While there is much hype around the concept of a “minimum viable product”, little is said about applying a lean philosophy to finding the right co-founder or partner.
At the end of the day, business is all about its people and the one thing that remains constant whether you’re building, growing or pivoting, are the founders. Furthermore, once you sell or allocate equity, it’s very difficult to get it back.
Building a business takes time and you generally spend more time with your business partner than your life partner, so it’s important to get it right. You need to be sure you’re getting into business with the right person, with the right skills and qualities.
Sometimes co-founders have a long-standing relationship. They might have worked together in the past or attended the same college and therefore each founder understands the relative qualities of the other.
However, it is often the case that founders engage each other based on a warm introduction and are then required to take a leap of faith before incorporating the business and dividing up equity.
While you are building your minimum viable product, you should also be assessing the viability of your co-founder(s). It should be viewed as a warm-up period.
You can both agree to your relative shareholdings on a verbal basis, but don’t formalise your relationship until you’re sure about each other.
After all, you wouldn’t employ someone without a three month probation period. The same thinking should be applied to the allocation of equity when starting out.
Are they in it for the long-term? Do you share the same values? Are your skills complementary? Do you get along? Are your visions completely aligned?
In starting BuyReply, I’ve been lucky enough to be able to seed fund the company through Lind Ventures, which has provided us with enough runway to get to know each other as founders before we look for serious money.
The platform is a large platform which we’ve co-architected and designed out over a period of months. Our team of four engineers are building the platform, which means most of the day-to-day work is being done by people other than ourselves.
This provides us with a buffer to ease into the business slowly as the platform is built, but also provides us with an opportunity to determine whether we are fit for each other over the long-term.
Over a period of months, we’ve been able to understand each others’ strengths and weaknesses and we’ve done this prior to signing hard shareholder agreements. The relationship has been built on a level of mutual respect and trust from both sides. In the coming weeks, we will formalise the relationship.
This approach has provided us both with the opportunity to explore our “minimum viable personalities” to determine if we want to move forward together as a team and build a business over a period of years.
Make sure you are 100% sure of your founders ability to be completely committed to the business and add significant value over time.