It’s undeniable. Meeting cofounders can dramatically increase your startup’s odds of success. With a cofounder in place, you can reduce premature scaling, triple the growth rate of your customer base, and generate up to 30% more investment than a one-person operation.
Business is about teamwork, and the advantages of a partner who shares and supports your vision make finding a cofounder a wise business practice for the longevity and sustainability of your company.
Meeting cofounders shouldn't be the most challenging part of building a successful startup. Read on to discover the steps you can take to locate the ideal cofounder and propel your startup's business growth toward continued success.
What to Look for in a Cofounder
The first step involves understanding your needs. Start by separating your ideal cofounder characteristics into the categories listed below — a failure in any tier should be grounds for disqualification.
No matter how much your skills may complement one another, if you don’t share the same goals, you will be working toward different ends and undermining your chances of success.
If one cofounder prioritizes growth while the other aims to establish a small loyal client base, the business will suffer. Similarly, if one cofounder expects to develop the company over several years while the other is focused on short-term profit and an early exit, conflict is inevitable. Set expectations and goals early to avoid disappointment months or years down the line.
Identify any weaknesses or skill gaps you might have and search for someone who can fill those gaps for the betterment of the startup. A well-rounded duo will save on outsourcing costs, and having diverse backgrounds and experiences fosters creativity and innovation.
Comparable risk tolerance
Startups are risky, and cofounding is not for everyone. Can your prospective partner roll with the punches? Are they resilient and tenacious? There are different kinds of risk-taking, so look for someone who manages their risk exposure properly.
You will be giving your cofounder a great deal of power over your business. Make sure you can trust your potential cofounder to make decisions on behalf of the business without consulting you. Do your homework and select someone with a strong moral center and a good work ethic.
Personal compatibility is like engine oil — it makes day-to-day operations run smoothly. You will be spending long hours with your cofounder. So, enjoying their input, support, and companionship can have a positive impact on your startup experience. Give personal compatibility its due weight and consideration.
Meeting Cofounders: Where to Look for a Business Partner
The more effort you put into your search, the better your return on investment. Be proactive and spread the word that you are interested in meeting cofounders for your new venture. Consider the following avenues:
People you already know
The benefit of choosing a friend, family member, or colleague is that you can be your own character witness and are already personally compatible. You can also expand your search and look to former colleagues and LinkedIn connections.
Spaces like Workbar (located and partnered throughout Boston) and Worklodge (based out of Houston) are examples of co-working space options. You may not even meet your eventual partner at spots like these, but you will meet entrepreneurs with invaluable experience and contacts to help in your search.
Meetups for startups
Look for startup groups on Meetup. This online platform is an ideal place to highlight your unique selling proposition (USP) and to set out exactly what it is you’re looking for in a cofounder. Consider creating your own Meetup to reach more potential candidates.
If you are not sure how to find cofounders who have programming or web development skills, a hackathon is a great place to start. Since hackathons often focus on specific platforms or programming languages, you can find people with relevant skills by attending the right event.
MicroConf events are held globally with the express purpose of supporting startups. Their tagline is, "Where Independent SaaS Founders Launch, Meet, Learn, and Grow." The events are attended by thousands of emerging business owners, offering a great opportunity to meet cofounders.
The bigger you grow your network, the better your chances are of finding a cofounder. Networking events are a great way to meet new professionals and potential cofounders. Look at industry organizations’ websites and social media feeds for news of upcoming events.
Accelerators such as MassChallenge provide startups with invaluable tools like access to experienced experts,mentors, and industry network connections. MassChallenge is based in Boston but hosts programs globally for innovative new businesses.
Online-Only Resources for Meeting Cofounders
If few local opportunities are available or travel is not possible, there are ways to meet cofounders online. Here are eight options for the online entrepreneur:
Indie Hackers “Looking to Partner Up” Group
Indie Hackers contains a wealth of threads dedicated to supporting and informing independent workers at all levels. You can post and reply on “looking for” threads to find the right cofounder.
For tech startups, details on what products are upcoming and have launched are excellent for tracking down cofounders with skill sets relevant to your own product. Product Hunt provides this service, along with links to possible investors, and a range of deals for startups through their Founder Club.
FoundersNation was specifically created for helping business partners connect, . Startup owners can search for cofounders, and professionals can post about their availability to back an innovative concept in their area of expertise.
FoundersBeta is an up-and-coming Canadian entrepreneur linking service that provides a variety of local and remote opportunities offered by startups. You can post your own ad or attend one of their online startup events to meet fellow innovators and prospective partners.
With a straightforward aesthetic, StartHawk is a clean and simple way to connect with cofounders globally. It allows quick filtering of candidates and has positive reviews from its users, with the added benefit of a blog dedicated to helping startups.
This is one of the largest services to choose from, boasting over 4 million founders and startups you can access with your LinkedIn or Facebook account. F6S also allows you to link up with accelerators, funds, and investors.
Join a Slack community dedicated to startups (either in-general or specific to your industry) to make connections unique to this real-time communication platform.
Discord communities and servers
Finally, public Discord servers provide resources, chat options, and meeting platforms for startups, entrepreneurs, and investors. Although it started as a gaming chat platform, Discord is gaining traction as an effective messaging and productivity service.
How to Evaluate Whether You’ve Found the Right Cofounder
Prepare for your first meeting by organizing a presentation that explains what you can offer and what you need from a cofounder. Be as clear as possible, as misunderstandings can cost both of you time and money.
Meet in person multiple times
Take things slow and meet in a variety of contexts to explore each other’s personality, experience, and work style. Someone may seem perfect on the first meeting, but inconsistencies or issues may not begin to show until you get to know them over time.
Contact any provided references, and be willing to double-check LinkedIn and other social media platforms for more information. Reach out to shared contacts for their opinions about your potential collaborator. If in doubt, bring up any concerns for discussion, and in the end, trust your instincts.
Work on several projects together
The best way to determine whether you are compatible is to initiate a trial sequence. Work alongside one another on relevant and useful projects for your startup business. Ensure you have an announced exit strategy in case you decide to go separate ways.
Lastly, you need to review the outcomes of your work together and make the big decision — is this person right for your business? Do their skills complement your own? If you lack the skills to judge some of their work, it's OK to get a second expert opinion.
Where to Find Innovators
Once you have your cofounder and have started doing business together, the next step is to scale. MassChallenge runs accelerator programs with a proven track record of equipping startups with the tools to reach their potential.
Our accelerators provide access to new talent, workshops, education, mentors, and corporate partners, in addition to opportunities for awards, grants, and investment. Ultimately, these programs foster the entrepreneurial spirit of the age we live in and reward creative ideas for those who embrace the possibilities of collaboration and innovation.
Get in touch with MassChallenge to find out how we can help with meeting cofounders, so you can find the partner to elevate your startup.