Do I need a co-founder?

  • Should you go solo with a business, or should you rope in someone who shares the same vision?
- Pranjal Ghimire
For a founder, the only reason to add a co-founder arises when you need the help of someone with considerable skills to run the company. However, to do this you must first know what you bring to the table

Jun 12, 2017-One of the first and the most crucial decision you will need to make while starting a business is to whether go at it alone or have a partner in crime. While it’s true that most businesses have a co-founder, it’s still up to you to decide if you want to go solo or if you want to get help.

A rule of thumb you need to keep in mind however, is that you need to find at least one person who believes in your vision as much as you do. It doesn’t just make the work easier but also sends a message to all the employees, customers and investors. A message which clearly shows that it is less likely the business will fail because two capable people, who share the same vision, are running it. Although, having a co-founder point to things running a lot smoother in the company, it is paramount to look at each business on a case-by-case basis. Sometimes you might just need someone highly capable to work under you instead of a co-founder. To make a crucial decision like this you need to do a lot of introspection to find the needs of the business and also need to reflect on whether you need someone else to fulfil them. 

What does the business do?

As a fledgling business, one of the core steps you need to take is figure out what your business does. This not only lays the foundation for success but is also the first step in figuring out whether you need a co-founder or not. One of the best ways to know what your business does is by filling out a business model canvas.

A business model canvas is a widely used tool that gives you an overview of what you can do and how to go about it. It is held in high-regard and businesses that fill it in great detail are considered to have a clear vision of where they want to go with it. Therefore, if you are able to fill in the canvas properly, you are almost guaranteed to understand why your business exists. This understanding will also lead you to realise that there are certain activities you need to do in order to fulfil the goals of your business. Take notes on whether these activities are crucial to the company or if you can do without them for now. The core activities will need people within the company to execute it, whereas the non-essential ones can be outsourced to the thousands of specialist companies.

What skills are needed to run the company?

Every business has a unique set of activities that it needs to execute in order to create their product or service and deliver it to the customers. For a software company, their key activities might look something like ‘creation of software platform, database analysis, website sales’. Each of these activities might require several skill sets within the team to execute it.

A question on what human resources the company might need to make those activities happen will easily lead to an insight about the core skills required by the company. These might be technical skills or business skills. The importance of these two types will be different for different companies. For a software company, the need for some technical skills can be fulfilled by shuffling the existing staff around a bit, but the skill to make great sales might not come as easily from within the company. Understand the skills your team has and the skills it needs. The importance of this ‘skill gap’ will tell you whether you just need to hire a salesperson or find a sales founder.

What am I good at?

A founder always needs to be pensive, especially when he/she is making the decision of adding a business partner. For a founder, the only reason to add a co-founder arises when you need the help of someone with considerable skills to run the company. However, to do this you must first know what you bring to the table. What is the role you play at the company? What do you specialise on that is important for the company? Once you answer these questions you will know what more the company needs.

The skills needed might be something that is viable for you to learn in a few months time. For instance, if you are a sales-driven founder, it might be feasible for you to study finance rather than hire someone else to do it. However, there are some skills that have a steep learning curve which makes it time and cost-effective to find someone else who already specialises in it. Therefore, a big indicator for finding a co-founder might be when a crucial skill gap in the company cannot be fulfilled by you or the existing members of the team. In this regard, it can be seen that most of the technical founders are looking for a business co-founder, and vice versa.

Do I want to give up my share?

In the end however, the answer to whether you really want a co-founder is based on whether you are willing to give up the share of the company. This is not always a logical decision, and a lot of ego and passion always plays into this decision. Sometimes, you might feel like nobody can envision the future of the company as clearly as you can, or that nobody would be able to contribute as much as you would from the get go.

It is due to this very hesitance and scepticism that most single founders will hire chief of certain divisions. These chiefs, such as, CTO (Chief Technology Officer) and CBO (Chief Business Officer), are offered certain equity of the company along with the pay. They are expected to contribute years to the company, and by doing so, they gain an increased amount of equity of the company. While some go on to gain the status of a co-founder, others might just become a majority shareholder.

The world of entrepreneurship is filled with startups that have co-founders which have risen to fame. This ends up putting a lot of pressure on people who are thinking of starting alone. While it may be beneficial to most to find someone who shares their vision, you need to ask yourself if you really need a co-founder. 

Published: 12-06-2017 08:32

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