How to find the right set of co-founders?
Choosing to embark on an entrepreneurial journey is a big decision. I am sure numerous people around you might have suggested a more “stable” choice and many others might have applauded the “courageous” decision. Courageous or not, the path is certainly not easy, and while most days are pretty gratifying, there are many tough moments too. As LOTR taught us, for difficult journeys to be successful, we need trusted associates along with us – co-founders.
As one can imagine, just having co-founders isn’t enough; finding the right ones is key. While there surely isn’t a magic formula or framework for this, I thought of sharing what works for us at Flexiple, and what I have seen through my interactions with fellow entrepreneurs.
1. Find people you can get along with; not “superstars”
When I worked in Investment Banking (quite a switch to entrepreneurship, eh?), one key rule of hiring was always discussed – recruit a person only if you are sure you can get along with him/ her. This rule is pretty obvious and is probably also used in other industries. But it becomes paramount and supersedes brilliance in IB where one can expect to spend 16-18 hours a day with a colleague. Imagine spending that much time with a person you can’t stand the sight of!
Now, this becomes even more important in the case of choosing co-founders with whom you can expect to spend a similar amount of time and hopefully for a lot of the foreseeable future. Having fun while working with them can make a big difference in the way your startup shapes up.
2. Ensure diversity in skill sets
One can’t have a successful cricket team consisting of all batsmen or all bowlers. Similarly, co-founders need to have different strengths to complement one another. Smart people do pick up new skills, but even at the outset it is critical to have diversity.
At Flexiple, Hrishikesh has worked in the tech field while Suvansh and I have worked in consulting and IB respectively (so you can say that Hrishikesh is the only one who brings actual skills to the table). This allows us to take on different roles to grow our business.
Inevitably in early-stage startups, certain functions might be performed by more than one co-founder (for eg. client interfacing), but it is extremely helpful to have a leader for each function.
3. Same aspirations about the startup
As much as growing a startup needs skill, it needs a lot more of hard work, which primarily stems from the passion one feels towards achieving the common goals.
So, while the strengths of each founder need to be distinct, the love to grow the startup needs to be shared, which manifests itself in the commitment shown. Is everyone looking at the startup as their only dream, or is it something they plan to do along with work – misalignment often leads to rather nasty situations and might result in broken friendships/ relationships for no fault of anyone involved.
No founders’ agreement can save a startup from doom if the founders are not aligned on these fronts from the beginning.
They say it takes a million things to fall in place for a startup to be successful – finding the right partners can help one endure till those million things do fall in place.