I read a lot these days about the importance of having both a hacker and a hustler as founding partners if you plan to raise capital and successfully launch a tech-related start-up. A hacker is basically someone who can write software and a hustler is a passion sharer (think Steve Jobs).
But what if you’re a hacker and don’t know any hustlers or vice versa? How do you make the connection you need to find viable founding partners to bring your idea to life? Do you go with someone you’ve known since kindergarten? This option is ideal, but probably unrealistic for most entrepreneurs. Do you rely on character references from other people you trust? Or do you use one of the new founder match-making services that are proliferating?
You Can Trust John. He’d Be a Great Partner For You!
If someone you trust suggests a person to you for whom they vouch, this can either be really great, or completely blow up in your face. In my case, the latter occurred.
I am a hustler and am working on a start-up, WeMontage, that allows professional photographers and interior designers to upload their client pictures, create a collage, and print them on large format wallpaper (yes, real wallpaper!). I came up with the idea, generated the business model using the Business Model Canvas, and created all the financial projections. But I don’t know jack about technology and desperately needed a partner who could either develop the software, or had technology relationships and could project manage a team of designers and developers.
A dear friend recommended someone (let’s call him Bill) who had developer relationships and could project manage things. Bill and I talked for about a month then finally agreed upon an appropriate equity percentage for him since he was not committing any capital to the project.
KABOOM! Nine months later this relationship blew up in my face after Bill encountered a few “life challenges” and completely checked out of WeMontage. Now I’m trying to cut a deal with him, outside of the buy-sell agreement we signed, to buy him out of my business. Sucks, doesn’t it?!
I Trust You, But Let’s Take it Slow…
A good friend of mine, Mark DesJardin, started a website (GroupRide(dot)Me) for cycling enthusiasts to find other comparably skilled cyclists for group rides. Like me, Mark is a hustler and he already had someone developing an app for him that will allow users to find group rides. But he needed a founding partner with cachet in the cycling industry and money to invest in the start-up.
Luckily for Mark, one such person lives in his local community (let’s call him Joe). Mark met Joe at various cycling-related events and Joe immediately thought Mark’s idea was desperately needed nationally. Mark asked a mutual friend about doing business with Joe and Joe received two thumbs up. Over the next six months, Mark and Joe got to know each other on rides and by co-hosting cycling-related volunteer events like a helmet fitting program and bike safety checks.
BAM! The two decided they complemented each other and now Mark has a credible founding partner with industry relationships and who will invest money in the business.
I recently discovered two web sites that aspire to connect hackers and hustlers:
Here is an excerpt from their site:
“Recognizing that the “entrepreneurial match-making” websites fell far short of what is needed… It’s our goal to not just tell people “Here Is Someone You May Know…” but instead provide “Here Is Someone You SHOULD Know.”
Here’s an excerpt from their site:
“FounderDating is a network of talented entrepreneurs with different backgrounds and skill sets all ready to start their next company or project…We help you find cofounders with complementary skill sets.“
I haven’t used these match-making services, but I would caution patience. After all, most of us wouldn’t propose to our boyfriend or girlfriend after dating for a week, right? Well, I did propose to my lovely wife after 6 months and we’re still going strong after 7 years. But that’s another story. ;)
Rules For Founder Teams and Agreements
I also discovered a blog by Simeon Simeonov, at which he talks about proper ways to structure founder start-up agreements. I wish I’d read this a year ago! Simeon has an interesting post If you want to build a better-balanced founding team where no one founder is irreplaceable.
Choosing founding partners in your start-up is almost as important as choosing your spouse. So, be patient and choose wisely.
Have you had successes or failures finding a viable founding partner for your start-up? I would love to hear about it in the comments section!