Founding teams are the most critical component of a startup. As the saying goes, an A team with a B idea is more attractive to investors than the other way around. Ideas are a dime a dozen but great people are hard to find. This means that outstanding team that can execute has more of a chance for success, whereas an amazing idea alone is not enough to produce results. As Steve Blank said, “The best ideas in the hands of a B team is worse than a B idea in the hands of a world class team.”
Choosing the right co-founder to add to your founding team important and should be treated as such. It’s like a marriage – you need to find a compatible partner to embark on what will likely be a stressful and enduring journey bringing an idea to life. It is not something you should rush into lightly. This partner will ultimately be instrumental in helping you launch and grow the business.
Before you commit, here are 5 things to consider when choosing a co-founder.
1) Complimentary Skills
Knowing your strengths and weaknesses is important for any leader, and it is especially critical for an entrepreneur. Understanding the gaps in your personal skillset will help you fill the needs of your founding team.Â As Steve Case, the Co-Founder of AOL said, “The strength of a team is different people with different perspectives.”
2) Valid Experience
Similarly to finding complimentary skillsets, make sure all members of your founding team bring the right experiences and areas of expertise to the table. What kind of industry connections or specific knowledge do you need to move the company forward? Your co-founders should have substantial credentials relevant to building your startup.
Do reference checks to validate the experience and reputation of potential co-founders. Dig through their social media or industry contributions. Depending on the role, ask potential co-founders to demonstrate their knowledge or technical skill through a hands-on project or work sample.
Having a shared work history with your partner will fast-track and group your relationship. Prior experience working together gives your team an advantage in testing out how successful your partnership will be – you both know how to along, and you have a better understanding as to how each other thinks, reacts and problems solves. More importantly, you probably have already faced conflict and maybe even drama, so all your learned history and common shared bonds better equips your team to start off on a stronger foot and face the obstacles that are bound to happen.Â
Explore your networks from school or organizations in which you had a successful and enjoyable team experience. If you are considering joining forces with a new person, first test out your working relationship with a short-term project or over a trial period.
4) Shared Passion
As a founder trying to raise your baby, you know how much your passion exudes about your idea. For the countless hours spent working on and thinking about your startup, and for the amount of time and energy that is to come bringing it to life, you must find a business partners that shares your level of excitement and commitment.
Find a co-founder that shares a similar passion for the problem you’re trying to solve or the solution you’ve created. What hobbies or interests does s/he have? Is this an area in which s/he has dedicated their career? Grab a cup of coffee and see if an informal conversation spurs brainstorming or leads to an enthusiastic and passionate chat.
5) Skin in the Game
As defined by Investopedia, having ‘skin in the game’ ensures that organizations are run by “like-minded individuals who share a stake in the company.” All co-founders need to ‘walk the walk’ because putting your own money on the line is the best vote of confidence.
Verify that potential co-founders have the ability and resources to actually invest the time, energy, and any potential financial demands. As the initial founder, it is likely that you may be the largest investor and supporter or you may even have already invested the capital needed. Nonetheless, make sure co-founders are on the same page with expectations you have and future needs that may arise.