Dan Pickett: Find Your Founder: Five Romantic Tips From a New Technical Cofounder
Finding someone to start a venture with you is tough business. Being a newlywed and finding many similarities between this and getting married, I always tend to associate seeking a cofounder with dating. So, I've assembled five tips for you that should help set the mood.
It's a slow romance.
Finding a cofounder takes time. In fact, it's much more of a marathon than a sprint. It took me 9 months to select a person and venture. Look at it this way: you're probably going to be spending many long days and late nights together for what will likely amount to two to five years. It is definitely worth taking two to five hours a week meeting with and vetting potential partners.
Leverage your network and be clear about who and what you're seeking. I compare it to an elevator pitch - know what you want and state it clearly and succinctly. Here are some examples:
- "I am seeking a sales oriented cofounder with an established network in the restaurant industry"
- "I am seeking a marketing genius than can help me with a sports related venture I'm pursuing. What I want to do is...(insert standard elevator pitch here)"
You'd be surprised by the connections your network can facilitate. Again, it's just a matter of time, networking, and telling everyone you know about what you're seeking.
Better to have loved and lost, than to never have loved at all.
Again, this relationship you're entering into is a long term investment. Most couples don't get married with the assumption that they've only got a few years together and then they'll part ways. You should be in this for the long haul, and it's in your best interest as well as the other person's to not force it.
I struggled the most with this, but you must understand that it is ok to say no. Trust your instincts and internalize that other opportunities will come, and that you're also serving the other party by not committing to an initiative you're unsure about. Ask all the right questions, and be honest with yourself and the potential partner(s).
Be in love with the person, not the idea.
It is easy to get caught up in the excitement of joining a startup team, and become enamored with idea of being "on the scene" that is our startup community. Before you leap into any long term investment, keep your emotions in check and be conscientious about your decision. Think with your head first, and your heart second, which is often easier said than done in both love and business.
Now, with your excitement calmed, let's talk about the idea. It's cliche at this point in the investment community, but you often hear the old adage: "It's about the people first and the idea second." Most businesses adapt as they learn and grow, so finding a capable, productive founder is more important than finding an idea that you're totally in love with.
Chances are, you're not going to find a cofounder that does it all. It's much more about finding someone that's a suitable complement to you than it is about finding a partner that fulfills all of your criteria. Be prepared to accept people for who they are, and understand that they will make mistakes. Believe it or not, you both will make mistakes, so ensure your potential partner has a tolerance for that as well.
The honeymoon will end.
Like most marriages, the true endurance of a relationship is tested in the face of adversity. It's easy for the excitement and newness of a venture to overshadow all the hard work and conflicts ahead. Ensure that before you jump in, you and your cofounder(s) take the time to acknowledge that conflicts will happen, and that they're best resolved through open and clear communication. Having a prescribed strategy for how to resolve conflicts might be warranted, but don't always expect disagreements to comply with your game plan. Instead, I recommend setting ground rules for how to handle them, and make sure everyone agrees with those rules in writing. As a last resort, make sure you provide a framework for severing the relationship should the unfortunate need occur. Always consult with an attorney and make sure both parties are protected. It's not shady or self serving, it's good and smart business.
It's really all about interpersonal skills. Leverage your network, communicate, and use diplomacy to enter into what will hopefully be flourishing a relationship! Cue the Full House music
Dan Pickett is a local developer and principal at Enlight Solutions, a mobile and web development agency specializing in Ruby on Rails. He recently joined Textaurant, a Boston startup setting out to change the way you wait, as the technical co-founder.