What do I need to look for? What set of skills should my future cofounder have? And where can I find co-founders anyways? These are just a few among many relevant questions when looking for a cofounder to start your business or to enhance it early on. While there is no easy solution to it but actually having a cofounder already, there are a few steps that can help you in the process of finding one. This blog post on ‘Finding the right co-founder’ will take you through the whole journey, starting with yourself and who and what you actually need to look for in the potential candidate to online platforms and local events to find cofounders. The very first thing on the to-do-list is to look at yourself. I am not talking about the look in the mirror and spending hours in front of it thinking how pretty you are. But as you are by far the most important asset in your business, it is crucial that you have a clear understanding of yourself. Do you know what type of character you have? Do you really know? The maybe best tool to analyze yourself in this perspective is to do the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator® personality test. Among other things, this can help you to know how you function in a relationship and what personality type would complement you best. Or in the words of Isabel Briggs Myers herself, “the understanding of type can make your perceptions clearer, your judgements sounder, and your life closer to your heart’s desire” and “you only have to be good at your own kind of thing and decently appreciative of the other fellow’s excellence.”
You only have to be good at your own kind of thing and decently appreciative of the other fellow’s excellence. (Isabel Briggs Myers)
With a clear picture of yourself, the next step is to figure out what you are actually looking for, and who. This sounds fairly easy but is also about making some crucial decisions that will have lasting impacts on your business and startup. Do you have a clear picture of the skill sets you need? What are the most important assets a cofounder should bring into the business? Is there anything nice to have but not as important as other skills? In order to find out what it really is that you need, one tool you can use is the Business Model Canvas. While this may not have been at the top of your list for this purpose, it gives you a clear picture of your business. You will then be able to see what activities you are able to fulfill yourself and which activities need to be done by your cofounder. Find more details on this on Steve Blank’s blog post “How To Find the Right Co-Founders?” This provides the basic foundation of your business and will also make your life easier with many other things later. Knowing the set of skills necessary, you can go a step further and see if your co-founder should have any particular characteristics to complement yourself. Maybe you are not good at selling and you look for someone charismatic and articulate, or the latter is your strength and you look for someone technical and analytical. Whatever it is, one way to approach this is to go back to your personality type and see who would complement you best. Bare in mind that this is just an indicator–a tool to help you–and not to rule out anyone solely based on this. Knowing who you are and what you want will only set the foundation for your actual search for a partner. Frankly, it will not get easier. In fact, finding a cofounder that has the right set of skills, complementary characteristics, the right attitude, and ‘friend material’ is a very difficult process. But the big question remains: “Where do I find this cofounder?” The most natural place to look for a cofounder is among your friends and immediate network. You already know these people, you know what they have done and what they currently do, and you know with whom you’d like to work together and with whom rather not. If you have someone in mind at this moment and this person is interested, congratulations! This will then hopefully be the end of your search and the beginning of a great partnership. For many of us, the cofounder search will last longer than this. But where can I go to find a cofounder if I don’t know the person already? The easy answer would be in your extended network. While this is true and you should ask around in your network, this is similar to the previous paragraph and would only lengthen this blog post. However, there are also other places where you can find cofounders. Generally, there are particularly two types:
- Online platforms for startups and cofounders: These are websites that are made for the needs of entrepreneurs and startups. Some of them offer a wide range of offers including startup information, finding investors, and jobs. Others are more tailored and focus, for example, on finding cofounders. Both are good places to look.
- Local events for startups and cofounders: Especially larger cities and startup hubs like San Francisco, London and Berlin also have a wide range of offers of bringing entrepreneurs together at various networking events. Similarly to the online platforms, some of them with the sole purpose of introducing you to potential cofounders.
Following I will introduce some of the best online platforms to look for cofounders. As it is impossible to provide relevant local events for everyone, the first entry of the following online platforms also hosts numerous local events worldwide. Besides this I will not provide any other information on local events in this blog post.
CoFoundersLab claims to be the largest community of entrepreneurs online and hosts multiple local events worldwide. With its acquisition of TechCoFounder in June 2012, it indeed has an enormous database of more than 40,000 entrepreneurs that are looking for cofounders or people that are interested to join a startup as a cofounder, although there appear to be only very few of the latter kind. The local events are called Matchups and ‘bring together entrepreneurs in a structured, in-person setting.’ The platform doesn’t charge anything to create a profile and get in contact with up to 5 potential cofounders per month. For those looking to contact more than that and to using more available features, there’s also the option of premium profiles for as little as $9.99 per month.
- Founder2Be is a platform with about 35,000 people looking for cofounders or for joining a startup as a cofounder. With this it is the second largest platform of its kind right after CoFoundersLab. It is 100% free for basic users and offers a pro plan with additional features such as advanced search functions starting at 14.95€ per month.
- AngelList has been my favorite startup platform so far, providing tons of useful information. It has a wide offer from presenting your startup, finding angel investors and venture capital, and offering and finding jobs including cofounder positions. Its database with 426,368 listed startups is huge, and among the 6,285 job offers, there are currently also 638 cofounder positions to be filled. Creating your profile on AngelList and AngelList Talent–its recruitment section–are currently 100% free so you can contact as many startups and talents as you want.
- StartupBlink also has a very large database of 68,549 listed startups including 1,173 looking to recruit and find cofounders. As a new startup platform, one should definitely keep an eye on it. It is certainly a great place to start your search although many startups here seem to backlink their listed jobs to AngelList to provide more information there. It also appears to be 100% free at the moment.
- FoundersNation seems to be a smaller yet still global platform to find cofounders. There’s no indication of how many users they have. The search interface reminds me of that of CoFoundersLab (or vice-versa) with results looking like its premium profiles. I have just signed up today and am satisfied so far with what I can do and find. Their website also appears to be 100% free for users.
- FounderDating is different to the other platforms in that it requires a process to get in. According to their FAQ, you can apply but it really is invite-only. While the application is free, once you receive an invite there is a fee to actually in. There was no info on the actual price but considering that they hand-screen every application, it could be hefty. The acceptance rate is about 34%. The good thing about this network is that it should then only have high-profile candidates and very little to no scam.
This appears to be the most relevant list of online startup platforms that help to find cofounders. With many regional websites and those in other languages, the list could of course go on and on. But for an international audience, these are the largest one with the best offer. Overall, keep in mind that this can be a lengthy process, for which reason it is for your own benefit if you start looking for a cofounder as soon as you realize that you will need and want one. As you are not looking for an employee–whom you also should treat fairly–but a long-term business partner and friend that you need to trust and value, treat the candidates as such: equal. After all, what are the best set of skills and right attitude if you do not get along?
Learning from one another. Feedback appreciated!
The Author: Konstantin von Brocke has graduated in business management from University of Wisconsin-Stout with magna cum laude in December 2012 after receiving an Associate in Applied Science degree in marketing from Fox Valley Technical College. He is interested in all things related business with a particular focus on entrepreneurship, marketing, and growth. Connect now via Twitter or Google+!