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Tell HN: YC will help you find a co-founder
433 points by kcorbitt on July 6, 2021 | hide | past | favorite | 131 comments
Hey HN, I’m Kyle Corbitt, and I work on Startup School (https://www.startupschool.org/), YC’s free program to help people learn how to start a startup. Today we’re launching a new major feature: co-founder matching (https://www.startupschool.org/cofounder-matching). Interested founders can create a profile, input their requirements (location, time commitment, skills, etc) and quickly review screened candidates. We don’t charge for this or take any equity in the teams formed.

Founders face lots of hard problems at the earliest stages—building an MVP, finding users, finding investors—but finding a co-founder can be uniquely difficult. Even if you have a strong network, your friends may not be startup-oriented, and the ones who are may not be available on the same schedule you are [1]. And if you don’t have a strong existing network, the search is even harder.

Of course, you don’t need a co-founder to start a company. Many successful startups have started without one, including 4 of the top 100 YC companies. YC does fund solo founders—over 10% of companies in recent batches. But starting a startup is hard, to put it mildly. For most founders, we recommend finding someone to work with and share that burden.

YC’s advice has historically been to find a co-founder through your existing network. That’s still good advice—co-founder relationships with someone you’ve known and worked with for years will have a lower attrition rate than a relationship with someone you just met on the internet. (At least one would expect so! We’re going to track data on this.) But for many members of the Startup School community, that isn’t an option. As the internet has increased access to information about startups, we’re seeing lots of new founders who live outside traditional startup hubs (or college towns) and/or don’t have a deep existing network to plumb.

The difficulty new founders face in finding a co-founder is reflected in the data. Of over 100,000 active founders in Startup School, 20% say they’re still looking for a co-founder. Of 60,000 aspiring founders who haven’t started a company yet, about a third mention “I haven’t found the right co-founder” as a reason they haven’t started (second only to “I’m not sure what to work on”).

Since Startup School is too large for us to be able to work with founders individually the way we do in YC’s core program, we rely heavily on software and especially on building systems to help community members support each other. Building a marketplace to help find a co-founder felt like a natural next step. We're hoping that a dedicated marketplace will be more effective than the alternatives many founders resort to right now, like trawling Twitter and LinkedIn. Since everyone using the service is actively looking for a co-founder right now, the hit rate should be higher. We’ve added the kinds of filters most relevant to co-founding (time commitment, location/timezone, division of responsibilities, etc). Finally, we took inspiration from modern dating apps to make the experience as seamless as possible and let founders review hundreds of potential matches quickly. To the extent that finding a co-founder is a numbers game, we want to make it as easy as possible to review many profiles quickly.

We soft-launched this product to the Startup School community in January, and so far have facilitated over 9000 initial matches among 4500 founders. Many of those matches have gone on to work together on trial projects and even form startups. Two of those startups have made it into the latest YC Core batch (S21). We’re hoping that there will be many more over time!

You can find out more and sign up at https://www.startupschool.org/cofounder-matching. This is still the beginning and I expect we’ll be learning and changing a lot as we go, but I’m excited to share this tool with you all. I’d also love to hear from all of you on what has (or hasn’t) worked for finding a co-founder, since I know many of you have gone though this exact process!

[1] Timing may be one reason why it’s easier for university students to find potential co-founders: everyone finishes class at the same time, so it’s easy to all agree to try a startup for the summer.

I have a tip on finding a cofounder. I've been looking for the last 12 months and I tried a lot of things, but the thing that worked best is this:

Post a job ad.

That's it. My ad sounded like a normal job in every way, with a title like "Director of X". A couple of specific notes: 1) the first line said "cofounder" in it somewhere, and 2) it specified "part-time to full-time, heavy on equity compensation" somewhere else.

The result: Lots of inappropriate candidates applied. But also, my 2 job posts resulted in three extremely excellent team members: a equity-only cofounder, a mostly-equity cofounder/early hire, and an amazing advisor. I have been working with these folks for months and they are very solid.

I also recommend my vetting process: just like a job. That is, I did a phone screen, a multi-hour interview, a little take-home, and I winnowed down the candidates at each stage. With the chosen few, I kicked off a "let's do this" conversation. My pitch was, "I know it's ridiculous, but let's get business married, we'll set up an offsite and start working together full-time... and, if we really need to, we'll get an annulment". That's what vesting is for!

Hope that helps :)

I can only afford to pay people through equity and have thought about doing something similar but didn't want to misrepresent the position and waste anyone's time (time is precious on both ends).

I encourage you to try anyway. Just correctly represent the position.

The point of my advice is this: there is already a well-understood mechanism to find work associates. It's job ads. I have found, through empirical research, that you can find cofounders there too. You can apply that in your circumstances.

I don't think a job that doesn't pay counts as a job. Those ads always came off as deceptive to me.... as if they were looking for free work.

They're a bit out of place. But if you say "Looking for cofounder, equity only." it's hard to call it deceptive.

Yes, as long as they are crystal clear about it (such as put it in the title, so you don't have people clicking into an ad and then realizing it's not for a job but for an unpaid situation).

Still I think this is a good idea.... it's a big enough distinction to need a completely different place to post them.

it's unfair to call it unpaid, if you are sharing future benefits.

Love this advice. I think it reduces the complexity of a difficult problem to a well-known process.

It is also very much in line with Mark Suster's advice on finding a co-founder: Hire him/her.

Source: https://bothsidesofthetable.com/the-co-founder-mythology-791...

Great idea! Where did you post the ad?

Linkedin and Indeed, which let you post for free :D

Interesting -- for the equity-only co-founder you're working with, were they explicitly looking for a co-founder position before you approached them or were they looking for a normal job and changed their mind as a result of seeing your ad?

They had been working on a very similar startup for ~6mo on their own steam, looking for cofounders. Not interested in a job.

Do you know how they found your ad on a job board in that case? Were they explicitly looking for co-founder positions?

I haven't asked my cofounder that question, but I did hear from the advisor I mentioned that she was just searching linkedin for a term that's relevant to her, to stay current with the industry.

Out of curiosity, what kind of product are you working on (B2B, consumer, hardware, etc)?

Climate tech / hard tech. https://www.phoenixhydrogen.com/

Just a heads up, the site is a little funky on mobile. It works well enough but i’m finding it’s loading kind of slowly and your big image at the top is not formatting properly and cutting off the words (building green hydrogen’s). I’m also just seeing a bunch of white space between “our vision” and the “learn about green hydrogen” button.

Brave on iOS.

Now that I’ve said that, this looks really interesting! Good luck with your work, thank you for sharing your experience about finding cofounders.

I've been working on a startup for years, like the better part of a decade and finding cofounders is like planning where lightning will strike; unless you're already in the right place, it's almost impossible.

I've tried things like cofounderslab, cold messaging through social DMs and working my network but there's such a small cohort of people who (1) find value in working at a startup, (2) are willing to take equity in the beginning without being paid and (3) believe in your idea enough to want to work hard.

I've had to learn how to scale myself into different roles (outside of engineering) to keep going, but it really is an exercise in testing your limits: mentally, physically, emotionally, socially...

I hope this is something that actually works.

edit: Just to give more context, I have had people who I trusted and who initially signed on to help, but they fell out somewhat quickly due to one of the three things I mentioned above. Most people don't understand how much work goes into actually making a startup happen and flame out pretty quickly...alas...

Most people don't understand how much work goes into actually making a startup happen and flame out pretty quickly

Understandable, this problem has worsened over the past 20 years as an increasing number of new grads just see computers == way to get rich quickly || a good job. Crypto is the worst example of this greed-oriented mindset, at least during the dotCom boom you generally had to come with a unique idea instead of just forking a git repo and rebadging it.

There used to be a greater degree of intrinsic curiosity that drove most engineers & startup culture, but FAANG ideology has really taken over the bulk of the mind-share around what it means to be in tech. Some of this is not bad because it's been easier than ever to find quality brick-layers who view it as "just a job", but your genuine visionaries who are motivated by excitement about tech and great ideas are increasingly lost in the noise.

It's not limited to FAANG jobs or even tech companies. I volunteer as an advisor to a mentoring group for college students. An increasing number of college students are graduating without ever having worked a job at all. I spend more time than I'd like just mentoring some of these students on the basics of an employee/employer relationship and what's expected of them in a job, such as following through on commitments and communicating with their boss.

That said, a FAANG job in tech is a perfectly acceptable career choice. Some internet bubbles like to look down on FAANG jobs or write them off as easy (once you pass the tech interview) but the reality is that they're generally quite challenging and rewarding. Companies aren't throwing huge salaries at people because the jobs are relaxing and the work is easy enough that anyone can do it well. There's nothing wrong with a FAANG job, and being a founder isn't morally superior to other career options.

The real problem is when students get average grades at an average university, then take an average job at an average company, then get disappointed when they're not being paid top-1% FAANG salaries like they read about on HN and /r/cscareerquestions for the 4 years they were in college. Most of the students I work with are realistic, but it's a very difficult situation when someone's expectations don't match reality.

"[...]but your genuine visionaries who are motivated by excitement about tech and great ideas are increasingly lost in the noise."

Do you have a few tips where a mid twenty SWE can find these type of people in SF and avoid the people who are mostly in it for the money?

Have a great vision. Communicate it well and often. Branch out of SF.

I’d think branching out of SF is important. It’s kind of a bubble full of the types you aren’t looking for, everyone there migrated there for the big paychecks and probably still need one to cover the big rent.

In my experience, those three things are almost entirely contradictory.

Almost everybody interested in working unpaid on an exciting idea is also the kind of person who has exciting ideas. They'll usually want to spend their savings on one of those ideas, not somebody else's. The times I've signed up to help start somebody else's idea for no cash were because I had a long relationship with the people involved.

My big tip for people wanting to trade self-made lottery tickets for work is to get external confirmation. Investors, customer commitment, traction, or at least a compelling prototype. This post I wrote in 2012 holds up reasonably well: https://www.quora.com/Where-can-I-find-developers-willing-to...

Damn, you're a great writer.

Comparing this succinct but informative post and your Quora post makes that very clear.

Thanks! That's very kind. My suggestion to people is to read widely, so they develop high standards. Then write a lot and be continually frustrated that their own writing doesn't measure up. Repeat this cycle for decades and you will still be frustrated with your own writing, but people will tell you you're a good writer!

I’m a solo founder right now and I agree with the limits part but at the same time, as you have pointed out, it is similar stress or even more to deal with finding and keeping the right cofounder.

Unless both (or all) founders are aligned with the same mission and vision, it will be an emotional rollercoaster that IMO might drag the progress down.

For these reasons I find it more comfortable staying solo founder and dealing with all the aspect of running the business.

You're exactly the kind of person we're hoping to help with this. I'd love to get your feedback given your experience with other venues. If you choose to try YC co-founder matching, feel free to send me feedback on what did/didn't work and how we can make it better! kyle@ycombinator.com

That goes for anyone else reading this thread as well, of course.

> Most people don't understand how much work goes into actually making a startup happen and flame out pretty quickly...alas...

It's not just the amount of work that dissuades people. It's the overall value proposition.

Usually if you can get someone in the door and they truly believe the company will be successful, they do everything necessary to cling to the company. No one wants to give up a chance to own a piece of a future successful startup. At minimum, they want some of their equity to vest in exchange for the work they've put in to get to this point.

When people believe the company will succeed but don't want to put in the effort, they keep up appearances until their founder vesting cliff. It's unfortunately a common problem for startups to have a zombie cofounder who doesn't want to give up their equity but isn't pulling their way. They want to force the other cofounders to give them their equity as compensation for the (minimal) work they put in.

If cofounders are simply walking away and surrendering equity, it's likely that there are bigger problems than just the amount of work. In these cases, it's likely that the cofounders just didn't believe the company was headed for success.

It’s hard to find co-founder or even early employees because financially it is not convenient: at least for the 99% of the startup. There are the lucky ones who managed to be in the right place at the right time, but that’s definitely not the majority.

If I really wanted to go through the excruciating pain and insane work required in a startup I’d rather try to work on my own ideas and not for others.

But I prefer FAANG rest and vest!

> are willing to take equity in the beginning without being paid

I find it difficult to grasp how this is always casually thrown like the majority of people could but choosing not to. What's the thinking behind this? Would not there be lots of people who would love to do this if their basic necessities were somehow met?

> but there's such a small cohort of people who...(2) are willing to take equity in the beginning without being paid...

I wish there was but like I alluded to, the pool who meet those three criteria isn't big at all. Minus any external funding or being independently wealthy, there's no way to pay potential cofounders and continue to bootstrap the business (they aren't free, have operating expenses).

Yes, but equity-only is going to favor people with wealth which is often associated with connections (to additional sources of wealth).

Maybe what we really need is some cofounder support group so that we can help each other cope while testing our own limits. If it exists, sign me up!

I think the total lack of payment is the issue you should be addressing. Anyone with enough experience in the industry will know exactly how they should be valuing the equity (at little to nothing). Even a simple hourly stipend at contractor rates on top of a great equity offer is enough to show someone that you are serious and willing to respect their time/contribution.

There's just no way I can pay someone, even a pittance. I'm putting in as much as I can just to keep the lights on.

I can show people I've been working on this forever, have a full product, business plan and am working toward funding but that still does jack-all.

It's unfortunate because I desperately want to pay someone, but it's just not in the cards right now. That's why hopefully the idea itself should help instill some confidence that if we execute, it could become something cool (and profitable).

I get the world doesn't usually work like that though, which is why solutions like this might help me find like-minded people.

How far are you from funding? Being transparent and detailed with people about funding, and what they can expect once funding is achieved, can be helpful in removing doubts.

Thank you for the insight, I can totally relate to the situation. I had a pretty depressing entrepreneurship low which lasted a couple months, where I had to lay off everyone and was the only one left grinding, sleeping at the office, and putting every dollar into rent/expenses. In a Taoist kind of way, you have to know the lows to appreciate the highs. Best of luck to you on your business!

My personal experience has been at at all such online/offline places most people there are ones with an idea/WIP who are looking for folks to join them.

I've rarely met someone who wanted to join other's ideas/WIP. Which makes for an interesting dynamics and a very low success rate.

I’ve used starthawk and found good potential matches.

Having tried to get a project away for 2 months (and failed so far)

It seems like there are a lot of potential CEOs out there with ideas looking for a CTO to do the heavy lifting -- and the VCs are all over them -- met multiple in last few weeks with nothing more than an idea

As an engineer, with a vast piece of prototype tech funded myself up to this point, and no CEO -- because I don't really want a CEO right now, just some additional R&D funding to clean things up to start that commercialising process -- but VCs don't appear to want to hear that

Ex-meme company founder CEOs good, heavy tech R&D without that bad

You have to wonder how much deep tech is out there looking for home right now -- that can't get an investor audience without complying with the narrow criteria VCs are putting in place -- 90%+ won't even talk to you if you've not been personally referred

It seems like there are a lot of potential CEOs out there with ideas looking for a CTO to do the heavy lifting -- and the VCs are all over them -- met multiple in last few weeks with nothing more than an idea

And they want to treat them like poorly paid employees (which, often, they are poorly compensated). People see high compensation for FAANG types and think engineers are respected. Let me tell you, having been in management, nothing is further from the truth. ICs are still ICs, a lower social class, and thought of as such. Any “respect” is simply a temporary condition of the labor market: they’re placated and their egos tolerated until something less expensive comes along.

I don't really think it's a case of CEOs good, R&D bad.

I think it's more of a case of CEOs not taking no for an answer for mission critical funding. I've been on the chain for many VC connections, and in the room for maybe twenty pitches. In almost all cases a slightly neuroatypical CEO has carpet bombed sources of funding with genuine letters requesting meetings. The process often takes 6-8 months from initial contact to follow-ups, to actually getting a reply, to setting an in-person meeting, then discussing next-steps, referrals, etc.

VCs aren't an API; they're VERY busy people. Make sure they know you're committed.

That's a very nice way of putting it. I agree that VCs aren't an API. But I think there are builders and there are hustlers. We have a system which is looking to fund hustlers, even if they have zero clue of how to build. And most importantly, most hustlers want to build software products. Yet the builders of those products struggle to find minimum fund to go full time. It's like either you have a great deck and thousand emails or nothing.

>It's like either you have a great deck and thousand emails or nothing.

Pretty much. If you can't make the deck yourself, hire a third party to mock one up for you after you've put the content together; let them do the spacing, font, background, design work. Then the emails are on you; set a timer for follow-ups, make a spreadsheet regarding appointments.

You're still a builder, but you're gonna be building human connections for a bit. If you reframe things in that way, it's less jarring.

An interesting exercise would be for just one fund to not care about deck spacing, font and background ... or whether they have a CEO ... or if founders are ex-FB ...

A fund that just backs raw R&D ... with no referrals or exit history ... only evals the tech on merit

The few pure R&D funds that do that, to my knowledge, are restricted to university spin-outs right now

As things stand today -- the individuals (I know) most capabable of building awesome engineering are the least likely to get through the current VC obstacle courses -- who are all looking for the same needle in the same haystack

>A fund that just backs raw R&D ... with no referrals or exit history ... only evals the tech on merit

Define 'merit'.

From the perspective of an investor, merit is commercial potential. Small traction in a large market shows commercial potential.

'Raw R&D' without commercial potential is definitely the domain of universities, not VCs.

You mean just like the CEO candidate has to find a freelance to get the tech done if they can't find a technical co-founder. Valid point.

I think this is true in a lot of industries. I was in the music industry and I quickly learned that it is about hustle and hype more than quality players or songs. In larger companies it is the people who play the "office politics game" that get ahead more than people with skills or good ideas. Such is life.

Welcome to the Deck side.

Considering that the top quartile venture capital as an asset class generally performs at ~20% IRR and outperforms public markets, it's empirically not true that the system funds hustlers over builders. The better VCs fund builders. If they aren't funding you, it's not necessarily that they're just ignorant and busy funding businessy hustlers; it's perhaps that there's issues with the deal that make it not investable (from targeting a market too small, to missing critical skills on the founding team, etc).

(I'm a VC)

I fully understand the point you make

However, having spent time with funds now -- it feels like those two criteria (market/team) are defined with heavy bias to what exists today

So building some radically new tech -- that is not directly comparable to unicorn X or Y who vaguely exist in a similar space -- will fail at first funding hurdle unless you move that R&D work closer to what X or Y are doing -- to the point you're just building a clone of something successful today

This potentially eliminates a lot of tech that is innovative -- try showing a VC some tech that is not SaaS right now as what you're trying to achieve doesn't lend itself to that model

Same on the team front -- VCs appear to expect a founding team to be defined as B, C, D and any team that does not fit those boxes must be missing some critical skills -- leading to pressure on founders to fill gaps at start that they don't think are gaps -- just to jump through some artificial hoop set by the VCs who only seem to want to put pegs into predefined holes

I have to question comparing the top quartile in one class to the average in another. The top quartile of mutual funds also produce high returns and outperform public markets. Heck, the top quartile of horse race bettors probably outperform the market as well.

That said, I believe your core point. My guess is the person you are responding to is missing vital core skills or otherwise has an uninvestable company. It might be fixable (hopefully) or not.

A corollary of this and the OP's argument is that business-oriented CEOs with an idea that needs building have a lot more free time to carpet bomb prospective funders than engineers already building a product that needs more engineers to deal with the demand that's there.

The idea that being too busy with product or customers to jump the hurdles they set could be a bad thing for funding doesn't reflect well on VCs (I'm the first person to argue the importance of knowing how to hunt for business is often underrated by engineers, but not every business needs networking oriented business developer types, and those that do are still better if they can dedicate more time hunting for intros to customers and less hunting for intros to investors)

This matches my experience exactly. I was offered multiple CTO positions in my late teens - and I took one, but I was woefully under qualified and it caused a degree of burnout I still haven't fully recovered from a decade later.

Steering people early in their careers into underpaid overworked founder positions at poorly led companies can sometimes be hugely destructive.

To the people at YC leading this initiative - have you ever matched a CEO with zero management experience to a newer engineer, and have you ever matched a CTO with zero professional engineering experience to a newer CEO?


I've been burnt a few times by bad CEOs/co-founders. Where I did my part (to build out the product) but they screwed up theirs.

Next time a non-technical founder pitches me to come on board and do all the actual work then I'll be requiring the a majority stake.

Looking forward to CEO-as-a-service or as part of an investment deal. At the end of the day, CTO-as-a-service does exist and technical work does get outsourced to dev shops using investor money, why not outsource/delegate the remaining non-technical founder work?

Definitely have experienced the struggle of trying to get anyone to pay attention to a hard (not moonshot, just hard) tech pitch. If you're very patient, the military will pay, but it's a long road and more paperwork than tech.

I can see how this would be frustrating for you, but it boils down to a simple question: do you have / can you prove product market fit?

CEOs may only have an "idea" but perhaps theyve demonstrated a strong PMF.

I've been using this since February-ish.

Talked to maybe 20-30 people through the platform.

Joined one startup as cofounder. Worked together for two months, then left. My cofounder was smart, had high EQ, and I enjoyed working with them, but we had different visions and parted amicably.

My thoughts:

- Early on, there was a smaller pool of people, but they were of higher quality. I feel the quality of people has diminished over time. YMMV.

- It was interesting just to have talks with the high quality people and expand my network. This kinda segued me into Lunchclub, but I've since stopped both. Depending on who you are, you might get burnt out with these "social" calls after a while.

- As a technical person, I had a lot of business-y people reach out, most of which I didn't end up responding to. There's plenty of candidates, just like dating on Tinder. I get to choose to work with the really nice and productive people that I like.

- BIGGEST PROBLEM: Unfortunately, it suffers the same problem as every other cofounder matching program. There's no system or formula to really dig deep and see if you're compatible on all the levels you need to be. This means it can be a big time and energy drain, from the initial meets, to the dating process, to even cofounder work.

If you do use this, some tips:

- Being short and sweet with your profile. Burying the fact that you're a high school student in 5 paragraphs of text won't make it more likely for me to work with you, and I probably won't even read it.

- Add a photo. You're going to be working with a human, not a robot.

- Your cofounder courting process is something you'll have to develop and figure out what you're looking for. Take your time and think about it.

This is insightful and reasonable.

That said - it might be worth it for young-ish people to also not think of a startup as something 'precious' and that you don't need to get along super deeply with the others.

It's not your baby, it's just a project.

Comedy and script writers talk about this - they encourage getting past the point of working out every little detail towards just 'writing'. Work on stuff that works and that other participants (aka investors) want to work on and where there is momentum.

Certain minimums - yes. Probably shared vision. At the same time, no plan lasts contact with the enemy/market so the saying goes and it's almost as though the team needs to be able to ride storms.

If we think of ourselves as professionals first and not makers/artists first ... there might be more room to get along. Focus on the market, customers, product, outcomes, get along and that's it.


Assuming have a room full of actually talented, creative conscientious people who have the EI/maturity to 'get along well' - shouldn't partnering up be one of the easier things to do?

From a certain perspective it's kind of ridiculous that it's so hard for people to 'match' (assuming again high levels of talent, conscientiousness, EI, professionalism).

The primary issue I'm going to guess is willingness to work on a specific project wherein someone already has some vision - but one could argue this is a sign of missing professionalism on the part of all parties. Not only can visions be adjusted, but founders might want to recognize that if their vision isn't going to get traction that it might be worth dropping the concept entirely and focusing instead on the other participant. And irrespective of the other parties willingness to buy into a specific vision, they're definitely going to have a lot of their own inputs given their backgrounds and it's probably worth being malleable at very least.

Marc Andreesen is famous for saying 'it's not about passion it's about what you're good at' and that's fundamentally a measure of mature professional disposition. Of course you can't work on something you really don't want to ... but otherwise the ambition should invariably be derived from the opportunity, people, markets - so many factors many of which aren't related to 'the thing'.

If it's a bunch of musicians at the 'Rock School Academy' I can see it being hard to form groups, but I wonder if a group of professionals should be able to link up in a better way, especially with some guidance and 3rd party / objective mentors helping to create critical masses.

YC founder here from S20 here.

The co-founder search is difficult if you have nothing interesting to say and if you aren't prepared to make the jump.

After my personal journey for 2 startups, (both venture backed and non-venture backed), I find it's important to: 1. have at least 2 years of personal savings ready 2. know what things you're exceptional at doing and what things you really suck at 3. be ready to bare all in terms of personal/biz life goals and transparency with your co-founder 4. proactively go to places where you and your co-founder would both enjoy doing (hackathons, startup events, conferences, online forums about startups, etc.) 5. have a "trial" period, where you make things together or work on the startup together with set milestones in mind 6. be ready to challenge a co-founder's ideas, be weary of people who agree with you 100% of the time 7. Not everyone has to be the "visionary" founder, some people are looking to join an existing idea and that's equally as important

What I want from a co-founder is: Smart, good chemistry, available. With most people I get 1-2 of these.

Also, we talk a lot about how it's hard to assess the quality of technical co-founders, but it's also really hard to assess the quality of non-technical co-founders. I'd love to collaborate with a non-technical person, but I have no way to determine whether a person is good at the skills which I lack. Maybe it's my tech chauvinism showing but there seems to be a lot of non-technical people who want esssentially a get-rich-quick scheme.

Am technical and worked with some pretty poor non technical co-founders but also worked with an amazing one. The difference:

Real, ridiculous charisma (like can totally work a room, will impress almost anyone they sit down with), very aggressive on the commercial side, down-to-earth judgment/understands things/easy to be on same page.

Might have viewed being insanely charismatic as a red flag but I saw first hand how easy it was to get meetings, create business and client relationships, and have employees basically loving the guy.

So a good test is: does this non technical cofounder simply blow me away as a person and in their manners.

Cause many non-technical people have no useful skills. There's really only two things to solve, technical and sales. I can handle the technical.

Ideas are cheap and most suck (that is, not innovative enough to really be something special). I want someone highly skilled at the process of taking something small and good, getting people to invest, and making it bigger. I can build <whatever startup> faster and cheaper and more solid than you could ever imagine, but don't have any desire in schmoozing or learning the VC game.

I am a non-technical person. The only programming I know is some old HTML. I am pushing 50. I have built some amazing retail businesses from the ground up, you could call them “startups” with less than a hundred bucks many times in thirty plus years. I’ve been an educator for the last 16 years, of my own school. Ive learned so much about so many different industries - from food to fashion to IT recruiting to gifted education and online schooling, and a lot of stuff in between. I’d love to help some bright younger go-getters who’re hungry to make a difference and recreate the world in their own mould, or even try to change it - but I lack the trust of techies who dismiss my ideas and input as “old”, or who think they can’t understand me, but simply lack the energy to try because they’re so focused on their own things. Sales is about getting out of your comfort zone and looking at the world upside down, from a different person’s point of view, the person sitting beside you. It’s about building trust and relationships that are sustainable because there’s a two-way give, not a one-way take it or leave it. I have a lot to offer, but no takers. I’d love to volunteer for equity in a startup. You can take what you like from my feedback and throw away what doesn’t suit your work, I’m fine with that. Most people aren’t. But you have to search for them, and that means looking beyond your skill sets and seeing the bigger world. Good luck, kids. You’ll do well. We’re behind you all the way.

I might be wrong, and this is a bit of a trope, but I would recommend assessing people by whether they can show commitment to the things they care about, and whether they care about and can commit to the startup. People seeking a get-rich-quick scheme may not have a track record of patience in that regard.

The "who's looking for a co-founder" thread today was pretty great as an alternative. I hope that tradition continues.


I didn't know that YC would launch this today, but I will continue to post these as a complementary option every month. I will mention YC's Startup School CF mechanism in the description moving forward.

I hope the mod team will support it. I thought it was gimmicky before looking at the thread; it seems like a big success and lots of people got value out of it. Well done.

Maybe it could link to YC’s founder search thing too?

@dang Why did the mod team restore all the karma from sillysaurus' previously banned accounts? They haven't done it for others...

Can you please leave me alone? I don’t know why you’re bringing attention to whatever you’re talking about, but it’s not doing me any favors.

My karma on this account is related to this account only. I’ve thought about asking to gather my old karma onto this one, but I’m not sure I care.

I wasn't trying to do you any favors. This was my first post on any of your comments. Perhaps you should seek a therapist instead.

YC did not launch this today, it has been around in some form for quite a while, since YC-SUS 2 iirc. It seems like a launch in the sense of "always be launching" they teach you about as part of SUS

I'm very curious what the success rate of startups are of people who meet via platforms like this, in comparison to co-founders who have worked together before and have a history of knowing each other.

This is a rather interesting shift, since in the past YC themselves advocated against co-founding with someone you don't know well.

If it gets substantially easier to build a startup over the next five to ten years, in terms of the amount of hours it takes to get an MVP into production, then it stands to reason that the hit rate from platforms like this is going to increase. If you think that Moore's Law is going to more or less holds throughout the decade, I think it's a prescient bet.

"Easier to build a startup" may also correlate inversely with startup success, as that lowers the barrier to entry and increases the competition vastly.

Maybe. In practice though being difficult-to-clone is already rarely a moat for software startups; even if it's true, usually a sufficiently funded competitor can at least fake having working technology for long enough to steal market share.

I'd bet money that the bigger factor here is going to be the fact that there are a lot of "big if true" ideas, where the current difficulty of implementing them prevents them from getting implemented, because it's hard to go out and raise money for something when no one has strong conviction that it's possible to build or that there will be market demand. But once they get sufficiently easy to build, then suddenly it becomes rational to go out and try them.

Whereas currently, I have lots of ideas that would yield fuck you money if they worked, but it's too disruptive to have to clear my calendar for six months to go out and execute on any one of them.

I've been on the platform since March, I've done five cofounder trials, and I can say I've met some really interesting and talented folks through it.

The challenges I've seen have mostly to do with the motivations of the cofounders and the process that everyone (including myself) tends to follow in the beginning.

I wrote about my experiences here: https://johnchildseddy.medium.com/why-a-day-zero-start-is-im...

I believe this and other such initiatives are inevitable as in-person working and meeting, such as meetups, have taken a back seat due to Covid and it has become harder to find cofounders in-person. I believe this is a reaction to some trends that YC must have started seeing lately.

It’d be interesting to see the long term effect of Covid on startup culture, in particular founding of startups and subsequently success rate of startups founded by remote-only cofounders which may have never met in person.

I'm a nontechnical person and I've always struggled with pairing up with the right cofounder. It's quite hard to team up with someone who has similar interests and is ready to go full time on something when you are from your existing network. I've been using the platform for a month or two and have had some great matches already; ironically the two people I've been working with most closely (working with one another for a few months to see if we gel) did end up coming from my network but I still am active on the platform and highly recommend it to folks who are searching for a cofounder. I was a little hesitant at first because I figured best practice was to work with someone you had a pre-existing relationship with, otherwise the potential for a bad breakup down the line would be higher or accelerators/vc's would judge you but candidly, I'm a lot less worried about that now given the quality of the matches and that a leader in the space like YC is championing this.

Is it structured to list only seeking single or multiple co-founders?

I see a technical question ask. May it be worthwhile to also ask specifically if someone's UX/UI designer or other design experience?

Right now, it's only built with a single founder looking for another single founder in mind. That said, we've seen a number of folks hack around this by mentioning in their profile introduction that they already have a partial team and are looking for a third/fourth co-founder.

We actually do ask about whether you're interested in working on design, or interested in finding a designer as part of the matching profile. It's in the "Which areas of a startup are you willing to take responsibility for?" section.

What I miss is the good old days of IRC. There the meeting of like-minded folks use to happen gradually. People use to come to know who is who and what their capabilities are. And that built friendships. People discussed projects, problems they are facing with the project, ideas etc. That magic is missing in most of the co-founder dating platforms.

I hope this allows people who are solo founders and established but looking for a partner who can become a co-founder. I have grown my bootstrapped SAAS for almost 7 years and really need good Sales/Marketing partners/co-founders to take it to next level. I am willing to offer Pay with equity but not sure where to go.

What's the best time to find a co founder, and also how does the equity part work?

For example, I've been spending the last 6 months learning as much as I can about business around an idea I've had. That's involved creating marketing materials, building surveys and gathering user feedback, putting together TOS & privacy policy, attending small business courses to learn accounting basics, learning figma and spending hours watching YT videos or perusing dribbble to come up with inspiration for my own design, and since I'm an engineer by profession - building the thing so I can run the progress by some of the survey/feedback group.

Obviously I'm still a beginner, so I'm just curious if anyone would mind answer a noob :D

Read the articles at http://paulgraham.com/articles.html And find more information at https://www.ycombinator.com/library

There is a lot there on those two links.

"Welcome to the Forum" post is a dead link, goes to a 404.


wow! this is really excellent.

Like Tinder, but for Silicon Valley?

Too fitting.

I've signed up! This is pretty great for people like me who don't even have potential co-founders to talk to in real life.

I am technical and I am looking for another _technical_ co-founder. Is this pairing unusual? The most talked about pairing seems to be non-technical and technical.

I don't think that's too unusual. Being technical is for me a prerequisite to understand the complexities of the product I am (we would be) building.

What are you looking for in a co-founder?

This is a really big deal. My only concern is that you won’t see massive results until 4-10 years and so the effort might be abandoned or scaled back before then. I could see this being world changing, but not for years, and in the interim may seem like a blip. Any thoughts?

One of the nice things about YC is that we have the luxury of being able to take a long-term view. YC itself didn't show massive results for 10 years so we're used to that.

The page at https://www.startupschool.org/cofounder-matching doesn't work for me - whatever I enter in "Location" field fails the check at saving.

Can you look into it?

Hi there! Can you email me at catheryn@ycombinator.com with a screenshot so we can figure out what's wrong?

Safari webbrowser on MacOS blanks the body of each web page after it is drawn. Chrome works fine.

If you want to further evaluate the team composition, I developed a free tool that asks the thought questions and uncovers the topics nobody wants to talk about. https://aligna.team

API fails when creating team. --> might have been just a clitch. It works now.

Does anyone know something equivalent in Australia (preferably Sydney)?

I'm not sure if I'm constitutionally built for running a startup but given that I've worked at a few and have lived through the craziness without much of the upside, perhaps I am.

This is a very encouraging post and a huge way to help some of us that have this challenge for real. I want to say thank you for doing something about it and I am going to give the product a test now hoping to be lucky.

Does anyone else feel this is more like founding team recruitment platform for founders than a co-founder match? Is this normal?

I feel like sharing my experience I had with the YC Startup School program might be appreciated by some of you. I joined the program when it was first announced. It means I followed the program and I joined the soft-launched cofounder matching platform. I mostly have positive things to say about the startup school program, the curriculum is fair to the reality of starting a company. It doesn’t try to upsell you on doing it. It’s also covering the most important topics of starting an organization / project.

I had a less positive experience with the cofounder matching platform. I am trying to be as objective as possible here, the odds of matching two “ready” humans to work in harmony on an extremely difficult project are extremely low. The numbers are brutally honest here with 4500 matches and only two startups (.0004%) enrolling for the YC Core batch. Yes, that’s three zeros. So many fishes but so few working matches. My biggest grip against the platform was that barely anybody respect the hard requirements. I had very few but one was very important to me, the other co-founder had to be also technical. I received a flood of non-technical cofounder asking for a match. I felt pretty bad about leaving these folks unanswered, so I put the time to create a generic and respectful email to explain why I am set to match with a technical cofounder only.

It’s also mind blowing how many co-founders are already set on their ideas already. I consider myself quite flexible by bringing 5 potential ideas I would like to work on. I think I am also flexible in a way that I am also open to work on somebody else idea, as long as I would want it for myself. I matched with so many future cofounders that were already in a mindset that their project was the thing that they could not see themselves not working on it. I might be wrong but from my experience their progress as a company was almost nil (landing page with no clients). While most of the ideas weren’t ground breaking. So, prepare yourself to spend a lot of time on figuring out if something has any potential or not. It’s a bit hard on the morale to decline so many humans. I gave my 100% to do it as well as I could. Oh, and I won’t go too deep either into that subject but a lot of co-founders are in for either the fame or the money, not really my style either. Money is required down the line but it shouldn’t be the main target. Once again, prepare yourself to decline a lot of people if your profile attracts a lot of attention but it doesn’t match what you are looking for.

All in all, kudos to the team at YC. What they are doing is extremely hard and they did a great job. The complains about matchmaking being extremely hard is similar to stating that water is wet.

Oh and funky observation. When an organization like YC is building their own social network from scratch, it shows that in 2021 there is still no trustable social network platform to build upon.

> Oh and funky observation. When an organization like YC is building their own social network from scratch, it shows that in 2021 there is still no trustable social network platform to build upon.

No: it shows¹ that there's no trustable social network platform with a high density of startup founders. The Fediverse is plenty trustable, but most people there aren't inclined to found a startup.

¹: But it doesn't even show that; all it shows is that YC thought they'd benefit from making their own.

One of the big names in Sillicon Valley (maybe Garry Tan?) that you need three things in a cofounder:

1. Intelligence 2. Work ethic 3. High Integrity

While the first two can easily be judged, the last one is extremely tough to identify, and generally requires some incident in the company to reveal the integrities of the co-founders. Any suggestions how to identify high integrity early on?

One lesson I learned is that integrity itself isn't objective, at all. Everyone thinks they have high integrity, and it's easy to rationalize another person's actions as stemming from integrity if they are acting in your interests. When it comes down to it, as you state, you can't really grok a person until you are in a crisis. Similarly, it's hard to grok your own beliefs about what makes for integrity until such a crisis.

For example, a company usually has a mission. At the same time, up to a point a CEO has a duty to his/her employees' well being. In a crisis, these may be in conflict. And in a crisis it can be very hard to tell if a decision cutting one way or the other is stemming from expediency, a conflict of interest, on-the-job evolution of a person's values, or an underlying consistent principled view that is now manifesting in action. (The last of which is what one would arguably point at as the person demonstrating integrity.)

I would take the first two, and replace 3 with Monk/Assassin.

Find someone your values match with and hopefully you have a good history with.

> To date, we’ve made 9,000 matches across 4,500 founders.

How does the math work out there?

This stat is referring to initial meetings between accepted match requests. Not all (or even most) of those initial connections will turn into an actual co-founder relationship, and founders can of course connect with multiple potential co-founders in parallel.

If matches are 1:1, perhaps they are counting each side as a match (which seems fair.) So they have 2x4500 matches.

Presumably, the matches are compatibilities across the entire sample size. Meaning 1 founder can have multiple potential matches.

Interesting that this is something that only just now YC is tackling.

This is incredibly exciting!

However, as someone who has been asked my many founders for help finding a co-founder, there are some yellow flags going off for me.

Beyond trial projects, how does this initiative seek to build trust and values-alignment between new co-founder matches?

I think there will inevitably be a long "dating" period with a new co-founder who you're working with for the first time, and a fairly high attrition rate with these relationships, concentrated in the early days.

In practice though, I do believe that if you work with someone for several months on a serious trial project you should be able to build a fair amount of confidence in the relationship's potential. I'd definitely still recommend talking through what a co-founder breakup would look like and signing documents that include a vesting cliff before actually starting something real together though. (That advice applies no matter how you met your co-founder.)

You're right, it's a very difficult problem. Having co-founders at all is risky. If you've never worked with them before, the risk is quite high, I would say. Trial projects are the only way to build some type of trust.

"I'm from YC and I'm here to help you"

Hmm. YC went from you must grow up with your cofounder or you’ll fail to we’ll match with random one?

Edit: I actually think this is the right move. One hast to find people outside one's immediate network. Otherwise there would only be very few founders.

> YC went from you must grow up with your cofounder or you’ll fail to we’ll match with random one?

That's at least a pleasingly symmetrical strawman - equally distorted at both ends!

no, that's correct - YC used to be adamant that you needed a cofounder and has flipped that on its head

YC has always tended to encourage finding a cofounder, but they've been funding solo teams since at least Dropbox in S07.

Given that multi-founder teams still represent 90% of the startups they fund, I could understand calling this a moderate shift. But "flipped on its head" feels like an exaggeration.

edouard-harris has made the important factual correction here. I was just observing how...let's say "non-factual" the first sentence was, at both ends of the stick. Did you not notice how you had to reword it in order to defend it?

Yea idk dang..

Clearly it was hyperbolic, but I think satya71 was drawing attention to some legitimate mixed messaging on the part of YC over the years.

I certainly had a similar (perhaps cynical/incorrect/unfair) reaction to this announcement.

Maybe that's not the reality, but the perception is something to consider, too.

Oh for sure. I think "hyperbolic" is maybe soft-pedalling the GP a bit though.

Is it really a contradiction or a natural evolution? I don't know. I think it's fine to raise the question - Kyle and I were chatting about it beforehand too.

The pandemic forced them to do the "scaling up" everybody was asking them to do.

Trouble finding conspirators is a definite bottleneck to scaling!

Commenting so that I can come back to this later.

I tried to sign up for this as a technical co founder and it was long winded and painful to “apply”.

I don’t know why I had to “apply” to offer to be a technical cofounder.

After all this they “rejected” me. How can you be rejected from offering to be a technical cofounder?

What a waste of time.

I don’t recommend startup school as a way to find a cofounder especially if you’re technical.

Hey bloniac, sorry you had a negative experience. We only "reject" candidates if they're using the platform for something other than finding a co-founder (eg. selling their consulting services), or if the profile is incomplete to the point that someone reading it couldn't evaluate the fit. If you email me with your YC username, I'd be happy to take a look and give advice on how to improve your profile. We definitely allow and encourage users to ping us post-rejection if they've improved their profile so we can give it a second look.

The “who’s looking for a cofounder” thread works a lot better for me.

I don’t want to share all my details, I want to see who’s looking for a technical cofounder then I’ll apply with my details.

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