Meeting Cofounders and Making Connections in the Startup World
Meeting a co-founder is about putting a high-performing team together. But it’s not simply a matter of looking for expertise; there needs to be a mix of soft skills, social skills, and a baseline level of chemistry. You might not have to be spend 24 hours a day with these people, but make no mistake – starting a company together has the potential to be a very intimate arrangement!
If you’re independent, have a clear vision, and don’t want anyone clouding up your path, it might be better to go it alone...but it’s unlikely you’d be reading this article if that was the case.
On the other hand, if you need help getting your idea off the ground, and you’ve been asking yourself, “where do I meet cofounders?” we’ve got you covered below. We’re going to show you not only the where, but the why, and the how too. Let’s get started.
The Why and How to start Meeting Co founders
So you’ve got your idea, you may or may not have delved into the inner workings of market research and financial projections, but either way, you want to get some people on board to spread the workload and get past the concept stage. Of course, many people go it alone, but many other startups are a lot more efficient when there’s a small team of founders dividing up the work and playing to their strengths.
Starting a company with cofounders has numerous other perks over doing it alone too:
- You don’t have to do all the work
- You can outsource or delegate tasks you’re not so good at
- You get a fresh perspective on what you’re doing
- You'll be able to share the emotional burden of starting a company
It’s also a shared experience that can create some lucrative and personally meaningful relationships over time. That shared sense of responsibility can be a huge offloading of stress in the difficult early stages if you pick well.
Conversely, if you end up hooked to someone who doesn’t do their job well, is irresponsible, or otherwise needs you to take the strain of their shoddy work on top of your responsibilities, you’re going to have a bad time, and your company may not make it through the critical early stages to your next funding round.
So, it’s important to choose wisely, and luckily, we’ve got quite a lot of information coming up about how to do that. But before you go out looking, you’ve got to figure out how to find the right ones. And this takes some planning.
Meeting cofounders to start a project is a lot like putting a band together. You’re going to have to research, maybe go through a few rehearsals, and have your shortlist of prospects try out for the roles. First of all, you need to know how many people you need to get the job done. Then, you’ll design some ideal candidates to fill the role.
For this, identify exactly what you’ll want them to do, what they need to be like, and how they’ll contribute. You also need to know what you’ll be contributing, since you’re going to be going out there and selling yourself and your idea to these ideal candidates. Are you offering equity? How much? Make sure you know what the deal is before you start going out to try and make it!
Your candidate profile should be detailed enough that you’ll spot some of the characteristics of your potential business partner on the first encounter. Here’s a short list of things we think you should look out for.
What to Look for When Meeting Cofounders
Your project is going to have needs that are very specific to what you want to achieve. A cofounder should be able to do a number of things you can’t, and vice-versa, but there’s a lot more to look for than just expertise in a certain field. Here are a few key attributes that the ideal cofounder should exhibit.
This is one of the most important characteristics of any cofounder. It’s not everything you need, but it is a critical component of it. By the time you’re ready to look for a cofounder, you should know full well what you want to accomplish, and how. Then, you’ll be ready to find someone who matches this idea.
This might be the most important thing to look for, and yet it’s not an easy one to spot until your prospects are put to the test. Despite their infinite differences, startups all have one thing in common, and that’s the initial grind to get off the ground. Work can be slow and hard in the initial stages, and founders need to be able to stick it out.
You ideally want as few people as possible working on your project at the start. This means very little redundancy and a multitude of tasks for each of the founders. Being able to handle a range of roles is a key element of being a good founder.
The system of founding a company will be most efficient if everyone can play to their strengths. If you’ve got weaknesses in some areas, you’ll want to look for someone who can comfortably fill them, and who will appreciate you taking on the roles that you’re good at, so they don’t have to.
Cofounding is a team game, and your communication needs to be open and transparent. If someone’s not happy with the way things are going, they need to be able to express that. If changes occur abruptly, founders need to be responsible enough and forthcoming with the information, to make sure everyone is up to speed. Honesty is really important.
It’s a good idea to find people to work with who share your nature. This will hopefully reduce friction where there are incompatible personality types causing a strain on one another. You could even take this one step further and consider the capacity for emotional support. When times are hard – and they’re likely to be – a motivational character may make all the difference to morale.
Cofounders need to be as comfortable getting on with their responsibilities as they are working together. Being able to rely on everyone not to lean too heavily on each other, you’ll have a lot less stress and a lot more confidence in the way things are going.
Finding someone to work with who has a different outlook than you can come in very handy. Essentially you’ll be merging your contacts with theirs, potentially increasing your network by double or more. This bodes well for the future of your company, so be on the lookout for that.
Once you’ve identified the characteristics in your ideal cofounders, you’ll be one step closer to knowing where to find them.
Where do I meet Cofounders?
There are quite a few options and routes to take here. Hopefully, your research and thought processes up to this point have given you some ideas of where to look, but we can go over a handful of options to get you started, and you’ll see if any fit. Of course, the nature of your ideal cofounder or cofounders will determine where they’ll be and what they’ll be doing, but there are also quite a lot of people out there, looking for you, too.
The trick to meeting them is to project yourself into wherever they’re looking. Here’s a suggestion of some of the places to look, followed by a bit more detail on each one.
- Specialized Websites
- 'The community'
- 'The industry'
- Social networks like LinkedIn
None of these options should be considered as a stand-alone solution; many of them work well in tandem or can function as a lead-up to another approach. Let’s take a look at each in more detail.
There are quite a few sites popping up for this very purpose. CoFoundersLab and FoundersList are two that show up immediately, but there are many more to browse through. These sites might be the first place to look as they’re specifically designed to deal with the issue you’re facing: namely, bringing like-minded people together with the purpose of allowing cofounders to meet.
Another useful resource that has had much success in enabling people to start a compay is Y Combinator's Co-founder matching program.
These could be conventions, networking meets, or industry events of some other kind, primarily thrown together as a medium for people to find one another. While these might not be targeted specifically at cofounders, they may be tailored to your industry, or you may even be able to set some up with people you’re already connected to. Go through your existing rolodex and check your existing connections!
Getting involved in the community might work for you if your startup idea relates to the work you’re doing, or at least if that work is attractive to the people you’re looking for. A beach cleanup is a great contribution to the community, and if you’re looking to start a recycling business, you could find potential leads there; alternatively, if you’re looking for a SaaS cofounder, you might be better off getting involved in a different way.
People who are already working in your target industry should be the best bet for finding the expertise and networks needed to help you get your idea off the ground. There are countless ways to meet these people; chances are you’re already working among them. If that’s the case, simply divert some resources to branching out and expanding your network here.
Custom sites for founders may work for you, or, if you’re looking for people with a wider scope to help you form your idea, you may do well on sites like LinkedIn or social media. The spectrum of online resources from cofounder sites to social media decreases in specificity, and in some cases that’s a good thing. Putting your ideas out there in their current form may guide the right people to you.
Once you’ve begun funding prospective cofounders, you will want to vet them and narrow them down to a shortlist of potentials. This process should take time; as with any serious relationship, there’s a lot at stake, so it’s important to ensure their fitness for the role before committing.
Building Relationships with your New Connections
You’ve figured out where to look, and now you need to know what to do to figure out how well your prospects might function.
The first step to building meaningful relationships with your prospective cofounders will be at your first interaction. Unlike many networking strategies, you’ll probably have something very specific in mind when you’re looking for contacts, so you should already know what you’re bringing to the table too.
By identifying and selecting for the high-value contacts in this way, you’ll save time building up relationships that are doomed to fail, and you’ll be able to put all your resources into these contacts who are most likely to be able to help you.
Being upfront and transparent with your intentions and presenting what you have to offer in a way that is appealing without being overly pushy is a skill in itself. It’s one worth practicing, too, because these early connections will set the trajectory for the rest of the relationship.
At this stage, you’ll be looking out for key features that present themselves early on. Many of the critical characteristics probably aren’t visible at first, and these will take time to establish, so for now, focus on the readily available information. Are they amicable, what’s their professional background?
If you’ve found them from your contacts list or as a recommendation from someone else, you may be able to find out about their work ethic, but in general, this information will have to come later. Their skillset, their energy levels, and whether their personality and vision match your own, should all be a focus of this preliminary research.
Now, you’re going to want to keep your leads warm and your prospects attentive. Make sure not to make any promises you can’t keep, and if you’re looking for a single cofounder in a sea of plenty, it’s only fair that everyone knows where they stand.
Checking in and nudging the relationships forward where necessary is how you progress each contact along the journey from the connections phase toward the cofounder. This is the next skill to learn.
Moving From Connection to Cofounder
By the time you reach this stage, you should have a pretty good understanding of who the people are that you’ve connected with, and you’ll be looking to check out more than just the superficial traits. It’s important at this stage that you focus on mutually-beneficial, respectful relationships, and nurturing them toward your goal.
This means paying attention to the give and take and fostering a more personable connection between you and your prospects. Whether you’ve explicitly stated your desire to work with them, or it’s been a loose suggestion so far, this stage of the journey is about further identifying your fit and pushing the relationship towards the ultimate goal.
Simple networking practices apply here:
- Keep track of your conversations
- Try to add value each time you communicate
- Remember their important dates and show thoughtfulness
- Keep tabs on how well they’re doing each of these for you
It might be a good idea to make use of a CRM for all this. Dex can allow you to consolidate your contacts in one place, set reminders to reach out, and helps you keep track of where you left off. Keeping all this information together makes scheduling and organizing your relationships a lot more straightforward, and you’ll never miss an opportunity to push them toward where they need to be.
From there, the process is more or less organic. You will be weeding out people who aren’t committed, people whose skillset overlaps too much or not enough, and those who are just not going to be easy to be around for the required hours. What you’re left with is your best option, and all that remains to do is take the leap!
This process might end up vastly increasing your network, and that’s not a bad thing at all. In fact, you should be maintaining your connections even if they don’t fit the role of cofounder this time. There are plenty of reasons why you connected with them in the first place, so make sure to keep those connections warm, provide value to them by reaching out and staying in touch, and you’ll likely see many of them provide opportunities in one way or another, further down the line.
Identifying, looking for, and meeting co-founders is a simple, but involved process. The most ambitious will run this process as a networking challenge with a very specific target outcome: your next business partner(s).
Start by designing your cofounding team in your head and on paper, then figure out where you’ll be most likely to find them. After that, put the hours in to connect and maintain the leads that you encounter. If you’re not lucky enough to find the best match immediately – most won't be – from your networking you'll be whittling your list down to a handful of the most valuable candidates.