Ever wondered how should you choose your Co-Founders? Our choices mostly come from the mix of Batch mates, Friends, Colleagues, Neighbors, Family. Who should be your Co-Founders is a well thought out decision or an emotional one, or is it something which just develops on its own?
I reckon it’s never a logical, analytical decision, most often when a venture is successful we go back in time and say the co-founders had complimentary skills, it was a perfect combination and things like that and the other way around whenever a venture fails. Even though I have chosen my Co-Founder, I am not sure if the right parameters of what makes a perfect combination has gone into it, I shall get to it in a minute after I describe what I went through before choosing him.
Batch mates are special, especially when you have studied, stayed together for long, you think you almost know every bit of them, from exam frustrations to girlfriend break ups to first job blues, everything is almost transparent, so when as batch mates we got thinking of doing something together only God could prevent it and he did, our families got worried that 25 years of friendship may be at stake, so, as we do in our world somebody sought the help of an astrologer who said this was a bad combination; guess what… we believed in it and continue to laugh at ourselves for trusting the invisible judgement over our future.
Around this time a bunch of friends who were on vacation from USA came up with a thought around how science and research had some gaps which we could fill, in the room we had sales people, PhDs, entrepreneurs, the discussion was intellectually fulfilling, we all felt connected that there was a significant business proposition which linked the world to India. But as we dwelled deep we realised that there were 2 issues, one nothing bound us beyond the commercial proposition and many of us were meeting each other after many years and the vibes weren’t the same again. So, an idea with friends never became a possibility.
Then one day I was sitting with a bunch of colleagues in an informal setting and talking about various entrepreneurial set ups that had taken off and failed, after some amount of talking one of them came up with an idea that we all fell in love with, so much so we went around the room on how much each one of us would invest, a handsome amount was committed around the table and we walked away feeling like entrepreneurs that day. Over the next few months we did discuss that in the passing and it looked like further responses were mostly muted with those colleagues, so there went that idea and opportunity to work with my colleagues as co-founders as nobody took the initiative to its fructification. It looked like I was the only one who was interested.
Next came this opportunity from a former boss and ex-colleague, to start with everything looked exciting, we had a great past, enjoyed collective success, respected each other for who we were, intellectually connected well, the idea of what was the ‘big idea’ became less important compared to the excitement of working together, the relationship of decades was put into test when we discussed the fine print, though we kept discussing for months (years), the elephant in the room of who funds or owns how much or who is the boss never became clearer. So, one fine day the relationship we thought we shared for decades took an expected premature ending.
I am not kidding when I say neighbors, I explored that too, three of us with heterogeneous backgrounds which made for excellent complementary skills, trustworthy individuals, spouses have reasonable equations, kids have excellent chemistry, we mostly holiday together. We explored couple of business lines, created WhatsApp group communicating on the same, and were very close to starting something, but somewhere the spark which unites you for business was missing, the neighborhood friendship remains, but the co-founders quietly went missing. 🙂
Siblings, Spouses, Cousins or rather family members were never an option for me, my belief is that when you are building an organisation one should avoid people who bring ‘home to work’, as much as trust and familiarity of your blood relatives is great for us to have its never good for the employees who are going to work with you, I am reasonably sure we would make the professionals uncomfortable even if we are at our professional best with family members.
But as I went through all the options there was one person who possibly was ticking many of these boxes for many years, just that we hadn’t broached the topic beyond a few cursory mentions. We know each other for 40 plus years, we started as neighbors, then friends when we moved houses. Our families kept in touch as well. He acted as a mentor during various phases of life like my college time, onboarding for my first job, quitting my second job to state a few. At a certain point, we became colleagues when he referred me to his employer. Then we went on to become competitors when we joined different employers at one point of time.
A decade ago, when I first wanted to become an entrepreneur I approached him, he said entrepreneurship wasn’t on his agenda, so I met all the others whom I have mentioned above, I wasn’t in pursuit of Co-Founders but it so happened that many such experiences occurred as I was exploring my entrepreneurship. So, when I finally was about to take the plunge on my own he offered to come on board. The only thing I asked him then was “when”? Finally, he has joined me this month as we together explore our entrepreneurship journey.
Finally, I have a neighbor turned friend turned colleague who has been like family to me as my Co-Founder. But when you look at his background you would definitely know that his professional expertise in Talent Solutions counted for more than the familiarity and comfort he brought to me. But if I tell you that we debated, discussed for over 2 years on what brings us together, and only when the opportunity, the skills we collectively have, the solutions we are going to create made sense we got on board it would be difficult to believe considering the 40 years history we share together. It’s definitely a hard sell for people beyond our familiar circle.
Do we bring different skills and expertise, we think so, but you think we would say anything else?
But as long as our employees, customers, partners and investors believe in what we can co-create, I shouldn’t worry how I selected my Co-Founder. Isn’t It?
We hope we would brave with our back to each other!