The following is a post by Michael Hughes of CoFounders Lab and was originally published on their site.
If you’re in the startup world, you’ve undoubtedly heard this question a million times: ‘How do you find a co-founder?’ We started CoFoundersLab in order to provide an answer to this ubiquitous and important question. Our online matching platform, combined with offline, in-person Meetups allows anyone, anywhere, in any industry to search and connect with potential business partners.
This got us thinking. How did co-founders from some of the top startup accelerators in the world find each other? To find out, we interviewed teams from the 2012 classes of two of the top startup accelerators in the world,TechStars and Y Combinator, and asked them this very question. The results (below) are quite telling. A whopping 69% of respondents said they either met at school, met at work, or are old friends (see chart below).
However, studies have shown that it’s not necessarily the best decision to found a company with someone you have a close personal relationship with, like a friend or relative. Sure, there are always exceptions, like many of these TechStars and Y Combinator teams, but that’s just it: you only hear about the successes! In reality, the vast majority of these startup teams with co-founders that have a close personal relationship end up failing. Moreover, staying within your social circles limits the potential diversity of your startup team, something that will benefit your startup in the long run. Investors are keenly aware that a diverse team is important, which is why they value it so much when choosing which startups to back. David Cohen, CEO of TechStars, says that he looks for 5 things when evaluating a startup: “Team, team, team, market, and idea.”
So why do teams made up of co-founders with a close personal relationship often fail? Noam Wasserman, Harvard Business School professor and author of ‘The Founder’s Dilemmas: Anticipating and Avoiding the Pitfalls that can Sink a Startup,’ explains in this interview with Businessweek:
The most common source of finding co-founders is people you have social but not professional relationships with—friends and relatives. It’s understandable, but my quantitative analysis shows that these are the least stable of all the startup teams. There are two Achilles’ heels: You already trust each other in the social realm and you assume that will map to trust in the professional realm, which it does not necessarily do. And you’re not going to have the in-depth conversations about competence and skills that you would have with a business acquaintance or a stranger. That’s because you assume you don’t need to talk and you are hesitant to raise doubts because you fear they could blow up the social relationship that is so valuable to you.
So what do you do if you’re not fortunate enough to still be in school or lucky enough to find the perfect business partner amongst your small group of close friends, family and colleagues? This is the scenario faced by the majority of entrepreneurs out there, hence the ubiquity of the co-founder question. In order to widen your search, you need to be willing to get out of your comfort zone and try as many new approaches as possible to find a compatible co-founder. Online matching platforms like CoFoundersLab expand your search net, and in-person events like our Co-Founders Wanted Meetups allow you to really get to know someone on a personal level. After all, it’s not only about compatible skill sets when you’re working in the trenches with someone day after day.
Get out there and meet as many people as you can. That perfect co-founder is waiting to be discovered.