Get Cofounders who are opposites.
Many college entrepreneurs team up with their friends to start a startup. Unfortunately in many such situations (including mine), we end up partnering with our friend who is exactly like us - they'll also know programming, same college, same batch, and have similar skills. Today, for instance, I met 2 friends trying to do a tech startup and both are CAs.
This is the easiest recipe for disaster. Let's understand why.
To run a startup, you need a bunch of different skills - Engineering, Product Management, Sales, Customer Support, Recruitment, etc. When 2 friends, who are similar, start together, they bring in 1 or 2 skills very well to the table. But what's missing is the other skills. For instance, when 2 Software Engineers start together, they'll be able to build cutting-edge technology. But none of them would know how to take it to the market and make a sale.
This is where the problem lies when it comes to partnering with Cofounders who are your college friends from the same branch and have a similar skillset as yours.
I made the same mistake when I started Cogno AI (my startup) back in 2017. My former cofounder was a friend from IITB CSE. We both were great at technology. We both had similar strengths and similar weaknesses. Needless to say, our partnership didn't work and we could not get the startup off the ground. He eventually left after a year, trying to pursue something else.
When my former cofounder left, I got my friend Harshita to join me as a co-founder. In the 1 year that I did business with my former cofounder, customers had started to know me and at the same time, none of them knew Harshita. So Harshita and I divided the roles. I looked at all the customer-side stuff. She looked at all the internal stuff.
So basically I became the face of the company in front of the customers and she worked in the backend, providing all the necessary support once the customer was onboarded. That worked like a charm and we could scale the Business to multiple millions of dollars in revenues.
In fact, personality-wise also, Harshita and I are very different. For example:
1. I'm a huge risk-taker. She is very conservative.
2. I speak a lot. She speaks less.
3. I am really active on Social Media. She is not that active.
4. I love talking to the outside world. She prefers to not do that.
5. I look at the big picture. She is great at attention to detail.
Needless to say, we both form a great team because of our complementary skills and personalities. We both joke with each other that if both of us were like us, we would have gambled the company away, and if both of us were like her, the company wouldn't have started in the first place.
This balance helps us a lot. Whenever a crucial decision is to be taken, we both are able to evaluate the upside and downside really well. This ensures that we take the right decisions.
While the Founders of a Startup must have complementary skills, it is important that the vision is aligned in the same direction so that all the Founders can work together towards the common goal of building the Business.
What's your skillset and does your cofounder carry a complementary skillset?
I have shared a lot of my learnings about Business and Entrepreneurship on my YouTube Channel. Please check it here: https://firstname.lastname@example.org
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