Finding a co-founder can be a daunting task. For some, it’s love at first sight. For others, the chemistry was just right and some partnerships were developed over a slow building friendship and trust. But let’s say for a moment that you haven’t yet found “The One” or perhaps you’re not convinced that you need anyone else at all.
I have worked on finance teams at Orbitz (formed by the 5 largest airlines in the US who don’t really like each other), Potbelly (solo entrepreneur) and KAYAK (co-founders) and all of these companies have been successful, so it’s not a foregone conclusion that you need a Co-Founder at all. But through my experience, I’ve picked up a few pros and cons of having a Co-Founder. Read on…
Sounds great! Sign me up! Not so fast, because there are…
The good news is that the cons can all be mitigated, but they are all important considerations. Assuming you’ve decided that the risks are worth it, what should you look for in a Co-Founder and how do you find her?
The first answer is simple. You want a person who checks more of the boxes in the “Pros” column than in the “Cons” column. What issues are most important to you? Once you know why you want or need a Co-Founder, it will be easier to know what skills, traits and characteristics are most important to find.
But it’s not just your choice. Your Co-Founder has to decide whether to get in bed with you as well. I asked my Co-Founder, Stephanie, why she decided to take a risk and join me at Mia Tango. Here’s what she had to say:
“As a start, it was really about core values. I knew that we were both committed to being challenged, to working and to building something, all while also trying to prioritize family and what I’ll call an integrated life (I don’t really find that I separate work and personal life, nor do I think you do. We’re both integrators.). It’s funny because – if asked – I may have answered first with the passion of solving a problem that I felt needed to be solved (and the fact that it’s related to women and empowerment), but I actually think the values came first – and I think they really should come first in making this kind of decision.”
“I think it matters that your background is Finance and mine is Marketing. If we both came from a Finance background, or a product background, or a Marketing background, I don’t think we’d be able to cover as much ground, or perhaps even challenge each other’s thinking enough.”
“I’d say the ability to check ego at the door was also a driver – both mine and yours. You said very early on to me that at some point you weren’t precious about what role you played in the company. I feel the same way. I am willing to work on whatever is needed to get things done.”
“This may come out the wrong way, but I can’t honestly predict whether the company will be successful. BUT, I can say wholeheartedly that I think it’s a problem that needs to be solved and that I think we have great ideas and a great approach for solving it. That also factored into it.”
You can see why I love her, can’t you? Perhaps you’ve now decided that you need a Co-Founder and that you know what you want in one, but how do you find your Stephanie? We found each other because we both worked at KAYAK, and former co-workers are certainly a good place to start because you already know one another’s strengths, weaknesses and work styles, along with your compatibility. A few other suggestions of where to meet your girl:
One last piece of advice: once you’ve found her, it is critical that you put together an employment agreement/founders agreement with your attorney. CRITICAL. This is not the place to skimp. With that said, may your union be fruitful and may the wind be always at your back.
Melissa R. Birge is the Co-Founder and CEO of Mia Tango, an online maternity boutique that features a curated set of maternity clothing that customers can buy new or used, and then trade back in for credits to buy new styles. She also serves as the audit committee chair on the board of directors of Paris-based SRP Group, which operates the fashion website showroomprive.com. For more from Melissa, click here.