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Why Two Founders Are Better Than One

Because if you are a solo founder, you are always the smartest person in the room. As an investor, I want someone in there with you.

As a seed-stage investor, I get to see companies at the most formative stage of their development. One of the more interesting variables is the one-founder-versus-two-founders dynamic. I, for one, am a fan of the two-person founding team (or three-person, or four-person).  In fact, it is now a requirement of our accelerator program that every company have at least two founders.

Why? Because when the 100 decisions that needs to be made that day bubble up to the top of your brain and the Top Five need to be prioritized, I want someone else in the room with you.

Because when you are a single founder, you are always the smartest person in the room and thus every decision is perfect. 

I want someone else in the room. Every day. 

So, how do you find a co-founder (ideally, one whose skills complement yours)? I would use the same technique you use (or used) to find your significant other. Seriously. The parallels are significant. Here are three thoughts I share with single-founder entrepreneurs: 

  • Know Thyself. If you are following my “complementary skills” angle you have to have a very good idea of who you are in order to find your co-founder. Not sure who you are? Ask around. Don’t be afraid-;this is crucial feedback.
  • Network Like Crazy. Start talking to everyone who will listen about your idea and your desire to find a partner. Meetups, conferences, and entrepreneurial social events are perfect opportunities, as everyone there is by definition a potential candidate.
  • Put the Dating in Founder-Dating. My partner, Dave Neal, and I dated for about three months. We met about every week in person and exchanged emails and phones call in between. We worked problems, found solutions, discarded ineffective ideas, and talked about everything we could think of. Most important, we talked about our failures.

As is the norm, there are websites and organizations trying to facilitate this process. It seems like we get asked every day to support some vehicle for matching up people. Think Match.com for geeks. www.cofounderlab.com, www.founderdating.com and www.startupwithme.com are all good online examples. Some of these sites also host face-to-face events that augment the online experience. Check them out.

As the start-up days turn into weeks, which turn into months, and you enter the classic “trough of disillusionment,” having a partner who inspires you, or covers for you when you have no mojo, or provides counter thinking, or tells you when you are off base is a gift. Of course, your partner gets the same in return.

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Last updated: May 23, 2013

CHRIS HEIVLY | Managing Director

Chris Heivly was a co-founder of MapQuest (which sold to AOL for $1.2 billion), sole managing director of 77 Capital (a $25 million venture fund), and an executive at five software companies. Currently, he is one of two managing directors of The Startup Factory, a seed investment fund making 10 to 14 new investments per year. A national writer and speaker about startups and startup communities, Heivly is also the founder of the Big Top Job Fair.




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