Premature startup failures are often credited to co-founder blowups. Yet every solo founder is encouraged by investors and advisors to find a co-founder. This can be confusing for the young solo founder. If co-founders cause conflict, why is finding one recommended? Should I really get one? What do I look for? Where do I find one?
Let's talk about these.
Data shows that startups with multiple co-founders find it easier to secure funding than those with a single founder. The common hypothesis is that a solo founder is likely to have bigger blind spots than a team, and that very often, an individual founder might be strong on either technology or business, but rarely both, which leads to critical gaps in the early thinking and execution of the startup.
Our own observation through the applications for the Atoms program is that two-thirds of the startups we see have multiple founders. Only a third of the companies have a single founder at the helm.
This doesn't mean, though, that solo founders can’t succeed. To the contrary, this study from Wharton suggests that while teams of co-founders tend to attract more capital than solo founders, that doesn’t necessarily translate to higher odds of success! Even around us, we see companies like Paytm, Hike and Goibibo become big on the back of solo founders.
So don’t go co-founder shopping just because some investor advised you to. Put some more thought into what’s appropriate for your own journey.
Perhaps the biggest driver for the co-founder question is your own temperament. Are you a lone wolf or do you like hunting in packs? Can you make speedy confident decisions mainly on your own, or do you prefer having trusted collaborators to work with? Here is a quick list to help you think through this better.
It is important to remember one thing though. While there are disadvantages to working with co-founders, you will have to learn to get over all of these sooner rather than later as you bring on senior leadership into the company. Being able to bring strong co-founders that can share your vision and values is a strong indicator that you’ll be able to attract strong leadership as well as the company scales. Also, founding a company is not necessarily about you imposing your thoughts and ideas on everyone, but also you being open to evolving and improving those based on inputs from other strong stakeholders.
So what are the checkboxes that you should tick while zeroing down on a co-founder?
There is one big intangible that you must consider in addition to all the points mentioned above.
When you think of a potential co-founder, the answer to the question “Will I enjoy working with this person?” needs to be an emphatic YES!
Now that you have thought through the pros & cons and you have a fair idea of what to look for, it’s time for the big question. Where do you start looking? Here is what we suggest:
Finding the right co-founder could be the most critical decision that you will make as a startup founder. Your initial founding team will define not only the initial success of your business but its longevity as well. It is crucial and worthwhile to take time to onboard the right person. However, you will never know for sure beforehand if someone is the best fit for the job. It is a leap of faith at some level, and once you do have a co-founder, you too must commit to making the relationship work.