When is the best time to add a co-founder?
I am just going to keep my question simple for now. Everyday as a founder, I find myself putting on different kinds of hats to get things done. I think it's time for me to add some experts to the picture. What is the key to finding the right co-founder? Any suggestions?
I agree with Rory. You may not necessarily need or want a co-founder.
Hiring an executive is entirely different than bringing in a co-founder. a partner.
If you do decide to bring in a co-founder they must be passionate about the business and should be complimentary to you. If they have strengths in areas where you have weaknesses that would be good.
You should be able to get along well with the person, because you are going to be spending a LOT of time together.
If they could bring industry knowledge, financing, new accounts or some other "big" thing to the business that would be beneficial.
I guess the main point I am trying to make is that if you just need help running the business then you should hire people. If you want to bring in a co-founder it should be only if that person will make a significant and lasting impact on the business.
How about never. Does never work for you? I agree with Rory and Mark completely.
I almost had a co-founder when I started my agency 30 years ago. He pulled out at the eleventh hour, and ever since then I have considered that a blessing!
Al Shultz alshultz.com/
This answer is for the context of a startup in the web app space employing Lean techniques. I have experience with over 5 community and product web app startups as a consultant. Each one I wanted to prove myself by agreeing to a certain scope for a fee. This let me prove myself to the founder and vice versa. After spending time working through the scope, the founders became very comfortable with me and this made an easy choice to offer me co-founder and equity in the startup. Though I've read about how many startups have formed and they differ in terms of team building. For example Mint, the financial planning app bought by Intuit, was founded by two college friends. One had the idea and pitched the friend, who was trained as a software engineer. No scope there.
When searching for a business model the founder doesn't need to spend money on sales or marketing. The product market fit should be found first, something that people will pay for. This can be done with a founder and a UX designer/developer who is able to understand the product and the target audience enough to create a minimum viable product. Between the two of you social media should be able to be taken care of if it's needed, as well as PR (also if it's needed), to drive the early adopters to your site and validate your riskiest propositions. Only after the product has been validated do you need to hire Sales, Marketing and HR hats.
If you're looking for a "co-founder," you are looking for someone with whom you are close to 100% compatible with and will enjoy spending many many hours per week in their company, and whose skill set complements your own, thus giving each of you areas of the company to "own."
If you're looking for personnel to take work off your plate, to free you up to focus more on pursuit of money, vision, and culture, you may not be looking for a co-founder.
I recommend you make a list of all that falls to you, and then think about how you would split up that list to things you are uniquely qualified to do (and hopefully enjoy) and things others can or could learn to handle. The second list is the one you want to hand over to someone else. While that may require you to increase your fixed costs, the idea is that with that person in place you'll be able to sell incrementally more than the amount fixed costs increase by.
Here's a good infographic from Funders and Founders highlighting the importance of a good co-founder.
Find someone who is passionate about your business plan who also has the experience and skill to see your model come to fruition. You don't have to immediately go out and get a Co-Founder. You can hire people based on the "hats" you currently wear. If you are managing all sides of the business, it's best to start first with what you have the least experience in or what you need the most help in. So instead of finding a Co-Founder you could hire a Marketing Director, or a Chief Operations Officer.
Understand your strengths and weaknesses and find a cofounder who is strong where you are weak and vice versa...But most importantly establish trust
You need someone to take some of the load away from you.
Group each activity under a broad umbrella.
Decide which umbrellas you can best handle.
Decide which ones you don't have the skills set to do.
Then workout how much of your time they take. and how much time they should take if you had someone else doing it.
From that you should soon see the skill sets you need to cover thous umbrellas, along with the time required.
This way you can see if you need a full time or part time person.
Then seek out suitable people to do thous jobs.
If you still want a business partner, the above will still help you in understanding exactly what you are looking for. Keeping in mind that if you are looking for an active partner, you need to ensure there is enough work for them.
Otherwise you are only looking for a part time person, and maybe someone to help you finance the next stage of your business.
Check the work and the work load first, then decide which action to take.
I was recently appointed co-founder of a new start-up and with this, comes the heavy responsibility of making it work as a team, and overnight, I bore the same responsibilities as the other founders. Here's my take -
"if you hire people just because they can do a job, they will work for your money, but if you hire people who believe what you believe, they'll work for you with blood, sweat and tears." - Simon Sinek.
I wont go too much into how I became but I would totally side with @MarkFackrell and @JacksonPowell
Looking for a someone to wear one or more of your hats -
It's about "that gut feeling" - they must be passionate about the business and should be complimentary to you. If they have strengths in areas where you have weaknesses that would be good. (@MarkFackrell )
The product market fit should be found first (if your still at the start up stage), something that people will pay for. This can be done with a founder and a UX designer/developer who is able to understand the product and the target audience enough to create a minimum viable product. (@JacksonPowell)
The key to finding the right co-founder -
You have to head hunt but also ensure that the experts you bring along to your business have the same values as you, not just people who can help you churn out results. You need a benchmarking process which will enable them to prove themselves to you "the founder" and vice versa (within a short period). And rightly so as @JacksonPowell points out - "after spending time working through the scope, the founders became very comfortable with me and this made an easy choice to offer me co-founder and equity in the start-up."
Good luck and feel free to connect if I can be of further assistance.
If the business is yours and already going, this is not a co-founder but a new partner. I honestly agree with Al, Rory, and Mark...the answer is "Never" ...unless you have to.
You may not have an option if you need funding, but would definitely suggest you look for other options.
You can get gaps in expertise, experience, and/or time by utilizing coaches and mentors and hiring people full or part time to help you.
Bottom line, I always advise my clients to bring on a partner as a last resort.
I agree with most responses. My answer is also never. Reserve that hat for yourself. Co-founder has several implications-foremost that you are prepared to yield equity without investment (financial or intellectual) where your need is for a key employee. Future partnerships may be appropriate after your key person proves of such value that his/her loss would have a serious negative impact on the business and your measure of their value exceeds the value of the dilution of your interest.