• Max Bonpain

Why the first thing an entrepreneur should do is find co-founders.

Research from Edward Roberts at MIT suggests that businesses with multiple founders are more successful than those founded by an individual.

In my experience working with many startups, I certainly agree that having co-founders makes a huge difference; here is why:

  • motivation: being an entrepreneur is hard, and being a solo entrepreneur is VERY hard and can feel like being alone against the rest of the world. The support from a founding team can make a huge difference. When I mentor entrepreneurs, at some stage the discussion always goes towards their mental health, the doubts they are facing, the depression they are repressing, the debts they are accumulating… A support network is critical in building resilience, and the best support network is people sharing the journey!

  • creativity: it’s quite simple, but more people means more ideas, especially if the team has some diversity and all members respect and trust each other. It’s important to highlight the way the founders interact as it is the foundation of the nascent company culture, which will then influence the type of people being recruited and the startup’s ways of working.

  • skills: some co-founders have the same background, for instance because they come from the same university degree. But mostly, teams will have a couple of key skills, often a technical and a commercial pair. Nobody can be an expert at everything, so complementary skills are always a plus.

  • network: once again, the more people in the team, the more connections they will have, and the more support the startup can get.

All in all, entrepreneuring (I prefer an active form to the passive entrepreneurship) is not a solo sport, and most VCs tend to prefer startups with a couple of co-founders.

And those who back solo founders usually make it their priority to team them up asap! See Antler for instance, or some other incubators across the world, who admit individuals to their program, but then help them build teams with other residents: a cohesive, complementary, focused team can drive any idea to success.

Many founding teams met at work, at university or through friendships. If you’re not sure where to get a co-founder, consider incubators and accelerators, as well Angelist, advisors, mentors and other networking. But going into an incubator simply working on your MVP and product/market fit won’t be enough, you need to look for people to join your venture. Don’t try to be superhuman, and make it a priority to team up! And “recruiting” your co-founders will help you refine your pitch!

A couple of words of caution though, as not all teams are successful:

  • make sure you share a vision of where you want to take the startup (and how you want to exit)

  • think long and hard about your shareholder agreement, as -if you decide to split- it should make the process much easier and amicable: be ready, just in case. I have seen several founding teams parting ways, some amicably, some not…

There’s a lot available online, the best resource in my opinion, although a bit dated, is Harvard’s professor Noam Wasserman’s The Founder’s Dilemmas.