Putting together a great founding team is essential to your startup’s success. You know you need the right people, so let’s discuss how to go about finding them. Your founding team can make or break your startup, so put together the best team you can by working through each part of this list before you make a decision about who to have as a co-founder.
1. Define Profiles and Iterate Your Pitch
Before you can go out recruiting, you need to know who to approach and what to say. Profile your own strengths and weaknesses, or what you can and cannot do. You need someone who compliments you by being able to do what you cannot and being strong in areas you are weak. Think about the background and experience you want these people to have.
Remember that even if you have pitched before, this is the hardest sell. You’re not only trying to get the people you meet excited about your idea and mission, but also want them to drop whatever they are doing to join you on this adventure.
After each step that follows, keep improving your pitch and clarify the profile you’re looking for.
Osgenic and its founder Arne Schlenzka are good examples of building a mission that resonates with people: they have been able to recruit world-class talent that has agreed to relocate to Finland from the UK, Spain, and all the way from Australia.
2. Create a List
Search for someone who matches your desired profile. Use the Icebreaker Intranet, ask people if they know anyone, or try LinkedIn’s recruiter tool for free. Aim to create a list of between 15 to 30 people; it can be time-consuming, but it will pay off.
Kalle Salmi, the founder of Kodit.io, believes strongly that the key for any company's success is a great team, so they have kept the bar high and hired only the “best of the best”. What has been helpful for them is that they have been able to leverage their already broad network to get access to new potential recruitments.
3. Approach People
Using your list, send off a message to each person. Introduce yourself and your background, outline your idea, explain who you’re looking for, and invite them to have coffee to discuss more. Try to get them excited.
From your list of 15-30 people, aim for about 10-20 coffee meetings. If someone declines, ask if they know anyone else who may be interested – people who have the profile you have identified quite often know people with the same profile.
Outline an agenda for your coffee meeting. You will want to introduce yourself first, and then your idea. Ask your guest for more information about themselves and their background, to get a better idea of whether or not they are a good fit.
Your goal is to get the other person excited about your idea and discuss potential next steps. If you think they are a good candidate, try to agree on five to ten concrete next steps. If they are not a good fit and/or decline, ask if they can think of someone else who may be a good candidate.
Once you have your actionable next steps, take action. Discuss what you could do in one evening and then do it. Discuss what could be accomplished in one weekend and get it done. Working with people is the easiest way to see if you actually fit together as co-founders.
Some examples of what you could do are setting OKRs for the first twelve months, talking to customers, or defining your MVP and building it. If, after working together, the other person decides they don’t want to be part of your founding team, ask if they know someone else who would.
If you still think the candidate is a good fit, ensure they are able to commit full-time to the startup team for the next 12-24 months. You want someone who agrees with and believes in your mission. Don’t forget to do reference checks to confirm their background and work ethic.
Choosing a co-founder is a big decision. They may decline, in which case you should ask if they can refer you to anyone else they know. If they accept, remember that you are protected by the Shareholders Agreement which will mitigate the risk of someone leaving.
Having the right people on your founding team could be the difference in success or failure for your startup. To find the right people, narrow down who you want, approach them with your idea, discuss your ideas and actionable steps, work through the steps with a candidate, and then make a decision about whether or not they are a good fit for your team. Based on your experience, you can now iterate your pitch and the profile you’re looking for.
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