When a venture is born it is started as a going concern. However, the ability of the promoters to travel through the zig-zag paths of entrepreneurship and sail through it each time defines its future. Starting up a venture requires a lot of courage, commitment, sacrifices and perseverance.
Though being a solo entrepreneur, I completely agree with what Guy Kawasaki, American marketing specialist, author, and Silicon Valley venture capitalist has written in his book “The Art of the Start”. He says, “Successful companies are started, and made successful, by at least two, and usually more, soulmates. After the fact, one person may come to be recognized as 'the innovator', but it always takes a team of good people to make any venture work”. Co-founder is that partner with whom you would want to travel the journey of your passion, create history and change lives. When your dream venture is still in your eyes and you have just begun taking your first steps, partnering with the soulmates is an important phenomenon.
Startups fail to survive co-founder conflicts. Hence, it is very important to scrutinize the prospect co-founder. Apart from all the technical qualifications you require the person to have; you need to understand her entrepreneurial wiring. The scrutiny becomes even intense if the co-founder is going to be a first time entrepreneur. On your entrepreneurial journey, every day is not the same and every single day brings in a lot of surprises and challenges. From my experience, I would like to state that when people get associated with the venture though they might say but deep inside not everyone shares the same reason and vision. So how do you decide then? Your analysis and answers to certain questions will help you find the right partner.
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Here are some questions that you must answer to before you lock the founding team:
What is the reason that the person wants to join in as a co-founder?
When you have already conceived the venture in your brain, your passion will be your driver.
Passion gives you and your venture the strength to sail to through highs and lows. But what is the reason that the other person wants to achieve out of the association, does s/he share the same passion or does s/he believes in your passion and wants to reap on the fame and money which s/he thinks the venture will bring in, or is it something else? It is very important to understand this as this is what will help the team keep winning in the toughest times.
What stage of life the person is in?
Being aware of the stage of life the person is in will help you understand the possibilities of deviation from the commitment the person is promising. It will give you a glimpse of the general life problems that can crop in and thereby affect your business.
What are the ideals that she has growing up with?
Values a person believes in plays an important role in shaping up a lot of things, the way s/he perceives things, the way s/he deals with different situations, the direction of life and many more. As these affect the daily activities of the person, it will in turn leave an impact on your business
My parents have helped me learn that duty has no rest or holiday. Nothing comes easy and hard work has no substitute. No work is big or small, what matters is whether you give your 100% to it. And somewhere or the other I find my subconscious mind applying these learnings in my day to day life.
Who is the secret decision maker/controller in her/his life?
You might get partnered to a co-founder, later finding out that every time a decision has to be made the person seeks the advice of an another very important person in her/his life. This takes the risk taking ability for a toss. Now the other person secretly takes over all the decisions to be made, leaving your co-founder, not very sure every time. This is a very big threat to the life of your venture ahead.
Does the person speaks up his mind or keeps everything at the back of it?
If the person believes in communicating rather than keeping things up to themselves then I would say your venture is going to stay away from unnecessary frequent friction.
Is the person comfortable switching between a leader and a follower?
At a startup you do everything that you can attribute to its progress. You wear multiple hats on a daily basis and need to be very comfortable switching between them. If a person is resistant to change or finds the transition difficult then that is something your venture cannot afford.
What is the frequency with which the prospect consumes new information and what are sources used?
You should be looking for someone who is a self learner, reads up a lot and keeps self updated. The sources used for acquiring the knowledge are also something you can watch out for.
Does the person have the ability to keep the spark alive to complete any work that s/he initiated?
At a startup it is all about implementation. You will need to observe if the person is able to maintain the excitement in doing things even if the path to attain it is bumpy and not smooth.If it is the other way then you will just have a lot of tasks open and all half done which might slowly creep in to affect your enthusiasm.
What is her way of handling success or failure?
Being an entrepreneur is tougher than you would have imagined before starting the journey. In the very beginning it is important to understand the way the prospect co-founder defines success and failure and the way she handles it. Because every time it might not work out as planned, the person must have the ability to see that bright dot even in the darkest of times. As an entrepreneur you are working on a lot of new things and you experiment a lot. Only if you get a kick from success as well as failure you are eligible for sitting on the driving seat.
What is the minimum bar for the life style the person can survive in?
There are times when you have to adjust to a very modest lifestyle just to let your venture keep breathing. Having a partner who can survive all the odds comfortably makes it better.
What does she value more: Money or Passion?
The objective of starting any business is becoming profitable. The path can be long but is worth waiting for. If the focus of the partner founder is just the money then your journey with her will be awkward.
Will she be able to prioritize the daily core of her business over family functions, relatives and friends?
Will your partner be able to live “work first” rather than indulging in every week parties and keeping relatives happy by attending every marriage function that comes in the way?
Can s/he say “No” when required?
You need to keep a check on your prospect founder being a people pleaser, because that makes it very difficult for them to say “NO”. Sometimes in your entrepreneurial journey you might have the very thing you need, on your platter but you would have to turn it down because it would not feel right.
Does s/he understand the need of hustling?
Hustling becomes an everyday word for any entrepreneur. If the person in your list gets worried about speed and it makes her tired soon, then she might not be the perfect fit.
What does her/his past have to say about their integrity and honesty?
Like in any other relationship, you need to be very careful about your prospect meeting these two traits. Your dream venture cannot afford to have a parent who keeps lying and giving excuses for no reason. You need to make sure not to partner with a person who fails on these even if she meets all the other criteria.
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