A company partner is like a husband or a wife. You have to look for the right fit, knowing that there will always be the risk he/she is not the right one.
A lot of potential partners passed by Pinktrotters, the company I started some time ago. I have a long experience into testing the right people and a lot into failing about it.
That is why today I have the right to say that the following are the characteristics you should look into a potential partner or co-founder.
1) They are not driven by money:
I had very bad experiences with people driven by money. A startup is not a company yet. Money is one of the scarcest resources. If you ask for money first, you do not understand where you are and where the potential is: it is long-term, not short-term. You need to work hard to get the reward and you cannot expect it to come to you first. These 2 episodes are examples of "no-go" partners:
- this candidate put into the company personal reimbursement a train ticket of 2 €
(...there is a big problem here: if you do not put a bit of effort yourself into something you want to become your own company... there is no chance you're going to become an entrepreneur)
- this other candidate wanted to be paid XXX€ during his trial period
(...it's called trial period on purpose: it's needed for both parts to test if they fit together; it cannot be paid because they are testing to each others and not to work together, but to be PARTNERS, like into a marriage...and actually, if you ask for money before even starting delivering, there is another big problem here)
2) They ask for equity, not money:
If a potential partner is interested into paying his/her own work totally or partially in equity, you understand they really believe into the idea and they want to really contribute into it, with their own efforts, time and money (because time is money).
3) They have complementary skills but same culture:
You need to look for those people who complement you. If you are the outgoing, marketing lover, born-to-sell one, look for the more diplomatic, rational and less emotional one. It can be strange to say, especially from my side, after working many years abroad with the most different cultures, but at the end, the best fit and easier understanding comes when you work with people who have a similar background / culture. It's less stressful to explain some behaviours, it's smoother to solve problems and to understand respective communication.
4) They are hustlers:
They work no matter what, holidays and weekends do not represent a stop into the work flow. There are no "8 to 5" daily working hours. They work with passion and they love to do it because they recognise that in a startup environment you cannot act as an employee but as an employer. An employer / a company owner gives example to the team. Employers get first into the "office" and leave last.
5) They are proactive:
They do not wait for you to drive the work, they look for it, they like to solve problems, they find & fight for solutions, they see other possibilities, they anticipate your moves, they do not need for you to tell them what to do. They do it and they bring unexpected results. They are smarter than you!
It took me a long time to find the right people. It is really the most difficult thing. A lot of startups fail because the co-founders break up in their relations and are not able to manage the company together.
Being solo-founder is not easy as well but I had less problems managing things by myself, slowly and with no confrontation, than with the wrong people around.
Do you agree with me?
Are there other characteristics I forgot?
I'd love to hear your opinion!