Finding cofounders · Founding

What are the requirements for self sufficient early stage founders?


December 18th, 2015

For the product that I'm building, I have the sufficient skills, time and few $K's required to develop a bootstrapped MVP.

Therefore all of the 'early stage' guides that are teaching founders how to obtain an investment for building the MVP are irrelevant.

What other actions are required from me, assuming that I'm in the stage of building the product?
Is there a reason to find a co-founder? 
What kind of a co-founder should I look for and when?

Tim Scott

December 18th, 2015

For the product that I'm building, I have the sufficient skills...

A close examination of this statement reveals a strong clue that you badly need a co-founder. Now, had you said it like this...

"For the company that I'm building..."

...or like this...

"For the product that I'm marketing..."

...or like this...

"For the product that I'm selling..." might be okay on your own.

As a product builder myself I can tell you from experience that the skills to build the product are probably the least important of all the many skills you will need a solo founder. I could list these skills, but if you don't have a good idea what they are, then you probably need a co-founder.

David Austin Relentless problem solver and innovator.

December 18th, 2015

I second Tim Scott.  Development is a small part although the core part of a successful startup.  Do you have the other 80% of what a successful startup requires?  This is the main reason developers need a co-founder.

Steven Schkolne Computer Scientist on a Mission

December 29th, 2015

I did a bit of research on techies... so many guides written for people who can't code. So what do you do if you *can* code? How do these kinds of people start software businesses?

Did some research and turns out a lot of CS types nurtured their projects on the side until they had enough traction, in whatever form, to know they had success. While not possible for all projects, if it's a web/mobile business you can do a ton yourself.

The funny thing is, that get-money-to-make-an-MVP thing, that all those guides talk about.... doesn't seem to be reality to me. If you're pre-MVP, you are in friends'n'family territory unless you have strong signs of traction (sales, or something close to sales). So count yourself lucky, and perhaps focus on building market first and product second. Marketing/etc is likely the first thing to derisk.


December 18th, 2015

I'll third what Tim said.

I have a thin, poor prototype on that I built with borrowed technology, yet 15% of people I've talked to use it. I've signed up groups that are willing to send their 750k members to the site when it launches, and am talking with groups with 2m more members. I've signed up congressional candidates that are willing to pay money and advertise the site to their constituents.

So NOW it's time to build, and still I'll need to do user testing. I have a team building it and I've put together a 4-month launch schedule. NOW I'm looking for a marketing lead, but finding someone to work for equity is tough. (I found a great woman who could do it, but she needs a salary.)

So while I'm sufficient to do the product design and the strategic marketing plan and sales, I'm apparently not sufficient to do fundraising or the actual marketing, so now it's time to bring people on.

My point is: make sure your conceptual product fits the customers and users. Work with them to ensure it'll be a great fit. Get agreements up front, if not money. Then look for co-founders.

Also, many people are willing to advise. I have a marketing coach and one marketing executive is offering a few hours per week. The woman I found is willing to also give a few hours. These are great votes of confidence, plus they are directing me to cover certain bases that I'm not familiar with. Either I need to find a co-founder, or hire someone, or rise to the occasion, stop sleeping (and contributing to FD) and do the work myself.

David Fridley Founder at Synaccord

December 18th, 2015

The other actions include (but are in no way limited to) getting evidence that people will buy your product.  You need to show you have figured out how to explain it to people in a way that catches their attention and then gets them to want to buy it. You have to figure out how you are going to get the word out, how much that's going to cost per user, and how big your market is, and how fast you can get new customers. This should all be part of the MVP.

Thomas PhD Director of Operations & Growth at Brighterion

December 18th, 2015

In my experience as the co-founder of several (unsuccessful) startups, do not take on a co-founder unless adding them brings significant value in areas you cannot manage alone, and certainly not until you have completed your MVP. Too many chefs definitely spoil the kitchen at that stage, and the expectation (equity etc.) of a “co-founder” is normally huge. Build your MVP, think about your market, ship the product and see what kind of traction you can get without co-founders or investment. Noone will be as good an advocate for your idea than you. It will be much easier to add people and money things later, when and if required, than to add them early and not need them.

Neil Gordon Board Member, Corporate Finance Advisor and Strategy Consultant

December 18th, 2015

Decide what skills you need to compliment yours, then go out and find them. What you call the compatible person that partners up and compliments you is semantics.

John Seiffer Business Advisor to growing companies

December 18th, 2015

Most companies - especially bootstrapped ones - don't need a cofounder. It depends on the skill set and complexity of the business model.

An MVP is a learning tool what you're learning is what customers want to pay for. If you learn that fast and they start paying you then you may never have to raise outside money - or if you do you'll have serious traction and keep a lot of the equity yourself. These "guides" you speak of are not recipes to follow blindly they are patterns that SOME people see about how SOME companies did it. 

But almost by definition they don't account for bootstrapped companies and I heard from one researcher that 50% of the companies that went IPO in the last 50 years did it w/out VC money. 

Rob G

December 18th, 2015

Dear Anonymous, those "early stage guides" are not irrelevant.  You won't get investment until you at least have some 'traction' - customers/users AND a cofounder or 2 on board.  i 4th what Tim S said. furthermore i would recommend that you NOT build anything it until you can sell it first.  If you try to sell it and you are successful then by all means jump in and start building - no cofounder needed just yet.  If you fail then that tells you one of two things - either you need a co-founder who can sell or the market doesn't want what you are planning to build.  Either way you've saved yourself the time and money and at the very least you will be wiser for the effort.  If you decide you don't have the skills to sell it first then you have also answered your question - you need a co-founder with sales/marketing/biz dev experience (real-world experience).  Go find one.  I realize to some the 'sell first, build second' approach may sound backwards.  If it does then again you have answered your question - go find a partner with sales/marketing/biz dev experience now.  Without knowing your target customer and what you plan to build it's hard to say what exact experience you need in a cofounder (sales or marketing or both - business development is rarely a required skill at this very early stage).  I'm guessing you may lack sales/marketing/biz dev experience.  In my experience technical entrepreneurs (i'm a recovering engineer myself), who frequently lack sales/marketing/biz dev experience, often times fail to understand the value of said skills.  The best way to get an understanding of those skills is to go do it.  Build your MVP in powerpoint and go sell it. If you have the skills to close committed, if not paying, customers and you also have the skills to build it, then now co-founder needed just yet.  

Melanie Haselmayr

December 20th, 2015

It's definitely a huge advantage for you to be the tech guy who has an idea he wants to bring to life. Often times non-technical co-founders  are the ones who want to build digital products. I am one of them. I think you need to lose the "I have it all" attitude. You can't possibly know all the aspects you will need for this venture. It's actually a disadvantag to try to master it all. Most investors like to see a well-balanced team of 2-4.