One founder reports from the front lines of her search for "the one" -- the perfect technical co-founder.
By Katherine Hanson (Founder, SheTrusts.com)
Finding a co-founder for your startup is much easier said than done. It's pretty much like trying to find a mate: you look for someone who can bring things to the table that you cannot, the stakes are high, and with the fast-paced nature of this business, time is often not always on your side. Not only are you searching for your perfect professional match, someone who has the strengths and skills that you don’t have, but you also must hunt for someone who is or who could be as passionate and invested in your company as you are.
My startup SheTrusts.com is up and running with a functioning site (what I consider to be the "minimum viable product") and has a following that is steadily growing. All is seemingly going well and under control. So why take on a co-founder, you ask? Simply put, I have big ambitions for what I want the site to grow to do, combined with a broad and detailed vision for what SheTrusts as a company will be, all involving steps that cannot be taken without potentially being involved in an accelerator and healthy rounds of funding. Suffice it to say, SheTrusts needs a high-functioning, well-rounded team to get there. Partnering with a technical co-founder is my unavoidable next step. Finding "the one" has been my summer’s quest.
So if you, like me, are finding your startup has come to a place where you need cofounder, there are a few things that you’ll need to reflect on before you begin your search:
In beginning to navigate my way through the "cofounder jungle" it was pretty clear to me that I would need to partner with someone whose skills compliment my own. Sure, I know that I can pitch this company all around town until I’m blue in the face, but is it going to be worth my time learning to write code and to engineer a site? No way. I know my strengths as well as my weaknesses: I’m the first to acknowledge that I’m not what you would call a "techie," yet in exchange I can communicate ideas with convincing passion and can develop a business like there’s no tomorrow. Let’s put it this way: I was determined to establish this company because of my passion for providing a solution to a problem in my own life and that of others, whereas many other tech founders are driven by the technological skills they have and are looking for ways to apply their know-how to relevant services and ideas. I’m looking for an individual who is propelled forward by the other half of this puzzle to complete the SheTrusts.com executive team.
Know What You Don’t Know
Ok, so you’ve narrowed it down what type of cofounder you need, and you’ve met someone with the right “label” to fill that role. You’re going to live happily ever after, right? Think again. In looking for a partner you need to be clear about exactly what they will be expected to execute. For example, I know that for my ideal wireframe to become reality, I need a technical co-founder who is fluent in open source programming languages like Python, and who can navigate through both front and back-end development. Again, this is not anything that I could have more than a five-minute discussion about, but without researching exactly what skill requirements are non-negotiables for my engineering co-founder (aka "what I don’t know") I very well could’ve ended up with more of a specialist in front-end development without the broad capabilities to help make SheTrusts into the premiere resource for women looking to find the fashion products they can trust.
Set Your Expectations Correctly
It’s extremely difficult (and perhaps a bit unreasonable) to find the dreamboat who can do everything. Having confidence in your co-founder to research and facilitate whatever is necessary to get done what he/she doesn’t know how to do is also important. Just make sure that your most essential items are crossed off your list first.
Look for Passion
Truth be told, when it boils down to it, I’d take someone who may not have all the flashy skills and experience but who is passionate about the purpose and potential of SheTrusts over the most experienced and well connected yet unenthused engineer any day. Passion is the thing that wakes you up in the morning, keeps you up at night, causes you to push yourself to accomplish things you didn’t know were possible, and what led you down the path of becoming an entrepreneur in the first place. You want someone who is just as feverishly in it as you are. You are about to give them a near equal stake in your company after all, so this must be a non-negotiable.
I’ll end with a shameless plug: Do you think that you may be the right person to join me as a co-founder and fill the role of chief technical officer for SheTrusts.com? We’d love to meet you! Check out our full job description on the Women 2.0 Jobs board.
What's your advice to entrepreneurs searching for a technical co-founder?
About the guest blogger: Katherine Hanson is the founder and CEO of SheTrusts.com, the first website created to provide fashion quality and durability reviews based on the experiences of real women. She developed the concept while working at Ace Gallery in Los Angeles after obtaining her degree in Art History from Auburn University. Follow her on Twitter at @KHansonLA.