Why Get Married on the First Date?…Co-Founder Dating

In our customer development interviews with entrepreneurs looking for co-founders I’ve found many pitches follow this general course:

  1. My idea is amazing, but I can’t tell you about it.
  2. It’s a 100% surefire billion dollar idea, if only I had someone to do __________.
  3. I will only tell you about my idea if you commit to indentured servitude for at least one year if not longer.

I find this a bit loopy.

Of course, not all are that bad. Still, many have one of the following three flaws, including the insistence of getting married on the first date.

Stealth Mode

If you can’t tell me what you’re working on, why are you bothering to pitch me?

Ok, your resume is weighty and I love the fact that you’re capable of great things, but if you’re working on the latest massage oil targeted at the highly lucrative leper market, I’m not so excited.

What can I say? I’m just not that into lepers. It’s not you, it’s me.

When someone asks you to commit to some vague concept based on their resume, it’s almost the equivalent of saying, “You should go down on me because I’ve had a lot of hot girlfriends.”

Having a lot of experience doesn’t necessarily mean you’re great in bed, it just makes you more likely to have picked up an unpleasant disease.

The skills you acquired in a big company will not necessarily do you any good in a startup.

It’s a different set of skills that includes being stubbornly determined without being too stubborn, being able to juggle a variety of tasks as well as people, and most importantly the ability to admit what you don’t know and quickly learn to make up for it.

Those things are not listed on your resume.

Last comment on this subject, we’ve all heard the excuses and know you don’t want someone to steal your brilliant idea. Let’s face it, if Jeff Bezos came to you ten years ago and told you he was going to sell books on-line, could you have “stolen” his idea? Probably not. It is always possible to give a high level overview without giving away your special sauce and the value for most ideas is in the execution.

Lack of Resources

I know you’re missing resources, every entrepreneur is.

I’m working with two great co-founders who have complementary skill sets and there is always something that none of us know how to do. Whether it’s programming, marketing, manufacturing, doesn’t matter.

What matters is whether or not you are just sitting on your hands until the the perfect someone comes along. How hard is it to create a landing page?

Not that hard.

There’s tons of open source stuff that you can copy and just change a few variables. I’m technically weak, but I’ll do what needs to be done. Need a marketing person? If you’re not at least writing a blog and tweeting, why would I want to work with you?

As an entrepreneur, you can not fall back on the “that’s not in my job description” excuse. You will always be short of resources.

If you’re not rolling up your sleeves and trying, it’s a sure signal that you don’t have what it takes to make a business work.

Commitment and Co-Founder Dating

These days, no one expects to get married after the first date. Why should your co-founder commit to anything other than dinner and a movie for starters?

Working with someone on a startup is a painful procedure. There are lots of ups and downs that will drain your coffers and leave you asking, “Why on earth did I do this?”

At worst, entrepreneurship is a lottery ticket. At best, it’s a bingo card.

You need someone who you can work in close proximity with for an extended period of time and it makes sense to try out that relationship on some small projects before committing to the big one.

(Seth Cohen has one of the nicer metaphors for this. He says he wants to work with someone he could live on a submarine with. There won’t be a lot of shore leave.)

I’ll make a second post this week on good co-founder first dates. If you’ve got any good suggestions, I’d love to hear them.

So…what should I post next? Tweet to tell me what to write:

Show me how to test product market fit!

or

How can I do lean startup in my friggin' huge company?

6 comments

  1. Shahab says:

    Readers on this topic may be interested in how to find Co-founders. Since this is a free service I hope it’s OK to promote here.

    If you are in the DC metro area we organize free Co-Founder matching events http://cofounderslab.meetup.com/

    If you are in the Bay area I’ve heard great things about
    http://www.meetup.com/Cofounder-Club/

    We are working on launching an online co-founder matching service next week. Initially we will only focus on the DC metro area, but next year we’ll promote the service to other cities including Bay area, Boulder, NYC, Austin, etc. The online matching will also be free. You can learn more about us here http://www.cofounderslab.com/find-a-co-founder/about/

    • Tristan says:

      I approved the comment, but admittedly it would be more interesting to read your promotion if you suggested how exactly you’re going to help people find co-founders and why your site will be better than the other 30 something sites that have tried the same thing.

      • Shahab says:

        Thanks Tristan. Sure, let me try and address that. I think the big difference between our approach and some of the other online matching sites is we will be investing resources to ensure local matchmaking events succeed. So it’s not just online and it’s not just events, but the combination of both that will hopefully get the community to flourish.

        • Tristan says:

          I’d seriously suggest you investigate some of the other sites than have existed and the many that still do. Most sites have an on and off-line component and all invest “resources.”

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