Learn more about Jonathan Lowenhar at ETWadvisors.com.
The other day someone asked me how to find the right co-founder for their startup. This is what I told them.
Are you in a long-term relationship? If so, how did you meet that person? My assumption is life had you cross paths — whether in person or electronically. You shared some messages back and forth, met in person, and met again. You spent time together. Eventually, you took a risk on one another. You shared something personal or sensitive. Then maybe you went out of town together for a weekend; participated in fun activities together. You started introducing each other to important people in your life: friends, family, and your pet. Over the course of that process, a strange thing happened. You got to know one another.
Trust is everything. It encompasses all the questions related to whether or not a co-founder relationship will work.
Will they be fully committed? Will they work hard enough? Will they put the company first? None of those should be open questions. You should already know they have your back. If you trust someone, the next step is to ask, “Are you in this with me?”
Startups are really hard. You have to figure out seemingly impossible things against crazy odds on a ridiculous timetable. Your partner’s capacity to quickly interpret information, experiment, and deduce what might work will often be the difference between success and failure.
I met my romantic partner four years ago. We exchanged emails, went out on dates, met each other’s friends, met each other’s families, went away together, moved in together, and ultimately married one another. Trust led us to where we are today.
I met my professional partner ten years ago when he judged a startup competition in which I was a participant. We have worked together, confided in one another, failed together, and succeeded together several times over.
I know both people really well. I trust them completely (and I’m lucky they both happen to be really, really smart).
Now go find yourself the same.
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