How do I find the perfect co-founder? 7 simple steps


Finding the perfect co-founder can be stressful and annoying. But it doesn’t need to be. Follow these easy steps to find your perfect partner for your adventure.

Get clear on what you really want

  • How much time do you spend on this business per week and how long do you want to be spending that amount of time for?
  • How many people should the company consist of?
  • What sort of team or support do you need?

Take some time to reflect on what you’re trying to do and why. Its typical to assume “I want to make money” or “I want this business to succeed”, you might be surprised to learn that not everyone will share your view. Or even if you agree, you might have a different understanding of:

  • What does success mean? Is it to open a site in each state? Is it to break even?
  • What does make money mean? A (successful) business can make $1,000 or $100,000 per month. Which is it for you?

Be honest when answering these questions. You’re far better to find out now than later.

Do yo know what you need? Find out!

We can’t emphasize this enough – find out what you need and be honest when answering these questions. What do we mean by honesty? Honesty means not trying to fool yourself or anyone else. You know the right answer, so don’t try and tell someone something that is untrue just because they want to hear it from you!

This isn’t a popularity contest, its about finding your perfect co-founder! Remember: A successful business = money making opportunity + people who believe in each other’s vision of success . Don’t compromise on either one.

Ask leading questions – what do they want / need

You know what you want, but what about them? Do they want to be a co-founder? Do they have the right skillset? How do you find out what they need without asking them directly so as not to tip your hand on what you think is important. Ask leading questions – “Where would this person like their career/life to take them in five years?” or ask

“What are some of the things that frustrate you about where you’re at now and how does starting a company help solve those problems?” Remember: A successful business = money making opportunity + people who believe in each other’s vision of success . Don’t compromise on either one.

Ask for references if needed

Be clear on what you are offering

Be clear about what you are offering and how it is going to work. Is it 2% of the business? 50%?

Don’t be too nice.

Do they see this as a money making opportunity? Or can they see a bigger picture / vision of success . Don’t compromise on either one. If all they want is a job offer where the downside risk is yours then tell them no thank you and keep looking for someone else.

A lot of co-founders will say “I just want to learn more so let me help out without giving money.” While this sounds like a good deal – it doesn’t really solve anyone problems because there won’t ever be growth or learning when an investor has little skin in the game.

This is how you’ll get paid ……. ……. ……. …….

And I’m expecting this of you ……. ……. ……. …….

You’re much better off being the “bad guy” instead of playing happy families and finding out later

Talk about your idea while protecting your idea

A lot of founders and entrepreneurs start with “how do I protect my idea” or “what can I do so they won’t steal my idea”.

I’m not an attorney, I am not your attorney. In my experience, I have found it effective to talk about my idea as if I’m trying to sell it to you.

Take a company like Dropbox – the remote storage business. I might say something like:

Most small teams have a few basic needs:

– team members need their important stuff in front of them wherever they are,

– everyone needs to be working on the latest version of a given document (and ideally can track what’s changed),

– and team data needs to be protected from disaster. There are sync tools (e.g. beinsync, Foldershare), there are backup tools (Carbonite, Mozy), and there are web uploading/publishing tools (, etc.), but there’s no good integrated solution.

Could you take this idea and “steal it”?

What I find fascinating is that this is taken from the actual application Dropbox made to Y-Combinator (an investor).

Being unable to adequately describe you’re trying to do, is such a red flag. Just don’t!

Should things go wrong, this is what I’d like to happen

If it doesn’t work out, how do you split? Who owns what? Joint ventures are fine, until they aren’t. Don’t be shy. Perhaps its a 50% / 50% split. Perhaps you keep everything.

Get off the fence and make a decision

Case Study – The Pontiac Aztek

From the Washington Post:

In the mid-1990s, then-General Motors Corp. Chairman John G. Smale decided to bring the world’s biggest automaker a dose of the give-the-people-what-they-want ethic that had animated Smale’s old company, Procter & Gamble Co. And what the people wanted was sexy, edgy and a bit off-key; in short, a head-turner. General Motors’ culture took over from there. Design would be by committee, the focus groups extensive. And production would have to stick to a tight budget, with all that sex appeal packed onto an existing minivan platform. The result rolled off the assembly line in 2000: the Pontiac Aztek, considered by many to be one of the ugliest cars produced in decades and a flop from Day One.

Pontiac Aztek

You don’t do good software design by committee. You do it best by having a dictator.

Author – Don Norman

The Aztek was a good idea, at the right time. Unfortunately it was executed poorly.

It’s your start-up, it’s your idea. Make the decision, and move on. Especially if its a bad or difficult one.

Expect to these conversations MANY times!

I get it – its annoying, frustrating, difficult. But I hate to break it to you. It will get worse!

Bend like bamboo

Bamboo doesn’t complain, it doesn’t get “hurt” in the wind, it doesn’t complain during the rain. It just bends and twists and goes with the flow.

Just like you do. Learn to bend like bamboo and go with the flow


Christian Payne is a technologist and entrepreneur with a passion for innovation. He has over 20 years of experience in engineering and product development across enterprise and consumer sectors. He has experience at both small start-ups and enterprise level generating +$2M per month. When he's not hard at work on his latest project, he spends his time involved in Men’s Support Groups, Leadership training and Mentoring.

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