Successful start-up: what to look for when finding a suitable co-founder for your startup

The tech expert linked to the 'regulator'. The history of the tech industry shows that the right entrepreneurial duos can go far. But how do you find a good co-founder? “Don't form too concrete a picture and look for someone who differs from you to the right degree,” says Tamim Karim, Talent Manager at venture builder Holland Startup.

From Bill Gates and Paul Allen at Microsoft to Snapchats Evan Spiegel and Bobby Murphy. Stories about their way up regularly refer to the importance of the good interaction between the two people, especially at the beginning. “The earlier you are in the startup process, the more important the quality of your team is,” says Karim, who at Holland Startup – where new entrepreneurs come in without a business plan, but with ambition – guides starters in finding a co-founder.


Reaching a match is partly based on experience. “We know what has worked in the past, and we also look at a number of scientific sources. Certain combinations are more successful than others.”
He points out, among other things, the three basic profiles 'industry expert', 'commercial expert' and 'product/tech expert', which provide guidance. “You want a duo to have as many of those three parts as possible.”
In practice, this can mean that one founder has a lot of market knowledge and the other has a developers background.

At the same time, personality is also considered, according to the Big 5 personality classification. For example, being open to new things is crucial, says Karim. One of the important characteristics of an entrepreneurial spirit. “You have to be able to look at something in different ways and enjoy doing it. It's not about expertise, it's about natural behaviour.”
According to Karim, it is important that the two personalities differ from each other to the right degree: not too close to each other, because then you will get in each other's way. Not too far from each other, because then you will not come out together.


Tools, science and experience are nice, but the gut feeling also plays a part. Both between the founders and from Holland Startup. “It happened that someone had two partners in mind, one who matched perfectly on paper, the other with whom we clicked very well personally. He started with the latter and that has become a success. It is not an exact science.” For that reason, the new founding duos at Holland Startup are also closely observed from their start. “We look at what someone wants, can and likes to do. You have to be equal to each other, especially when it comes to ambition. And agreeing on what the two of you are pursuing.”

Apart from all profiles and personalities, there is also gut feeling: you have to enjoy working with that person. You will undoubtedly have to spend a night together every now and then.” A comparison with a marriage is regularly made. And, side step, in Silicon Valley, 'relationship therapy' for startup founders is on the rise, wrote The Verge earlier this year† It underlines how important it is not only to attract the right business talent, but also to feel and complement each other emotionally.

Make no concessions

When asked about what entrepreneurs can do themselves to find a good business partner, Karim mentions the importance of a good network. “Try to speak to as many people as possible through events, hackathons and your existing network, for example. You increase your chance of success by telling online what you are doing and making sure you know your way around the startup networks. In the latter, many people walk around with the same goal as you: starting a company.”

The talent manager also has some other tips. Like not having a perfect match in your head beforehand, because it doesn't exist. And also not so eager to start a start-up that you efface yourself. “You should never work against your own interests. You want to achieve a certain goal – from developing yourself to improving the world. You don't want to have to make concessions for someone else. Otherwise the energy will go out. Therefore, define well what you want; what is important to you and less important to adapt to.”

make it through the night
The initiative, like everything else during the startup development process, lies with the entrepreneurs, Karim emphasizes. Holland Startup is watching to contribute based on experience. “It is our job to hold up a mirror to founders. That is embedded in our process.” How the entrepreneurial couples develop is therefore continuously evaluated, just as is the case with the development of the business itself.

The choice to work with duos is a strategic one. The literature and practical experience of many market players indicates that you are significantly more likely to fail when you are alone, says Karim. “Starting a startup is very challenging: you are busy with your problem, the customer, the product and also marketing, sales and fundraising. That is difficult to define on your own. And you don't have the time to do it all yourself. Plus: it makes spending the night through and dealing with setbacks, which every startup has to deal with, much more pleasant.”

Do you also want to start your own company and find your cofounder? Come to our free webinar Meet Holland Startup† We are happy to tell you more about it.

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