business, startups

The Key to Finding a CoFounder

I seem to be getting this question a lot from companies that are just forming or looking to expand. Where can I find a Cofounder? To be honest, there’s no real science to it.

Have you ever lost your keys? It’s next to impossible to find where they are in the exact moment. That sucks.

The common fix to this challenge is you have a specific place you put your keys…whether it’s the foyer,  or a hook, or a drawer. You know exactly where to go when you’re looking for your keys.

It’s the same way with finding a cofounder. By the time you’re looking for one it’s too late. One of the key functions of founders/ executives in the making is to always know good people. It’s important to have a solid network of colleagues and acquaintances. Apply the same rigor you would to attracting customers and investors to hiring/ building a founding team. Here are some things I’d recommend just shooting off the hip.

  1. Network. You need to meet smart and intelligent people on a weekly basis that challenge common perceptions, from different fields, and walks of life. It almost needs to be second nature to be attracted to these type of people. I remember one time I went to an interview for a position and I didn’t get it, but I had the opportunity to speak with the company’s founder and his insights were career changing. The chance to speak with truly intelligent and driven people is underrated. Savor those moments because it will come in handy like when you need a co-founder. You can reach out to those same people to help begin your search.
  2. Know your strengths, blindsides, and what skills and experience will enhance your company. You’ll often hear solo founders say, I need someone who can sell, or market, or a tech guy or gal. While that’s a good start, think about where that function should sit in your organizational chart and how it advances your goals. If the skill that’s missing is essential to your unique value proposition, I’d say the person should sit at a founder level. If not, it’s a good move to bring them on in a non-founder role.
  3. Talk to people who are in the same position you’re looking to fill. If you’re looking for a CTO type founder, talk to CTOs in established and up and coming companies. Conversations with people who are in the trenches help you identify common traits that make a good CTO. They are themes. Sometimes, you can see these same themes in people that may not traditionally be on the path to CTO/cofounder status. Same rule can apply to other positions in a company.
  4. Have leverage. If you don’t come from a position of strength and opportunity, it will be challenging to convince someone to leave the comfort of their squishy job or commitment to join your early stage adventure. As a founder, you have to be convincing and show the unique product, market opportunity, and upside in a way that is exciting to potential candidate.
  5. Date. If you’ve filled your funnel of potential co-founders, start dating! I mean… try a one off project together that is super challenging. Get a chance to see how you collaborate in stressful situations. It also gives you more data to evaluate candidates.

(There’s definitely more. It’s time for my Sunday nap. I’ll add more as I think about them. I would also encourage you to add some in the comments.)

Adding a co-founder in the early stage of a company is a major milestone for any team. I believe it’s the beginning of a string of major decisions that set the foundation for what a company will grow to be. Be sure you’ve done you’re due diligence and you feel comfortable about growing and building with the person you select.

Leadership

#FridayNightRants

Over the last couple of months, I’ve had the opportunity to speak with executives in Nigeria by way of casual lunches, after work chats, etc. One issue that resonates consistently is the lack of talent in the job force. Many executives blame Nigerian education system for not preparing students to be employable.

While I agree, the education system in Nigeria has a long way to go, it is unlike the private sector to sit on their hands in this situation. Complaining about an unemployable job force seems to be the easy way out. I believe employ-ability is a symptom of a larger issue in Nigeria; the employee/ employer relationship.

There are examples of employees that are treated like cogs on a wheel. You find someone that can do x and you just make sure they do x until you don’t need it anymore. Employees are interchangeable and that’s how companies hire. Unfortunately, this is the value of the employee in many Nigerian companies.

If Nigerian companies want to compete in the global economy, they are going to have to solve how they will take their human capital to the next level. In order to do that, companies need to rethink their relationship with their employees. Instead of looking at people as disposable, companies should work to grow and groom their employees. There are many Kenyan companies, for example, that have internal learning plans so employees are constantly improving themselves. Which brings me full circle. Nigerian students need to improve their employ-ability. However, private sector companies should look at bringing employees on and figuring out ways to invest in their future while also preparing them to be the best employees they can be.