Choosing the Right Co-founder
Updated: Feb 6
A business partnership, not unlike a long-term committed relationship, comes with its own set of unique challenges and considerations. Founders’ spend so much time together, that this relationship is closest to a marriage in essence.
While the society has always prepared your mindset on what kind of a life-partner you want, no one ever talked about what kind of a co-founder you want. And trust me, both these questions demand an equal amount of time, effort and thinking. Most early-stage start-ups fail due to founder disputes, not the substance of the business. Which I find extremely unfortunate.
It’s great to be excited about starting your business, but rushing into it with someone you just met is not a great idea. Here are some of the important traits to look for in your entrepreneurial other (and hopefully better) half:
1. Complementary Skill Sets: Of course, it tops my list. Your founding team needs to have a broad range of skills to successfully manage the many demands of running your own business. It doesn’t help if all the founders are marketing experts and it doesn’t help if all of you are IT honchos. Running a business requires that you have in-house expertise in a variety of subject matters. Focus on finding the partner that brings in complementary operational skills to add value to your daily business.
2. Similar Value System and Work Ethics: I cannot emphasize the importance of choosing a business partner who shares your value system. Mismatches on things like taking a shortcut on a certain project, or the way you want to treat your employees or the definition of work-life balance - can quickly and reliably turn into resentments. And these kinds of resentments don’t go away by “talking it out”. While candour is extremely important among co-founders, a mismatch in your value system and work ethic usually can’t be improved or built upon. It’s either there, or it’s not. So, choose wisely!
3. Emotional Maturity and Level Headed-ness: Even if you’re completely enamoured by your co-founder at first, it’s important to remember that the honeymoon phase isn’t going to last forever. All co-founders will fight at some point. The question is, how are you going to respond to each other when you disagree on something? That’s when emotional maturity is expected from both of you!
4. Utter and Complete Honesty: You and your co-founder must be committed to telling each other the truth - all the time, even if it’s tough to say or hear. Find someone who is honest. Communicate up-front that there is an expectation for 100 percent honesty at all times - no exceptions. Remember, it isn’t just about skills: It’s also about character
5. Trust in Each Other: Both you and your co-founder should trust each other enough that one can take decisions that are needed to run daily business smoothly. While on a strategic level you may choose to discuss and deliberate, but if you need your co-founder’s buy-in on every tactical decision, things get really slow. If you are not taking quick decisions, you might lose out on some amazing opportunities out there. Even if at first you don’t like a decision taken by your co-founder, trust them that they are also in it for the same purpose. Which eventually brings me to the last and important trait you need in your co-founder.
6. The Shared Vision: This is it! If you both have bought into the central vision for the business and are aligned on where and how you need to build the organization, the rest is usually taken care of.
There are so many reasons a start-up won’t succeed. A mismatch between the founders’ visions should not be one.
The author of this blog is Girish Batra, Founder and CEO of NetAmbit. Founded in 2000 with a vision to make financial services available to masses, NetAmbit diversified leveraging the years of expertise in large scale - sales and call centre operations. NetAmbit now offers offline scale up services including Managed sales, Hiring & Staffing Solutions - to many big businesses pan India.