Find A CoFounder

You've got this great idea, but you can't code so you're stuck. Or maybe you read that startups with only one founder always fail. Either way, you are currently on your own and want to find a co-founder.

Oh, and of course you don't have any money so you can't just go hire a developer. If only investors would give you some cash… But they won't hand over a cent until you have something to show them, and you can't build anything until you have a developer… You're trapped in a catch 22.

Solo founders fail

First, let's address the wrong reasons to want a co-founder. Yes, it's true that startups with only one founder are more likely to fail. But it's due to signaling: if you, as passionate about your idea as you are, can't even convince one more person to join you, how will you get users excited to download your app, get investors excited about the market, and get Microsoft and Coca-Cola to partner with you?

Solo founders usually fail because they are bad at convincing anyone of anything. Artificially adding a co-founder will not change that critical personality trait: are you charismatic enough to lead?

Now that we've ruled out the wrong reason for wanting a co-founder, let's try to actually find one.

The best co-founder is someone you've already worked with

I have more bad news: the best co-founder is someone you've already worked with, typically an ex-coworker. Why? Because you already know how you two work together, on good days and on bad days, under pressure, and not under pressure. You also know what that person can do. So just in case you ever need them, make sure to catch up with co-workers, especially the ones you've lost sight of over the years. You never know what they might be up to.

Assuming the co-worker route didn't work out, what do you do next? Friends are a reasonable alternative. Just don't confuse friendship with competency. And be ready to blow up your friendship if you co-found a startup together. The highs and lows of startups are way more stressful than the average friendship. Failure and greed sometimes bring out the worst in people you thought you knew well.

Strangers

The last resort: strangers. But where do you meet a developer, and more importantly, how do you convince them to join you and your idea? Hanging out with developers isn't too hard these days. Between meetups, conferences and online forums, starting a conversation is not particularly difficult.

But the real challenge is that your idea sounds dull to most people the first time they hear it. Everyone has ideas (especially the smart developers you are currently pitching). What those developers don't have is traction. Show them that you are making progress, that you have customers lined up and journalists on speed dial. Show them demand.

In short, show them that you are a great hustler. That's the hook, more than the details of your idea. Those details will change soon enough.

The 80/20 Rule of Vision

It goes without saying that co-founders should share the same passion and vision for the startup. Most founders want to change the world, but they'd better agree on what they want the world to look like, or else everyone will be miserable.

That doesn't mean that you need to agree 100% on everything. The ideal co-founder will agree on most things (80%), but will disagree a bit and bring you a different perspective (20% of the time). Be very suspicious of yes-men: they find everything you say great, and think all your ideas are awesome… In the end, however, they don't have your back. You will make mistakes and when you do, you'll need honest feedback from someone you trust that you are doing the wrong thing. That's the job of your co-founder.

On the other hand, you don't want a co-founder who disagrees constantly. That's usually the sign of a misunderstanding about the startup's vision.

So watch for the 80/20 rule: agree most but not all of the time. Demand honest and valuable feedback from your co-founder.

Dating

As long as you share the same passion and vision, you're good, right? Wrong. There's still more to consider before signing up a great co-founder.

Founders should be doers, and they need to get along with and complement each other. The only way to confirm these qualities is with time.

Count on working together with your new potential co-founder for one to two months before declaring victory. A typical new co-founder relationship starts like this:

The first week, everyone is super excited, you all share the same vision for where the startup could go. However, after a week or two, is there progress or are you stalled and repeating the same discussions? If you are stalled, you didn't find a doer, so try again.

After a solid month (or better, two months), you will have been through enough ups and downs, that you'll know whether the two of you work together well. That's when you sign the founding papers (with vesting of course).

Expect rough times ahead no matter what, but at least your startup won't implode immediately due to co-founder disputes.

Go back to the Co-Founder Equity Calculator.

Visit the Founder's forum for more in-depth discussions about splitting equity among co-founders.