Finding a Cofounder is Not Like Getting Drunk Married in Vegas

December 15, 2012 § Leave a comment

Seriously. Let me explain. I was working away at a certain cafe in SF that’s known for being a bit of an internet/tech hipster spot (by that I mean, standing room only for PC owners…I jokes), minding my own immersed in Photoshop and pitchdecks when all of a sudden, I couldn’t help but overhear the conversation ensuing at the next table. A well dressed girl walks up to the guys at the next table, smiles, introduces herself, and starts chatting one of the guys up. She then asks if he’s a software engineer – he affirms that he indeed is. This is when things start getting awkward. She says she’s looking for a cofounder who’s an engineer. *Cue, “wtf” face.* It’s incredibly awkward to ask someone you literally have known for all of 2 minutes to be your cofounder. Starting a company or working for a small startup is not like running a bake sale at the local high school. It is not easy.

Bad decisions: marrying someone you don't know at one of these. Other bad decisions: starting a company with someone you don't know.

Bad decisions: marrying someone you don’t know at one of these. Other bad decisions: starting a company with someone you don’t know.

Would you go up to someone completely random and ask them to marry you? (Okay, maybe if you needed a greencard). Likewise, you don’t just go up to someone random and ask them to be your cofounder. You might think you have the best, most unique idea in the world, but you probably don’t. There are probably 10 other people that have come up with the same idea. It’s really the execution that matters, not the idea – and to execute an idea well, you need to work with someone you know decently well. Tap into your network and figure out who you trust, who you get along with, and if you’ve worked with that person before and you work well with them – then that’s even better. If you guys are friends, then that’s just the cherry on top.

If you just ask someone random to be your cofounder, you probably shouldn’t start a company. There WILL (operative word being “will” because it’s inevitable) be differences that arise in product execution, fundraising strategies, even milestone timelines. When you start something with someone you know, you have an underlying foundation of respect that goes beyond the startup. Even with teams where the founders know each other, it sometimes doesn’t work out. I’m not saying it never works out with two (or three) founders that don’t know each other – just that it creates a weaker team.

Speaking of which, the team is probably the single most important unit for an early stage startup. Your idea might change, you might pivot your product, but if you have a strong team, then that’s something that can get you through some of the toughest of times. That’s what you’ll lean on during your ups and your downs. I’m not saying that the girl and the guy at the coffee shop would have automatically failed. Just that their chances of succeeding would be significantly smaller. Needless to say, the engineer was not amused – he thought she came over to hit on him, hah. He also seemed to understand that, much like a marriage (of which I know nothing about, but I can imagine), or a long-term relationship, it’s really important to know, or get to know someone you’re considering to start a company with.

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