How to find a Cofounder (or two): Some lessons I learned
In order to build The Suite I needed to not only track down one, but two Cofounders in order to get the platform off the ground. Luckily for me, I was fortunate enough that one of them was one of my best friends and possessed a complementary skillset to my own. The other (who happened to be our Technical Cofounder) however, took determination and a lot of persistence to track down, but they were worth it (having a Technical Cofounder allowed us to avoid costly dev-shop fees). Finding a Cofounder may seem overwhelming and at times even impossible, but if you stick with it and keep moving forward, you will succeed at building your business. So here are some tips to help you based on the lessons I learned when conducting my own search for Cofounders.
Don't just pick your best friend!
We all have that moment in our lives where we may be a few drinks in, the night was full of laughter and one friend says to another, "We should start a business!". Not to rain all over your parade but, that is most likely not the way you will find your Cofounder. Selecting your business partner/s is perhaps one of the hardest choices you will have to make and a dangerous thing to introduce into a friendship. You must look for someone that adds to your flaws and rounds out your expertise, while also providing you a much needed counterpoint. If you focus only on the person you love to hang out with that's exactly what you'll be doing together… hanging out. In my case, a good friendship made for an even better Cofounder and for that I am fortunate, but that won't be the case for everyone. Don't get yourself down if your Cofounder doesn't end up being your best friend, afterall, you may grow towards that with the journey you're about to embark on.
Put yourself out there.
You need to push yourself out of your comfort zone if you're going to find someone to build your business with. Asking current/previous coworkers is too limiting and will rarely bear fruit. You need to be proactive and reach out to people whose skills you admire online or through the various social networks. It's time to showcase the passion you have for your idea and be your own recruiter. It will make for fantastic pitch practice and you'll be surprised at how warmly people will respond to the chance of discussing an opportunity. I'll warn you now though that very few of these conversations will result in the yes that you are seeking and it may be quite a few before you feel as if any progress is being made. For context, when tracking down my second Cofounder I sent out hundreds of emails that went unanswered and had dozens of meetings that went nowhere. If that's enough to discourage you from doing this though, you probably shouldn't be building a business in the first place.
Spend time getting to know them and be open about your shortcomings.
When you do find someone who's interested, really invest time into getting to know them. Invite them to drinks or dinners in order to spend time in a more casual environment. This is going to be the person you're in the trenches with so make sure that you not only trust this person, but like them. When launching a business you will discover shortcomings you never knew you had. Be sure to make yourself aware of your own and theirs, and be both of you be open about them. If you can't level with your Cofounder then who are you going to confide in when things get rough? Open up and you will discover that they will too. This is how you will build a true bond and loyalty towards one another.
Be selective, but remember bonds take time to form.
The best Cofounder may not be the person you build instant rapport with. It's ok if you do not become best friends so long as there is collaboration and respect. Give your relationship with this person time to develop. Make time for fun activities and plenty of happy hours (you're going to need it to handle the roller coaster you're about to ride) in order to give yourselves time to get to know one another outside of your roles. Ask them questions and be transparent when they ask you their own.
Most importantly, be understanding and temper your expectations.
Everyone is at a different point in their lives and not everyone can take the same level of risk. That being the case, it doesn't mean that they can't still be your Cofounder. You just need to be open to getting creative and having them split their time on other projects. We tend to build up these moments into these glorified dramatic sequences where you band together in your garage or studio apartment for 16 hours a day until you build the Macintosh. That may work for some people, but others have children they need to care for or mortgages they need to pay off. Be open to your Cofounders splitting their time on consulting projects if they need to and remember that just because you can afford to give up your salary doesn't mean they can.
I hope that in reading this you can learn from my experiences and better prepare for the journey ahead. Finding my Cofounders was one of the hardest things I've done as an entrepreneur, but when you get it right… magic happens. Be patient and keep driving forward. The only way you fail at this is if you decide to give up!
George is the CEO & Co-Founder of The Suite. He founded The Suite in order to fundamentally change the way executives manage their careers. Prior to founding The Suite in 2019, George spent several years in the executive recruiting space where he was fortunate enough to advise some of the world's leading VC & PE backed businesses on talent.