Building a business is lonely and hard work. Always, it's made easier by having a partner by your side. When it works, the equation looks like: 1+1=3. Here's why:

  • Having a partner increases your commitment level. Making a commitment to someone increases your chance of following through with your goals--it holds you accountable.
  • A co-founder can help keep you sane. The days can be filled with disappointments and can end in self-doubt. It's easier to stop doing this work than to continue with it. A partner who shares the same passion, who is driven by the same goals, vision, and values, will offer the appropriate encouragement and pressure to stay at it. You can't underestimate the value of combining a sounding board, a therapist, and a cheerleader into one person--your co-founder.
  • A co-founder enables you to do more. A great product person needs a great engineer. A great visionary needs an operations czar. Different individuals bring different skills to the table, as well as different perspectives and different roles. Co-founders often push each other in their respective disciplines--and that drives overall results. Someone with skills and abilities you don't have will complement--and extend--yours.

Of course, you have to pick the right partner, because making a mistake throws the equation off. The wrong partner can make 1+1 = 0. How do you find the right person? A few tips:

  • Consider someone you know. Great synchronicity happens with someone you have already collaborated with. The best-case scenario is finding a co-founder whom you already know, have worked with for years, and know inside and out.
  • Determine what someone adds to the equation. You'll want to select a person with skills complementary to yours (e.g., product/engineering or sales/marketing).
  • Get to know a prospect deeply, and spend lots of time together. Founding a company is a big commitment. You might want to work your way into it and see how the partnership is going. Interactions with negative chemistry are not going to get better over time. In a way, it's like dating--take the time to get to know someone before you commit.
  • Put time into your search for a great partner. Don't ever choose a person out of convenience. Look for someone with the deepest experience in your topic area. Maybe that's someone you've worked with before or maybe someone you haven't. If you haven't collaborated, test the relationship out before making the commitment.

You'll make several decisions in your company's trajectory that will outweigh all the others. This is one of those decisions. Take your time and be sure you are making the right choice. The impact of it may last your lifetime.