Building a big company is incredibly hard, doing it solo even more. Most good founders can do a few things great and a few more quite well, while you actually need to do many many things very good and at the same time. So being a team of 2 or 3 co-founders helps.
Most of the founding stories I hear involve people that know each other way back. That’s a huge advantage — you know you like the person, you know what he’s good at, you know how you both deal with each other. But that’s not always available, and many of us will have to find a co-founder they don’t already know.
Working with a partner is often compared to romantic partnership, which I find appropriate. The challenges, the intensity, the importance of knowing how to argue. Thinking about this metaphor I must wonder: why is it that most couples I know didn’t have a long friendly relationships before getting together, and it works, and with founders not so much? Being the total amateur on romance that I am, I really can’t explain that.
Back to our focus on when, where and how to find your co-founder. Know that it’s not easy. It’s going to take time and patience and probably effort.
Start with the “when”. If you ask me, as early as possible. When you know you want to devote your life to something, when you know you want to launch ahead and tackle a challenge, try and find a partner to share the burden with. The longer you wait, you’ll get more protective of your ideas, making the person joining you more like an apprentice than a co-owner. You might think this is a good thing, because you’re more of an individualist, and 97 times in 100, you’ll be wrong. Ideas are better when discussed, motivation is more sustainable when shared. If you find your partner early on the chances you will actually see this as a shared project are greater and that’s a good thing. It doesn’t mean there isn’t only one CEO, but decision making is a whole different topic which I’ll address another time.
Where and how is anywhere and by all means. There isn’t a shop at the mall where you can go in a and get a CTO. There are a lot of “find your co-founder” sites today, but I haven’t seen any good ones. My advice is get the word out there. I found my first co-founder through mutual friends, who knew I was looking and knew he was too. Talk to people, try to explain what qualities or types of people you are looking for. This should not be random names of coding languages. Use real life qualities that will make this person a good fit for you. Expand your social circles, attend events, write to people on Linkedin. Talk to random people in bars (hoping this will be a thing once again).
In the end, this is your first sale and a very important one. Whatever your expertise is, founders must be awesome at selling, and if you haven’t done sales before here is a great opportunity to start practicing. Even if you are the tech founder, and clearly if you are the product or business founder, you will have to sell your idea, then your company (to co-founders /employees / investors), then your product or service. View it as a sales exercise. If you get tired than you’re in the wrong business, and if you find that you improve in the process you’re on the right track.
Happy to engage in conversation if you are founders, future founders, or anyone who’s interested in these issues. My Twitter DM is open: https://twitter.com/AmitMittelman