After 4+ months of exploration, I've found the right co-founder and idea. We're off to the races.
I quit my job in November, 2021 with my mind made up. It’s my time to start a tech company. After quickly killing my first startup concept, I met with over 100 potential co-founders in search of the right “who” and “what”. After 4+ months of searching, I’ve found both.
The easy part of the journey was narrowing down the field of potential co-founders from 100 to 3. I wrote about the objective rubric I used to inform which co-founders it made sense to invest more time with.
The bulk of the time and effort was spent winnowing down from 3 to 1 (I did have a few moments where I considered pulling a Jack Dorsey or Elon Musk by attempting to run two companies at once…).
Parts of my process were intentional. Parts were fortuitous. In retrospect, I’m able to see four important “tests” I went through with each potential co-founder.
The proof test
Startup ideas are plentiful. Validated startup ideas are rare. For the proof test, I asked the potential co-founder to talk to several customers and provide evidence that they are hungry for the proposed solution.
This test forced the co-founder to prove two key things:
The idea is backed by real demand
The co-founder has existing contacts or is able to drum up new contacts in the space (ie: they will be an asset for business development)
The pitch test
My plan is to build a venture-backed startup. That means venture investors need to believe in my co-founder and the idea. For the pitch test, I forwarded a shortlist of founders and a one-line description of the idea to a couple of my close investor friends. I observed which people and ideas the investors were interested in engaging with. In two cases, I co-pitched the investors alongside my prospective co-founder.
I was keen to observe:
Does this person express their ideas clearly and concisely?
Do I have confidence that this person could raise $2, $10, $50 million dollars?
Can I see this person leading a large company?
The ghost test
I’ve united with several founding teams over the years. In most cases, the project has fizzled. It hasn’t been because the project doesn’t have potential. Instead it’s because the founding team lacked the motivation, time, or passion to devote to it. It is VERY important to me that my co-founder matches my intensity, passion, and drive to succeed.
For the ghost test, I observed what happened when I stopped initiating contact. After communicating back and forth for several weeks, I simply stopped responding. What happens next?
Co-Founders that matched my intensity followed up with me. They pushed forward on initiatives with or without my response. In one case (spoiler alert, the co-founder I chose) they used the walkaway close, “I’ve done my side of the work here, if you’re not interested or able to commit to the project, that’s ok, I’ll find someone else who is.”
The late-night test
One co-founder I considered working with made perfect sense logically. The idea leveraged my industry knowledge from my past company. Huge TAM. Connections with big potential customers. Investors anxious to fund.
I didn’t choose this project. Why? I did the late-night test. My typical schedule is 9am-5pm and 10pm - 1am. The late-night test is: what do I choose to work on from 10pm to 1am? Corporate America has us trained to work on boring and unfulfilling things during business hours. Evening hours are our personal time. To sacrifice personal time, it has to be something that excites you.
Ultimately, I had to pass on this idea and co-founder because I couldn’t find the passion.
When I started looking for a co-founder I assumed I’d wrap up the process in about a month. It ended up taking me four. I’m very happy the timeline took so long. Running a full process gives me 100% confidence in my choice. I can rest easy knowing I did my homework and found the best opportunity for me at this time.
I’m excited to share more about my co-founder and our company in the coming months. For now, we’re keeping the details private.
Broadly speaking, we’re focused on the intersection of creators and e-commerce.
We have a product in the market today (🎉 yay for moving quickly) and our initial customers are thrilled with our solution and roadmap. In brief, we’re having lots of fun.
If you know any creators / influencers that would be willing to be early users and give feedback, I’d be grateful for the connection.
More to come!