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Ask HN: Has anyone found a good co-founder using “founder dating” techniques?
57 points by dwolfson20 on Aug 20, 2014 | hide | past | web | favorite | 17 comments
There are many sites out there, such as FounderDating, FoundersHookUp, CoFoundersLab, etc., that attempt to help solo startup founders find a co-founder. (To clarify, I am a tech founder.)

Is there any evidence that this actually works to create a great founding team? Have you used it successfully?

Relatedly, might it be better to be a solo founder than to find a co-founder you don't already know well?

Here's my experience.

I was on FounderDating for at least a couple months last year actively looking. (I am speaking from a tech cofounder perspective.) During that time, a few emails were exchanged with a few prospects and a couple Skype chats were made too. But nothing came about from it.

Then instead of waiting any longer I decided to go ahead myself and just keep an eye out as I go. Soon afterward I serendipitously found another startup doing something similar to what I was trying. I contacted them just to exchange ideas. Turns out they were looking for a CTO. So here I am now.

My takeaway is that these are not magic bullets. They are one of many available channels in a co-founder search. The only thing that works is that you need to be "out there" looking. Both on- and offline.

I think the problem with these founder dating type sites is that starting a company really isn't like "dating" at all, its more like a marriage. It's tough to just meet someone on a whim and dive into something like starting a company. You wouldn't just walk down the aisle after meeting someone on an online dating site and exchanging a few messages or going on a few dates either (hopefully), and you probably shouldnt launch a company after a few beers with someone you met on a website. These sites can introduce the two of you, but its on you to determine how well you will work as a team.

I'm not really sure how you solve this problem, or if sites like CoFoundersLab can solve the problem. I've met up with a few people from these sites for drinks and coffee to bounce ideas around, but nothing really went further than that. IMO, The best thing to do for those actively looking for a cofounder is to constantly be "out there" as pointed out by quantisan. That means leveraging your network, going to meetups...etc and being active with it.

>I'm not really sure how you solve this problem, or if sites like CoFoundersLab can solve the problem.

I think it might have to do with the approach that they're using. When someone comes here and posts an Ask HN about how to find a cofounder, people frequently mention how it's important to actually have a working relationship with the person you're starting a company with. A common piece of advice is to just start working on a side project with someone and see where it goes. CoFoundersLab profiles (and to a certain extent my interactions with people on the site) seems to focus on "here's what my background is, here's what I'm willing to invest, this is the industry I want to go in". It's less about "I have this idea, if anyone with background X thinks this is cool and wants to help me out, feel free to get in touch". Its a subtle difference, but I think it makes a big difference to not trying to 'force it'

You are potentially going to be business-marrying this person for the next decade of your life. Founder Dating can be a good way to find people who are interested in starting a company, so you can be on the same page about that at least. But, like real dating, you probably don't want to just jump in and commit to starting a company with someone just because they are available.

You need a combination of wanting the same thing (to build a successful company) and being able to tolerate each other for the next few years, both through good and bad. Founder Dating is not a bad way to meet people (and, as an aside, I've seen lots of good founding teams meet at hackathons, too). But, really, get to know someone first. Do a side project or two with them. Hell, just try to become good friends.

Make sure that you know you can work with them when things are great and also work with them when you fuck up big time.

I organized the silicon valley co-founders meetup for a while. I think it's pretty clear that the goal is to get out there and start pitching your project to people and see who bites. It's not about finding THE co-founder that particular evening.

Network effects (friends of friends) are very powerful. A lot of people who want to find a co-founder need some way to get started. But you should expect that finding your co-founder will take months. You need to keep talking to people and you'll find developers, business partners, mentors, etc. and sometimes a co-founder.

[0] http://www.slideshare.net/alain94040/co-founder-issues

Yeah... I've been on most founder match sites, including 2 of 3 OP mentioned (FounderDating and CoFoundersLab) and found them to be useless. I'm a generalist (business/techy/industrial design). They are inevitably full of people already working on something (thus not available to team up) and some consultants looking for clients. The possibility of encountering the triple coincidence of a free agent with the complementary skills you need, and an interest in your startup's particular space and stage is almost zero.

I'd suggest:

* Attend action focused events like hackathons or startup wknd where you can get at least a little sense of how potential partners work.

* Minimize attendance at tech socials: they're mostly loud, biz-card waving, wastes of time, that get you no closer to getting a partner.

* Buy time at a big coworking space for a few months, where you can have meaningful 1-to-1 interactions with a large cross-section of people over time. A big space will include many people open to teaming up. Some founders I know met this way.

* You can start as a solo founder and if you're active about promotion (eg pitching/demoing at events), then you might stumble into someone who is free and interested in your particular space. When you do, attend a hackathon or work on long project together to test for fit.

* Maintain motivation - hard and the only thing that enables you to keep cycling through the possibilities.

I've been on CoFounders Lab and Founder Dating and there are some quality people on the sites but nothing meaningful ever materialized. Had some Skype chats with a few people but it's always "let's keep our options open and keep in touch," which obviously we all know means nothing will ever come of it. I haven't found alot of people who are serious and committed to building something. It seems like alot of people "exploring" building a startup on the side, or it's something they're considering in the future. I haven't spent much time on Angel List so I'm curious to see how that is.

I'm a Non-Technical co-founder and it's a little annoying when technical founders think and act like people like myself can't bring alot to the table, when we've had previous successful companies before.

I have a great co-founder dating story. My advise is to know exactly what you are looking for and then recruit for that dream candidate. I built out my business, boot strapped my startup for 6 months and had a strong idea of my product vision. As I hadn't been particularly happy with my engineering team prior- i decided to start fresh with the perfect technical cofounder to build our product. I spoke to a lot of people about what they envisioned for the technical cofounder role for my product and then made a 'dream resume' of that candidate along with the personality traits that would be the ying to my yang. Once I had a good idea of what I was looking for- I went through every single software engineer connection on linkedin to see if anyone might be a match. A woman who had moved into my old room when I moved out of my house had the exact background for what I was looking for (product driven creative software engineer). I got her involved in our market research study and then asked her for drinks under the premise that she had the exact resume and personality of what I was looking for in a technical cofounder-so what would I need to do in order to find a woman like her and get her to start this company with me. She really loved my idea and more importantly, saw the opportunity for herself to build a really cool product from scratch. We are both in similar places in our career and she 180% had the drive and intelligence to start a company and build our product and technology. She said during the meeting that she was actually interested and wanted to meet the rest of the team. We spent two months working together, getting to know each other and really thinking through the product. She met with all of my advisors and poured through our research. We had discussions about communications, got into our first tiff and had multiple discussions about timeline and career goals before sealing the deal. We share many passions like art, music and most importantly, helping women with their careers. Now that she is my technical cofounder, so many amazing things have happened. She's very talented and has the type of personality that attracts good tech & design talent. We work well together because we spent time communicating what we would both need to make this work for us. So figure out what you need, design that dream candidate, go find her or him and take the time to 'date' them till you are both comfortable moving forward. My relationship with her is now the most important one in my life right now and our attention to communicating is what has propelled our product development and our team's growth.

A good read for those interested in this topic i.e. the pros and cons of finding a co-worker through something like "founder dating" VS. with friends/relatives VS. with coworkers is "The Founder's Dilemmas"[1] by Noah Wasserman.

If you'd just like a preview/synopsis of the book, there's a podcast[2] of the author's talk at Stanford, which covers all the broad strokes and key points.

[1] http://www.amazon.com/The-Founders-Dilemmas-Anticipating-Ent...

[2] http://ecorner.stanford.edu/authorMaterialInfo.html?mid=3024

I attended many of these events. IMHO, these events are practically useless like what mighter said.

I am a business founder with slight knowledge about tech. Being a business founder, like mighter said again, it's hard to sell the idea to tech founder unless you prove yourself. Rather than wait for the right person to come, I decided that I bootstrap myself and launched the site.

I am still looking for that one CTO because I want to apply for incubator (ycomb, techstarts, 500 startups), but now having a fully 100% working site and some early traction, I hope I am able to attract a more credible CTO or other type founders.

If anyone here (CTO, CMO, etc) is interested to find out more, please email me at (there are 9 6's in the email)


Why not get to know the person well? Launch a side business in a week and see how you both work together under pressure. Essentially this is going on a few dates before you get married.

As a side bonus (and unlike a date) you will have a longer runway with a small side income.

Find someone else passionate about your problem. You can't just find someone who has the skill, you need skill + domain. This is hard but not impossible if you look within your community.

Its real tough to be a solo founder and you need somebody with different skill sets to augment your own and to keep you on track.

The various founder dating sites and events are a means to an end. A lot of it depends on your pitch and idea but it's good practice and networking never hurts.

I met one of my cofounders on Angellist.com and the other on CoFounderslab.com.

I had a decent wireframe of the site and how the database and interactions would work but the other cofounders helped to elevate the rough idea.

RoomPoll.com would not be possible without my cofounders.

I've been there for 6 month now and still no luck. The biggest problem I see is not even specific to this platform. It's just that people who claim to be "business developers" or "marketers" know very little about building a startup. They don't want to validate an idea or conduct customer interviews. No marketing strategy, no nothing. When I ask them to go out of the building and do a proper validation, they just vanish.

Also every cofounder dating web sites I've tried is a crap. Laggy, unstable and looks like it's from 2000.

I could see these sites working out if you have a decent amount of cofounder material in your local city. In my city there are very few so finding a good cofounder is a much more difficult prospect.

I have heard mixed things about those trying to work with a cofounder remotely. Generally that only works if you have a previous working relationship. Such relationships are hard to establish remotely while also pursuing a new, risky venture.

I built/launched one of those co-founder networks a few months ago (itchwork.com) and I ended up completely abandoning the project, in favor of Angellist (angel.co). They're killing it in this space, and they are the only platform I've personally had success on.

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