Co-Founders: Finding Your Perfect Match

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Matt Strauss, Solve Smart Cities, Co-founder & CEO

Peter Thiel – Finding Co-founders is Like Finding Your Spouse  

Finding a co-founder is tough, very tough. All startups have an incredible amount of risk. You meet tens or hundreds of people who share your idea. Many people say they would love to help, but they ask for consulting fees or other payments. Resources are scarce in startups, so that is usually not an option.  

Websites such as CoFoundersLab and Founders Dating help entrepreneurs address the common problem of finding an ideal co-founder. But these websites are often full of people with their own ideas who do not want to implement someone else’s vision. As Peter Thiel says in his book Zero to One, “Finding your co-founder is like marriage. How many of you would marry someone after meeting once?”

Thiel is right — you must approach the search for a co-founder as you would a potential spouse.  

Finding someone you trust and who shares your values is essential. The ideal co-founder believes in the company, will work only for equity, and has a proven record of “executing” ideas to businesses.  

So let’s say you found someone you think could be a perfect match. Especially when it’s someone you don’t know well, it is critical to make sure you are on the same page.  You should view the world similarly, agree on the types of people you would hire, and have the same vision of the product. If you just met this person, you shouldn’t start building your product right away. Instead, talk two or three times a week, once in person and the rest over the phone. Share all the details about your vision, and get their feedback and input. Discuss the potential hurdles. Then, address equity. Make sure everyone is comfortable with their sweat equity incentives and amounts.

For us, it was easy getting along. First, I met Reid. We agreed on one key thing: being a mentor is awesome, but it is difficult to scale your impact. Seeing your mentee overcome hurdles and achieve their goals is one of the best feelings ever. But, it’s tough to recognize that you can only help your mentee reach a certain milestone;  the next milestone may require additional time or resources that you cannot provide.  We both knew we wanted to work together to solve this problem and scale our impact.

Then came Emile. After hearing Emile speak at a few events, I met with him to explain my goal of scaling social impact through software. Emile’s ears immediately perked as he knows software is key to scaling impact. I initially asked Emile to join as a board member, but instead Emile insisted on becoming a co-founder. That moment Reid and I realized we were on to something.

That “something” is the belief in solving the opportunity gap by providing new funding streams to workforce nonprofits and job training programs. Solve Smart Cities works with workforce development nonprofits, such as Cara Program, ReWork, UCAN, The Ideal Candidate, and others, to scale their impact. Solve Smart Cities is looking to partner with churches that offer job training programs and other nonprofits focused on manufacturing training. Please reach out to us if you know of any!

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