Starting a company isn't easy. From the get-go you're confronted with huge challenges: building a prototype, researching the market, raising funds, setting up infrastructure, talking with potential customers.. you get the idea. As I've built the prototype for my own startup over the past couple of months, it's become apparent very quickly that no one person can do everything. Every day spent sending e-mails is a day when the prototype hasn't advanced, and vice-versa. Aside from bandwidth, there are two other very important reasons why a co-founder is necessary: accountability and ideas. As a single founder (thus far) I've scrappily substituted my co-founder for friends, pitching them new ideas and asking for advice at any opportunity. Although they've been of tremendous help, the level of involvement is just not the same. You need someone who thinks about the product just as much as you, and who cares about progress, day to day.

Ok. I need a co-founder. Who?

Start asking friends. Then people you know. Then the people of people you know. Then get desperate. The most important thing is to meet a lot of people, to make sure you completely exhaust the field. Your co-founder is your most important partner, accounting (initially) for half of your company, so choose wisely. When meeting potential partners the first aspect I look for is excitement for the vision. Motivation is key. Always prefer raw brainpower and focus over education and experience; most startup problems are solved using imagination. After motivation, find a good fit - someone who shares your ideas on how to run a business. It's usually pretty easy to weed out people who are not a good fit. Some questions I ask are: until we find product market fit, how big do you think the team should be? What are your thoughts on planning vs. doing?

I think I found a match

You wouldn't marry someone you just met, would you? Founder dating is the same. Spend time talking, a lot of time talking. Bounce ideas back and forth and work on something together. If you're looking for technical talent, have them build a simple project. If you're looking for business talent, have them prepare a document for you. Make sure you have a good feel for how you work together.

Getting desperate

Still haven't found anyone to your liking? Well, me neither. Here are things you can try:

  • send a tweet
  • attend conferences and events
  • open your local business magazine and find the big names, ask around for introductions to them
  • write a guest post on a popular startup blog (;-)


By the way: I'm still looking. Check out my startup, soakoptics, http://soakoptics.com and http://soakoptics.com/pitch. Then shoot me an email at justin.vaillancourt@gmail.com if you're awesome.