competencies, thus providing a full skillset for your startup. Your founder alliance needs calm and resilience to weather the external storms and the ability to healthily manage internal conflict.  

As Bond himself would testify, shaken not stirred,’ should sum up your collective personality. 

The Red Tree is the UK’s leading international beauty brand consultancy and a powerhouse of ideas, insight and inspiration. For an informal discussion on how we might help you, please contact us.

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