Creating a business from scratch can be one of the hardest things you will ever do in life as a startup an entrepreneur, especially if you decide to do everything on your own without a co-founder or two. Not only do you have to create a product or service, you need to identify partners, employees and systems, you have to manage sales, marketing and legal matters. You catch the drift! It will not work.
As a startup advisor I meet many entrepreneurs who want to do this by themselves and end up failing to scale their business ventures. When you start a new business it’s very easy to be a jack of trades until its not!
Figuring out when to fill up roles in your business venture therefore becomes very important and if you get it right you are well on your way to building a successful business that will be acquired one day. If you fail to do this right you will be stuck in the ‘valley of death’ where death is certain.
This week we will spend some time exploring why Zimbabwean startups founders should aggressively identify co-founders or fill up roles through hiring competent professionals to stand a chance in this competitive startup space
Most investors these days are very specific about what they look for in a potential investee company. If you have a great idea or even a profitable startup without a team your chances of closing a deal with investors are next to zero. Investors want business continuity they want to know that if you get hit by a bus tomorrow the business will continue. Cruel isn’t it! It’s a tough world out there. As a startup founder myself I have seen this first hand.
How then do you find a co-founder who can add value? This is a very difficult question, and has no right or wrong answer but there are very important mistakes you should avoid. This biggest mistake you can make is partnering someone who don’t know too well or someone whose vision you don’t understand. Many startup founders have tried different approaches to finding partners and having failed to make it work and they quickly resort to the ‘lone ranger approach’. For a co-founder relationship to work you must have a shared vision with your co-founder otherwise things will not end well. Many startup journeys have ended prematurely because of partners having different visions.
What do you look for then in a potential partner? Before you find the right partner for your business you need to be clear about what you want. Look for skills that you don’t have but don’t make that the only thing you look for. Other things matter too, such as their personality and character. You should be able to trust your partner and be clear about both your roles in the venture.
Many startups in Zimbabwe are run by their founders operating as lone rangers and as a startup advisor this worries me. We see this in many co-working spaces including Tech Hub Harare. As a result of this many startups don’t grow. Startups that have a team tend to grow faster and attract investment quicker. Startup founders who want to do everything themselves don’t go very far because let’s face it we are not all good at multitasking. We need to divide our tasks into smaller manageable chunks, and having a co-founder is one quick way of achieving this.
Identifying the right partner therefore becomes very important. You need to partner with someone who is willing and able to pull their weight and make things happen. Don’t rush into it. Startups that have too many co-founders tend to collapse as too many cooks spoil the broth. A good number of co-founders is one or two.
Take the following steps to find the right co-founder:
• Decide and be clear about what you are looking for in a potential partner. You can start by writing this down. Writing helps you arrange your thoughts better and makes it easier for you to refine and be clear about what you want.
• Next its time to start networking and meeting potential partners. You don’t do this by working in your own office or by staying at home. You venture out and meet people at events, trade shows or co-working spaces. You talk to them in order to get a feel of whether they will fit in or not.
• Partner due diligence is very important when identifying a co-founder. What do you know about their past dealings or jobs. Social media is one quick way of doing this. Red flags are easy to find and this can help you avoid getting into the wrong relationships with your business partner.
• Once you have your sights on possible partners its time to discuss what each person will be responsible for and then get a good lawyer to put together the legal documents to cement the partnership
Tech Hub is a co-working space of startups and hosts meetups that provide great networking opportunities for founders. We help startups with professional services and provide mentorship. Co-workers learn about each other and identify traits in their potential partners over time in our co-working space. If you want to become a member of Tech Hub or want to partner us contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org or call us on +263718924393.