Dont look for a co-founder. Find a Right Hand Man

In my first startup, madhouse, I had two co-founders. Before madhouse I worked at a couple of startups, which also had more than one founder. So when I started Morpheus, I did not have any first hand prespective on single founder scenario. At morpheus, I have worked with a number of such startups and developed a good understanding of this scenario. Interestingly some our most succesful portfolio companies have a single founder.

Very often I meet single founders who have business background & are looking for a tech co-founder or tech founders looking for a business guy to come onboard as a co-founder. In a good scenario co-founders know each other for some time as good friends / colleagues / classmates / cousins etc, they all want to do a startup. They get together before the idea is finalized and get started. In scenarios where this does not happen – looking for a co-founder is a bad idea. Good idea is to look a Right Hand Man (RHM).

  • RHM is someone who is quite capable (& willing) of contributing to a start up in its early stages not only in his field of expertise but across the board
  • Basically a rock star
  • He is not a guy who will go all the way and start his own company in the near future
  • But he is also not someone who can be happy in a run of the mill corporate job
  • He has many traits of a startup founder
  • He is restless / wants some adventure / can handle the startup uncertainly/ wants to really contribute/ wants to learn / try new things/ brings ideas
  • He will be fine with a survival salary 20-30K INR a month (would love for someone to sugest a USD equivalent this amount) & 5-10 % equity (which is vested over 3-4 years)
  • He should be more than just a developer or sales guy or ops guy. Basically good for his primary role but also capable of contrubuting to other parts of the startup
  • If you are single founder with business background you need to of course look for someone who has the skills of making & delivering the product (or service) that your startup plans to sell
  • If you are a tech founder who has skills of making & delivering the product (or service) dont look for a business guy. Instead you should also get someone who will first take up “making”.
  • So if you make a tech product get a lead developer who can also do other things  
  • Since you have the skills of making, you should make the initial few versions of the product yourself
  • Once you get the RHM you can do a handover but still run the product from the top as an architect or even contiue contributing to making
  • But sales is something you are still figuring out as a company & the founder needs to be incharge of sales (don’t ever get a guy to run sales unless you have figured it out yourself)
  • Now that u know who you are looking for, write a nice / exciting job description & post on your company blog 
  • Post the link on various relevant forums : alumni network mailing lists / other mailing lists / forums/ twitter / free job sites / social networks etc
  • Best place to look is into your own network for references – class mates / juniors / cousins / friends
  • Also you should consider getting interns from good colleges where they have 6 months internship. The probaility of them coming on board full-time after graduating is pretty good / since they would have learnt about you and your startup during the internship period
  • Hangout at meet-ups / tech events and similar places where you can run into such people. Online you can hangout at Hacker News
  • Maintain a honest blog about your experiences so far – that is very likely to attract a good RHM.
  • Send me the link to the post I will be happy to spread the word!