Luke Singham

How to find a co-founder

I recently went on the hunt for a new co-founder. This ended up being my process.

Starting principles #

The process #

This is somewhere between dating and hiring someone. You want to keep it natural and a lot of it is about getting to know the other person. But you have a deadline and a business to start!

Top of funnel - get swiping #

In dating the 'old way' was being set up by friends. The 'new way' is dating apps. Both work for co-founder leads, but just like Tinder, you'll get many more leads through Y Combinator's co-founder matching app.

1. The first date #

This is the initial meet and greet. I kept these to a 30min video call or a quick in person coffee. The goals:

✅ Get to know them. Do you vibe? Yep, it's a lot about vibes. If you don't vibe on a first date with someone, you don't go on a second date.
✅ Do you respect them? This is really about whether you see them on eye level.

2. The written assignment #

The aim here is to have the most time efficient process to get to know your potential co-founder. The 50 Founder questions get you to introspect on why you're founding a company, reveals your areas of expertise and raises thorny questions early like how would you resolve a stalemate? The best founders were already aware of the 50 Founder Questions. If someone hadn't heard of them, I'd give them time to get back to me.

✅ Exchange 50 Founder questions - ensure values, expertise and thinking alignment.

3. More dates - discuss the Founder Questions and any other questions #

If the potential co-founder's responses revealed a gap too large, I'd just say so in an email. If you only have minor flags, question marks and areas you want to dig deeper - have as many calls to work through them as required.

✅ Each meeting is increasing your confidence in each other, to the point you are ready for a work trial.
✅ With a view to commencing a work trial, if the co-founder is committed to an idea, get across the idea.[1]

4. Part time work trial #

By this stage you've worked through values, any possible question marks you've had about each other and are ready to test out what it is like to work with each other. I did this with several people at the same time. Using the dating analogy, this is that tricky and tiring phase where you haven't committed to one person yet. You're switching contexts and trying to not mix up details about each person! The work trial can look quite different depending on each person. For example, with one they hadn't found an idea, so the working together was about making progress through the ideation phase. For another, it was about doing joint discovery calls and validating ideas.

✅ Complete a timeboxed work trial together.

5. Commit #

This doesn't mean you have incorporated. But from step 4 you need to pick one person to move forward. And hopefully you have a strong sense of who the right person is. Having committed to each other, set yourself ambitious goals that are aligned to each of your primary areas of responsibility. For me that looked like developing a prototype and for my co-founder it was securing design partnerships. If this all goes well, you're already a company, you just need to sign the dotted line.

Good luck!

Other inspiration #

  1. This is a good opportunity to stress test the relationship too. Really question the idea, poke holes, debate it and see how they respond. What would it take to work on something else? You probably need to pivot in the future, which is a difficult conversation if you don't arrive at it at the same time. ↩︎

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