“You have to sit by the side of a river for a *very* long time before a roast duck will fly into your mouth“, said Guy Kawasaki. First-time entrepreneurs shouldn’t wait for their “roast duck” either. Whether you have an idea for a tech startup, or you want to join someone who does, life is too short to work on something you are not passionate about. Most investors will say that the most important thing they invest in, is the team. So how do you go about finding co-founders and early members of your startup?
VC Cafe took a look at the most promising sources for finding co-founders, both in the “real world” and online.
1) Weekend hackathons
Events like StartupWeekend, which are available almost worldwide, are a tremendous way to not only meet potential co-founders, but also see them in action over the course of a weekend. It’s a great way of doing a weekend-long interview process. The amount of creativity, problem-solving and pressure to perform in a compressed period of time (usually 54 hours) enables you to get to know the person in the context of startup work. Most likely, you won’t work on your original idea, but the time will be well spent.
2) Online tools
Almost on every hackathon, there will be a team thinking about how to make life easier for startup founders :-) regardless, there are plenty of new web services dedicated to helping entrepreneurs find co-founders online, here’s a selection:
http://startupdigest.com/vip/ – “Easily meet the best engineers, designers, and product managers (VIP’s) who believe in what your company is creating”. It is basically a matching service, where each engineer gets personally interviewed and “VIP engineers” get to pick the startups that excite them. If there’s a fit, Chris McCann from StartupDigest will personally introduce you via email to the person who makes the hiring decisions there – no dealing with nameless email addresses, resumes, or recruiting bs.
Angellist Talent – Whether you are browsing for startups or talent, with 23,971 startups, AngelList is one of the most active communities for early stage founders. Potential co-founders get to meet the entrepreneurs behind the startup (not the recruiters) and know the equity and salary up front.
http://startuply.com/ – a free job board for startups. It lets potential applicants not only understand the startup missing and products, but also learn about your team and what it’s like to actually work at your startup. “Job seekers want to know how big you are, how much funding you have, who your investors are, what your revenue picture looks like, what the office itself looks like (pictures!) and whether or not it’s cool to wear sandals to work”
http://www.founder2be.com/ – online ‘dating’ service for startup co-founders. You can start out part time or full time. You can be located in the same city or a different country.
http://workinstartups.com/ – currently listing over 50 co-founder openings in tech-startups, from work-at-home opportunities to venture-backed early stage startups. Not surprisingly, most of the ads look for technical co-founders.
http://www.startuphire.com/ – job site dedicated to recruiting exceptional talent to venture capital backed companies. The interesting bit is the different levels of progress displayed for startups. From “napkin” (seed stage) to profitable startups, this site will give you a good set of options.
Crunchbase People – the crowdsourced database of startups will give you the background info for tracking companies. Who are the backers? Who are the co-founders and what have they previously done?
LinkedIn – The best connections come from trusted introductions, so find your 6 degrees of separation and leverage your existing networks. School mates, alumni, co-workers and friends are all great first sources of introductions.
http://techcofounder.com/– a job board selling listings for $99 a month, for developers. “Techcofounder is an online directory of passionate developers interested in launching a new startup“.
http://www.partnerup.com/ – is a social network for small businesses. Not as relevant for online business, but nevertheless a resource.
Looking for designers?
There are more and more events dedicated to finding startup co-founders. For example, at Campus we have ‘Founders Fit’, where entrepreneurs (or wannabe entrepreneurs) apply to attend dinners in an intimate setting (15-20 people) for the purpose of finding a co-founder. An obvious place to look for these sort of events are co-working spaces. Meetup.com is full with community groups around the world, meeting weekly or monthly around their shared passions.
4) Educational environment – Universities, MBA programs, Phds and coding-schools are a great environment for finding a co-founder. Sergey and Larry, Mark Zuckerberg and Bill Gates, and many others are great examples of this (well, some of them are examples of the benefits of dropping out of school to start a company, but that’s not my point). If you’re currently in school – join the entrepreneurship club or the active startup club. Find the courses that bring together technologists and business people, to find complementary skills to yours. It’s a great environment to meet likeminded people with a relatively high risk appetite, and little to risk ;-)
5) Your network – lots of people partner with friends, spouses, co-workers. On the positive side, the relationship between co-founders requires a lot of trust. Most founders will tell you it’s like a marriage, and you probably want to ‘date’ the co-founder before jumping into a long-term relationship. On the negative side, working with a close friend or a spouse can potentially cost you the relationship. The roller coaster of running a company, the pressures of making ends meet, can change most people and stress the strongest relationships. Investors are weary of that, and many VCs will tell you that they stay away from husband+wife (or life partner) teams for that reason.
If you’re looking for some inspiration, check out this interesting slideshow on how 17 startup co-founders met.
The barriers to entrepreneurship keep shrinking. For example, the availability of capital enabled the “democratization of entrepreneurship”, where entrepreneurs no longer needs the “permission” of investors to innovate. Cloud computing and open source platform made it much easier for developers to create scalable software without the need for huge infrastructure. All of this has created pockets of innovation throughout the world, and an increasingly high number of startups. It’s ‘cool’ to be an entrepreneur and it’s easier to find a co-founder.