Shaunak started his company in 2015 as a solo founder.
And things were going well.
But when things started to speed up, and he started looking for funding — one of his VCs recommended he got a co-founder to make his business appear less “risky”.
Shaunak was heavily involved in product. So he needed someone that could orchestrate things. To cover the skillsets that he didn’t have.
He found a person that was a good match for him… on paper.
But when it came down to the work, he wasn’t all-in on the business, as Shaunak expected a co-founder to be.
He needed someone that was willing to do more, and the person he’d found didn’t have the initiative or experience that allowed him to do that.
This created a lot of tension between them.
The truth was, the person he had found liked the idea of being a co-founder. But he’d never done it before.
After a year, Shaunak knew that it wasn’t working. And the business was suffering because of it.
But the blame wasn’t on the person but on Shaunak, for forcing himself to find a co-founder after being told to get one… when it wasn’t necessarily needed.
Did He Need a Co-Founder in the First Place?
The whole situation was terrible.
The company was in the middle of its first growth phase…
The product wasn’t ready…
AND he’d just lost the 1 person that he was supposed to rely on to get the company through it.
Shaunak’s saving grace?
He had been building a network of people at various stages in their careers that he knew were great at what they did.
He maintained this network with one thing in mind — at some point, he would hire them.
Now was that time.
He quickly found a person that had the right skill set and hired them as a contractor.
It felt much safer.
There were no obligations early on. And if it worked out, he could hire them as an employee… and eventually, if it felt right, a co-founder.
The person he hired as a contractor stayed for a year and a half. And in that time, the business had become stable.
Shaunak’s biggest lesson was that you can hire co-founder fast and have it not work out — and the repercussions can be devastating.
Whereas, if you make the level of responsibility gradual, there is a lot less to lose.
What Makes a Good Co-Founder?
Looking back on the situation, when asking himself “do you need a co-founder?”
Shaunak still says yes.
But he sees it less as merely a match in skill set.
And more as a quest to find people with what he calls “mission alignment”.
If you’re looking for a co-founder, you need to find someone that sees the company vision as he does, and is equally committed to making it happen.
But finding those qualities initially can be hard.
- Getting to know the person
- Being clear on expectations
- Stating very clear equity parameters
And these things cannot be judged in a 30-minute conversation.
It takes time and acceptance that you don’t know what you don’t know… and that can throw up some difficult lessons in itself.
In this episode, Shaunak shares what he learned from this process and how he would go about it if he had to do it again.
- The importance of mission alignment in a hiring team
- Why having a co-founder is important… but not for everyone
- Things to look for in a co-founder and new hire
One of the most interesting takeaways from this conversation is that Shaunak would look for a co-founder again. But knowing what he knows now — he’d do it in a very different way.
Tune in for insightful tips!