OK, I admit it. I have struggled with the search for a cofounder. I’ve gone back and forth about its value over the past two years. Sometimes I think it’s critical to achieve success, and other times I couldn’t be happier I don’t. Guys like Paul Graham as well as history says if you’re solo you’ll probably fail. I understand the reasons why, and I tend to agree with most of them. Thus the reason for the continued search.
I have partnered or cofounded a couple of projects with different people. Bottom line: the only way it works is to find someone who is totally and equally yoked. It’s just like getting married; cofounders should compliment each other’s skills becoming 5x greater together than they would be apart. Otherwise I believe it’s not worth the hassle.
You may have heard about Founder Dating, an invite-only event for pre-screened candidates worthy of being your cofounder. It’s an interesting idea, with some major design flaws that will keep it from ever producing any meaningful partnerships.
Before the event began I was able to see who was attending. While lots of notable companies were represented (Google, Playdom, Yahoo!, MIT), after a quick LinkedIn search it was clear most of these people were similar, not complimentary. Lots of biz dev, project managers, and ‘business guys’ filled the event in Palo Alto last night.
I almost threw up hearing ‘I need a technical co-founder’ or ‘I need some technical guys’. This probably makes me ill because I’m guilty of saying many many times. To hear it told to me over and over again almost made my ears bleed. I learned through some trial and lots of error that asking for the ‘technical’ guys just doesn’t cut it.
The organizer of the event seemed to have pure motives. The event cost $30 but there were drinks, appetizers, and an empty bar to meet and converse freely. But even they expressed the same thing I kept hearing over and over again; “I’m looking for engineers.”
I feel like hiring or partnering at the startup level is so much about relationships. Can you find the right people at the right point in their career, and convince them you’re the best thing since Google was founded. Considering they’re taking a huge risk on you by joining your company, they need to really trust and believe in YOU. It’s a lot easier for friends, or people that know you to trust you.
Maybe the best event for finding a cofounder is just hanging out with really smart people. I would have preferred to sit around and watch the Heat/Celtics game, or played some videogames. That seems like a much better way to get comfortable than to stand around for 3 hours and have people tell me how cool they are and why I should ‘date’ them.
I tried it so I can cross it off the list on my way back to the grind as a solo founder. Oh wait, I remembered I already have a cofounder….it’s my wife! Thanks Erica, you’re the best cofounder I’ve ever dated. I promise I wasn’t cheating on you.
From my own observations I would agree that there appears to be an imbalance in the ratio of engineers to business types who are willing to take the kind of risks needed for a startup. Perhaps there are broad generalizations that could be made about engineer personality types and priorities that could explain this.
I also strongly agree with the idea of being “equally yoked”. If all the principals do not have equal passion levels for the vision it is hard to imagine everyone remaining happy/motivated for very long.
Interesting that the imbalance experienced at the event may be based on the fact that there are just fewer engineers willing to make that jump. I had thought it was that they were just smart enough to know not to attend events like that.
This article was extremely interesting.