Akshay Datt

Akshay Datt is the co-founder of Unnati - a recruitment firm that helps startups scale up by helping them solve their biggest challenge - hiring awesome talent. Visit to know more.

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Looking For a Co-founder? Here Are 6 Things You Should Not Do!

Having a co-founder is a big decision to take, don’t rush into it and don’t compromise till you think you have found the right person. Bring value and strength to your business with the right co-founder!

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So you are looking for a co-founder - someone who is so in tune with you as to laugh at the same jokes as you do, a comrade in arms who can make all things possible, right? Wrong.

Whether you are just starting out on your entrepreneurial journey or have already gone some distance by yourself, getting a co-founder for your business is one of the most crucial decisions you will make. Your co-founder will not only share substantial business equity but also determine the company’s vision and hopefully bring in key skills to help your business succeed.

While history is replete with the traction and success achieved by co-founders such as Hewlett- Packard; Larry Page – Sergey Brin etc, the process of finding your co-founder is replete with pitfalls. First of all be clear on why you need a co-founder. Then you can look for ‘The One’ who shares your value system and provides the complimentary skills that can take your business to where you want it to go.

Here are 6 things you should not be doing while getting a co-founder for your business:

1. Seeking Safety in Numbers:

It is hard to walk a path alone. Man is a social creature by design. But don’t let the need to overcome your fear of walking a path alone drive you into the arms of an incompatible co-founder.

Avoid getting a co-founder if:
-you don’t have a clear business reason why that proposed co-founder should be in business with you in the first place
-given your business reasons, there are no clear skill sets or competencies by which this person can add value to what you are already bringing to the table;

you are better off alone!

2. Expecting your co-founder to buy into your unsubstantiated dream- No Proof of the Pudding:

A potential co-founder will get on board only if he/she can see that your ship is seaworthy. Substantiate your dreams of a rosy future with a concrete case of why your co-founder would be making a good business decision in joining hands with you. Demonstrate your vision of the business, stand-alone and with a co-founder’s contribution, using action plans and scale-up plans. This will show that your business is in a strong position for growth and can grow even faster when you work together.

3. Ignoring your Value System:

You need to spend enough time with your potential co-founder to understand if you have a similar value system on what is acceptable and not acceptable in business. Of course you may end up discovering you have common interests (like listening to Punjabi rap songs by Honey Singh maybe?) But common values, not common interests, is the key.

For example, an online pharmacy marketplace run by two-co-founders ran smoothly until differences cropped up while seeking venture capital funding. One co-founder thought the priority was to expand fast by burning cash even if it meant giving up on a greater share of company equity. But the other co-founder felt that it was a risky move to give out a large stake at an early stage and it was better to bide time, get more traction in the business and then raise funds at a better valuation. This fundamental difference in approach ultimately led to the business not being able to raise any funding and eventually the cofounders parted ways.

Differing value systems can cause a successful partnership to break, or translate into an uneasy working relationship- and you would certainly want to avoid that.

4. Promising the Moon and Stars, and Then Some:

You may know you have the right co-founder. But in your eagerness to build a strong case for your co-founder/begin working together, don’t give an exaggerated view of your business or your capabilities. This window-dressing can backfire when things don’t play out in quite the same way. Spare your co-founder from the anguish of a big let-down and spare both of you from a blame game that leads nowhere, by stating clearly and frankly what your co-founder is in for.

5. Expecting a co-founder to wave a magic wand/ be your knight in shining armor -

Forge on and proceed with the plans you have laid out without waiting for your co-founder to join you and magically solve all the challenges you are facing in running the business. If and when your co-founder joins the business, of course it is going to only get better and easier. But be your own knight in shining armour, and you may be surprised by the progress you have made even before your co-founder gets in on the game.

6. Getting on board without knowing where the lifejackets are:

If things do not work out between you and co-founder, there should be a clear way for either partner to exit while the business continues to run.

For example, two college mates started an educational software business and patented an extremely successful iterative software that increased or decreased the difficulty level of subsequent questions based on student responses to earlier questions. When one co-founder wanted to leave the business, differences arose on the value of the patented software. The co-founders struggled to come to agreement on the value of the departing co-founder’s share. The acrimonious nature of the exit led to the dissatisfied ex-founder vengefully influencing and taking along many existing employees to his next venture.

Thus, don’t enter into a business relationship without a clear exit plan that incorporates the new developments in your business.

Having a co-founder is a big decision to take, don’t rush into it and don’t compromise till you think you have found the right person. Bring value and strength to your business with the right co-founder!

Disclaimer: The views expressed in the article above are those of the authors' and do not necessarily represent or reflect the views of this publishing house

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