Of the many challenges an entrepreneur faces, none has as many repercussions as choosing your fellow founders. Pick the right ones and your business has a great chance at success. Pick the wrong ones and doom is inevitable. Finding like minded entrepreneur’s can be a daunting task especially if you are a business person that knows nothing about technology or a techie that is business challenged. Fret not. Like minded people are out there. You just need to know where to look and what you are looking for. To help you through the process, consider this process that has worked for me.
Step 1: Figure Out What You Need
I know this seems obvious but most founder problems revolve around the needs of the business not being met. To avoid this, you really need to figure out what skills you really need. The typical high-tech startup requires the golden three: CEO, VP of Engineering and VP of Marketing. Without these three people, the company will struggle to get off the ground. The reason is simple. All startups have to nail Technology (VP of Engineering), Team (CEO) and Market (VP of Marketing). Without solid individuals in each of those positions, raising money will be next to impossible. Assessing your needs requires that you do a couple of things before starting your search. These include:
What business do I want to create? This sounds silly but you should reflect hard on what you want to build. This is the only way to properly figure out who you might need to be successful.
What skills are required to be successful? As the founder or CEO, you need to think past just the technical or business skills and focus on what the whole business will look like in 2-3 years and work backward. This is the best way to ensure you build for success.
What do I bring to the table? A candid self skills assessment will go a long way in really focusing you on where the gaps are. This skills assessment should be what you are really good at. You can add what you want to work on as well but that’s a secondary priority.
Who are the top competitors? Competitors can be a great place to find founders. You would be surprised at how many companies spin out of a larger organization because the founders felt that the larger company was all doing things all wrong.
Step 2: Who Do you Know?
The best pace to find founders are among your peer group. This group is usually prime hunting grounds because you know them and they know you. I would caution against partnering with close friends since friends sometimes cannot separate business from the friendship.
Step 3: Know Anyone Who Knows Anyone
If you can’t fins founders among your close peer group, then the next step would be to get introduced to others via your friends and family. Sometimes these introductions are the most fruitful because as a friend of a friend, you have creditability but no emotional attachment to the other person. If you are new to setting up businesses then this emotional disconnect can help when you have to make the tough decisions.
Step 4: Get Involved with Social Media
Nowadays, social media sites are a great place to meet and evaluate potential founders. A particularly target rich environment are sites where groups of people help each other out. A couple great examples are Stack Overflow and Answers On StartUps. The reason these are so good is that you get to see how a potential founder interacts with a community and how much the community respects their opinion. Other social media techniques include writing a blog and reaching out to other bloggers, joining groups on LinkedIn and using Twitter. Twitter is particularly suited for this since the power of the retweet, in a sense, validates a persons helpfulness.
Step 5: Meet Ups, Mixers, Conferences and Trade Shows
Nothing beats a place where like minded people come to learn about new things and network. These places are prime for finding founders because people usually want to meet other people in the field and try to put deals together. You do need to be cautious in these settings because may a good idea has been stolen at a trade show. If you use the proper amount of caution and your approach is collaborative, then finding a good founder at a conference or trade show is likely.
Step 6: Volunteer
Volunteering is a wonderful way to not only help out your community but to meet like minded people who just might make good founders. There are tons of non-profits that need help and giving back to your community will pay off 10 fold. To be clear, you should volunteer for the right reasons and not just to meet potential technical or business founders. If your intentions are pure, you will naturally meet potential founders with the same sensibility as you.
Step 7: Professional Organizations and Investor Groups
Professional organizations can provide a wealth of networking and business potential. The trick is to understand the dynamics of the group and how they deal with business networking. Groups of wealthy individuals naturally have tons of contacts that can be helpful. It’s always best to get introduced to a potential angel or investor rather than a cold call. Angel groups naturally want to put deals together that make sense for them. This can sometimes be a burden if a potential investor wants to give you money but also wants to be a founder with you or worst, have his crony help you found the company.
Always be Networking
Finding the right technical or business founder is time consuming. The best time to start finding one is when you don’t need one. This means that you always need to be networking and searching the horizon for potential founders. Waiting till you need them will only force you to choose a less than optimal founder. So get out there and mingle. Don’t be afraid to reach out to someone you respect. Attend a couple of meet ups. Your potential founder is out there, you just have to find them.
- Pretty cool post over at Venture Hacks on picking a co-founder
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