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For Startups: Five Things You Need In a Co-founder

Some companies start off as an idea in the head of a single individual, who then takes the initiative to found, push, and grow it into a strong, thriving establishment. Others are the product of the thinking and hard work of a number of individuals, who collaborate to make their startup succeed. Taking the former path is an option for people who are confident that their abilities are enough to kick start their dream venture. For those who see the need to join forces with other parties, the motivation to do so usually comes from the realization that they cannot truly go on the entrepreneurial journey alone. They share the privilege (or misfortune, depending on how things pan out) of working on startups, with co-founders.

Some companies have grown from obscurity to global prominence, propelled by the passion and drive of co-founders. Google was co-created by Larry Page and Sergey Brin; Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak co-founded Apple. But others haven’t been anything close to being that fortunate. There have been sad cases of enterprises folding up shortly after their co-founders fell out with each other. The key to avoiding such an outcome is to know what exactly one needs in a co-founder.

If you have plans for a startup and think you are better off working with someone on it than taking all the responsibility on yourself, make sure your cofounder’s profile ticks the following boxes.

1. Complementary skills

Startup co-founders’ skills should complement each other. For example, if you have a marketing background and would want to begin a startup that focuses on healthcare, you would need to partner with a person who has some training in that field. A website designer might need to team up with a marketer who will help get his or her services sold. Matching skills helps save startups the cost of outsourcing duties and internalizes processes essential to the enterprise early on.

2. Aligned vision

It’s important that your cofounder should share your vision. Discuss your plans with him or her and get their views on what you are embarking upon- before you decide to work with them. Set out your aims for the future, and find out whether their intentions align with yours. Make sure you are all on the same page.

3. Work ethic

The startup life exerts long working hours from players in the entrepreneurial space. Irregular work patterns and deadline-beating grind outs are things your co-founder will have to be able to live with. Whoever is going to work with you will have to understand the sacrifices that need to be made in order for the startup to get beyond the early stage.

4. Familiarity

It’s always best that you know your co-founder even before your startup comes to be. The best startup partners are often those who have had a relationship with each other that has existed and flourished based on something other than shared business interest. Knowing your co-founder beyond the work circle will ensure that you are both able to tell what each other’s likes and hates are, and avoid conflicts; it also makes for a stronger working relationship.

5. Trust

This is crucial. Your cofounder should be one who is known to be honest and transparent about their dealings. If you have to, carry out a background check on the person or people you’re looking to get on your team. Don’t lower your standards on this one- the survival of your startup might depend on it.

Working with people who share your vision and values can be rewarding. Finding such people can be a challenge; but if you are able to get them on board your startup ship, your venture is likely to succeed and grow into something really big.

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Ikenna Nwachukwu holds a bachelor's degree in Economics from the University of Nigeria, Nsukka. He loves to look at the world through multiple lenses- economic, political, religious and philosophical- and to write about what he observes in a witty, yet reflective style.

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