Editor’s note: This is a guest post by Greg Muender, co-founder of Whttl. The post went through PandoDaily’s usual editorial process and Mr Muender was paid for his work.
In the last five years, entrepreneurship has seen an unprecedented surge in popularity. Where it was once thought of as a profession for just a small (crazy) subset of the population, people are leaving traditional jobs in droves to pursue their own story.
Tim & I launched Whttl in October to be the Kayak.com equivalent for cool startup services in a given city. Many prospective ‘treps have reached out to us since the company’s inception to ask questions about starting and running a business. While they may range from practical questions like the proper legal way to structure an entity, they also get a bit more personal, like how to manage the stress than can come with the territory.
But there is always one question that we like to direct back towards these folks:
“What’s holding you back from starting today?”
The answers are all across the board. People may respond with “I don’t have the financial security”, or “I don’t know where to begin”, or “I don’t know enough about the industry.”
I’m going to make a bold statement here, one that both Tim and I can agree on. Nearly all excuses or seemingly genuine reasons to not start a company can boil down to one simple element.
You need a cofounder. Scratch that, you need a cofounder with a complimentary skill set.
Let’s be real. Starting a business is really, really challenging. While it can be done with one person, it shouldn’t be. As startup guru Paul Graham states in one of his essays, “Starting a startup is too hard for one person.” (See Mistake #1.)
Two cofounders don’t get twice as much done as one. There is a fascinating phenomenon when you throw a duo after the same problem. They get ten times done what a solo founder could on his or her own. They solve seemingly impossible problems. They figure out creative solutions. They don’t let setbacks like a lack of funds, unimpressive traction, or product failures stop them in their tracks. They hold each other accountable to keep pressing forward. They push each other to a level that self discipline alone won’t achieve.
When I built my first startup, I was the only founder. Looking back, I know I could have built the company 10X larger if I had someone else there as an equal partner on the ride with me.
So, I made the decision that I would never build a company solo again.
You’re probably thinking right now, “OK, cool beans Greg. Thanks for the advice. But this sounds easier said than done. Now how do I actually implement that?”
Get the heck out there and shake hands. Mingle. Meet people.
It took me two years of meeting people to finally sync up with Tim. When I moved to San Francisco, I attended more than 180 events over the span of just one year. Looking at the stack of business cards on my desk right now, I imagine I met well over five hundred people.
As I’ve previously written about, finding a cofounder is like finding a spouse. You can’t assume that the first hottie you’ll meet at the bar will walk down the aisle with you, so it’s a fallacy to think that the first person you meet at a startup event is going to found a company with you. It’s a numbers game. Get your top line as large as possible, and you’ll have more of a selection the further down the funnel you work.
Here are seven ways to find your cofounder:
In a tech city like San Francisco, there are at least a hundred solid Meetup groups that are related to startups, tech, and business. I joined around 75 of them. I integrated all of their event schedules with my calendar, so every day I had at least a few events cued up to pick from. I commmitted to going to an event three to four days a week, even if I was tired or unmotivated to do so. Once you start attending the events you’ll create a chain reaction of referrals and recommendations that leads you to other events and social circles.
Quite the number of events to choose from!
In cities all across the world, there is usually a dominant hub of startup activity. An organization, incubator, or just a fantastic coffee shop often becomes the central point of startup life. In San Diego, where I am currently writing this, EvoNexus holds this title. Do some research and find your local hub.
Your Personal Passions
What interests you? What do you do outside of work? For Tim & I, we are both massive petrol heads (aka car dudes). When Parisoma hosted a “connected car” event, neither of us could pass that up. Interestingly, our fascination with all things cars ended up placing us in touch. Finding someone with similar interests is a good way to form a strong relationship that isn’t built exclusively on work related tasks.
Leverage Your School
Branko Cerny, founder of Immediately, was introduced to his cofounder by reaching out to his alma mater. They connected him with a promising undergrad, the two met a few times, and quickly came to the conclusion that they could certainly go into business together.
Just when you thought all hope was lost, FounderDating.com comes along. No, this is not a dating site for founders to meet one another, despite the name. It’s a place to meet your next cofounder. They host events that bring people together, lead thought discussions online, and even connect people via intelligent matching and recommendation.
If you already work at a company, who do you currently work well with? Is their anyone is a different department that has collaborated with you on a project? Looking to your fellow colleagues is particularly revealing because you can see how the person works, which is hard to do elsewhere. You’ll have insight to see if their productivity style mixes well with yours, and vice versa.
An idea alone isn’t worth much, it is the execution that matters. There is a legacy paradigm that some entrepreneurs adopt, where they keep their ideas shrouded in secrecy to prevent plagiarism. These are they types of folks that ask you to sign an NDA to talk about what they are working on. Tim and I are advocates that talking openly and candidly about your startup opens more doors than it closes. Whether you are vocal online, or at random cocktail parties, be open about what you find interesting and have been thinking about. Encourage others to do the same. Before you know it, you may find someone else who is interested in a similar opportunity. You never know what really drives people and what crazy ideas they may have. Be open minded to all of them.
I won’t sugarcoat it. It’s challenging to find the right cofounder.
You need to get along. You need to have complimentary skill sets with minimal overlap. You need to share the same vision. You need to have similar values, goals, and expectations. In addition, you need to both be at a place in your career that you can focus nearly 100% of your attention on the startup and forego income for a bit.
There are a lot of moving parts. To find the right cofounder, you may have to meet a hundred people. Maybe more.
With all this said, it’s a lot easier than going at it alone.
As a recommended next step, I suggest that you focus on getting someone else interested in working with you. You may not have your idea crystalized, nor your product build under way. Heck, Tim & I went through at least a dozen iterations before pulling the trigger on Whttl. (Check our Whttl company blog for an upcoming post about that particular process.) It’s most important to get people working on something, anything, together. Once you have that, you’ll figure out what to do.