4 Tips for Finding the Perfect Co-Founder

Venture capitalist Paul Lee offers advice on finding the right business partner for your startup.

learn more about Paul Lee

By Paul Lee


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Q: Where and how do I find the right business partner?

-Sharita Gopal

A: Founders often say that starting a company can feel like the loneliest journey in the world. You have Herculean milestones, difficult decisions and late nights in the office, all making the path to success a difficult one.

Calling it a "burden" would be an understatement, which is why investors often prefer teams with co-founders to share the responsibility and stress. But it's not always easy to find someone who shares your vision and work ethic, while also balancing out your skill set.

That being said, here are a four tips for finding someone to take the entrepreneurial journey with you.

1. Tell people about what you're doing.
Many entrepreneurs mistakenly believe the startup is all about the idea. They will zealously guard what they are working on and cryptically talk about it to others, because they're worried someone will copy them. In reality, the idea ends up playing a very small role in your startup.

It's about the execution and figuring out what works and doesn't work, which comes from the team and customer feedback. So, talk about what you're working on. This way you'll be able to attract like-minded people and begin to get feedback on what you're trying to accomplish. After all, how can you find someone to run your company with you if no one knows what you're doing?

Related: A Guide to Matchmaking Sites for Co-Founders

2. Get out there.
It might sound cliché, but network, network, network. Attend meet-ups, conferences, speaking and small-pitch events -- anything that is remotely pertinent to what you're working on. At the onset, it's more important to be out getting feedback and listening instead of sitting in a quiet room in self-reflection.

Once you've reached a point where you're collecting real data and metrics, then you can analyze your findings. However, at this stage, your focus should be on meeting as many people as possible.

3. Talk to mentors.
It's amazing how often founders think they're infringing on their mentors' time. Meet with them often and ask for their advice or for introductions to anyone they think would be beneficial and relevant.

Leverage their network too. When you're just staring out, it's more about going wide vs. meeting specific people. You'd be amazed at how ideas can come from the most unlikely of meetings.

Related: 6 Tips for Building a Strong Founding Team

4. Get started.
This might sound obvious, but you just have to get the ball rolling. If you have a number of meetings and introductions under your belt, then you have to move beyond talking and imagining.

Now it's time to actually start to build something. Many founders get caught up in the economics and legalities of who owns what and how much. Don't let yourself get caught in this trap. The best thing you can do is to start working together to see if there's chemistry. If you find that you're working well together, then you can have a discussion about starting a longer-term relationship.

Finding a business partner isn't always easy and may not always work out the first time around. The most you can do is get out there and start making a real effort to find someone -- eventually the right person will be there.

Have a question for YE's experts? Submit your questions in the comments section below and those with the most likes from other readers will be answered. On Twitter, use the hashtag #YEask. Include your first and last name, your location (city and state) and the name of your business.

Paul Lee

Partner at Lightbank

Paul Lee is a partner at Lightbank, a VC firm focused on see and early-stage tech startups. Prior to joining Lightbank, Lee was the managing director and group head of digital at Playboy Enterprises and the founding partner at Peacock Equity Fund, a joint venture between NBC Universal and GE Capital.

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