Launching a startup alone can be a bit like working in a bubble. It’s hard. Sometimes having a cofounder can be a huge help, in terms of getting additional perspective and having a different skill set. But is it for you?
You’re the only one who can answer that. It depends largely, I think, on your personality. Are you the type of person who has to take control? Then you might butt heads with a co-pilot. Or do you recognize your own weaknesses, and see them in a potential partner? Then cofounding a startup might make it easier. Let’s take a closer look at both sides.
If you’re on the outside of forming a startup, you probably can’t perceive the amount of work it’s going to take. It will suck your life away, alienate you from your friends and family, and drain whatever money you put into the business. Imagine if you had someone to help shoulder the work and finances. If you suck at programming, but your partner is an ace, you can save valuable time not bumbling through it yourself, and save valuable money not hiring a programmer.
And because startups are such emotional rollercoasters, it can help to have someone to vent to. And to tell you when you have stupid ideas. Better your cofounder than a VC, eh?
Other benefits to having a cofounder:
- Alone, you see your business from a one-sided perspective. With two heads, you can get a better 360 view and see things in a new light.
- Bringing a cofounder in with unique skills can take your business further
- Your cofounder may have a different set of contacts that can help your startup succeed
But what if you’re the controlling type? Having to share decision making can be a real drag, and can cause you to miss out on some great opportunities. If you’re too similar, you may not be able to manage other areas (if you’re both tech geeks, who will be the business developer amongst you?). It may tear your friendship apart irreparably.
- Your business objectives may be too far apart to reconcile
- A lack of business acumen may cause one founder to drag the other down when it comes to business opportunity
- Sometimes friends are not meant to do business together
How to Choose a Cofounder
Here’s a great post from VentureHacks with advice on choosing a cofounder. Here’s my own advice.
1. Pick Someone You Like. While it’s not necessary that you want to have a beer after work with your partner, it’s a good idea. It should be someone whose personality meshes well with your own.
2. Choose Someone Who Complements You. You want someone who is strong where you are weak. You can hire where you have gaps down the road when funding comes, but between the two of you, you should be able to build your product or service as well as market it and build business relationships. Oh, and get customers. That too.
3. Pick Someone Smarter Than You. No one wants a partner they think isn’t adequate for the job, so do surround yourself with people who are smarter than you.
4. Select Someone Who Is Up for the Challenge. Startups are a different animal. I already mentioned the long hours, but working full time on a business that may not provide income or health benefits isn’t for everyone. Make sure your cofounder is up for the stress and the challenge.
5. Pick a Passionate Person. Startups are all about passion. Make sure your partner has it.