How to choose a co-founder

co-founders

You’ve been coming up with ideas, talking with friends and mentors, working out the numbers and have finally settled on the idea that will be the foundation for your start-up.

But you know you don’t have all the skills and abilities it’s going to require to succeed. You realise you can’t do it alone and perhaps in a post-COVID-19 world it will make even greater sense to also share the risk.

You’re looking for a co-founder.

But how do you choose one? Is being committed and driven and sharing the vision enough? Is there more to finding a co-founder than enthusiasm, energy and a willingness to work with you?

When we started Media-Wize, Kathryn and I realised that we were almost polar opposites in many ways. We even came from the “warring factions” of PR and journalism. But what we wanted to create with Media-Wize was a partnership that lets us be who we are and approach problems differently.

Think about Apple. The two co-founders, Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak, had very different visions of the company. The engineer saw a hobbyist’s computer. The visionary marketer saw a new world order.

They were completely different but complementary. One focused on creating great products, the other on changing the way we live and work.

When you look for a co-founder look for someone that you can work with but who isn’t just another version of you. Look for someone whose skills fill your gaps. Look for someone that will question decisions when they need to be checked. Look for someone who shares your vision but helps you find new and better ways to deliver it.

My co-founder hates doing the accounts, looking after the tax stuff and making sure the tech we rely on works – we live and work about 90 minutes apart so having all the tech work is a very big deal. But she is incredible at relationship building and peeling the client onion to discover what lies beneath and finding what they are really looking for.

I’m always optimistic that every new contact, every idea and every activity we take will work perfectly. Kathryn is the realist in our team – gently making me stop and think before I jump ahead too far.

Our complementary skills mean I can focus on content creation without being involved in pitching and placing – I forever remain a journalist. Taking on corporate work doesn’t mean I need to become a PR jack of all trades like lots of other journalists have become.

When you cut through all that, what we found as we went from idea to forming a company to working was that our skills and personalities are quite different but fit together – like pieces of a jigsaw puzzle.

I was given a piece of advice by one of my great mentors – don’t hire in your own image. Having someone that shares your vision and passion is important, but each co-founder needs to bring something unique to the partnership.

When I interview founders, I often find they can’t see the full potential of their business. They don’t see beyond their vision because they either don’t listen to others or don’t allow themselves to be challenged.

Don’t look in the mirror for a co-founder. Look through a kaleidoscope to bring out the best in your business.

Anthony Caruana, Co-founder and CEO, Media-Wize