Sep 15, 2014

7 tips to find your co-founder and early hires


Finding good co-founders -particularly tech co-founders- and early employees is one of the two biggest problems for any aspiring entrepreneur. Here are 7 learnings from Ranjeet Co-Founder/CEO of Pratilipi

Tip 1- Have an idea: And I don't mean the idea that you want to build, but that you need to understand that idea well. What problem does it solve, is the problem large enough? Do enough people care about it? Can you solve it better than most(if not all) others?

Tip 2- Don't have an idea: Be open and honest, there are things that you simply can't know before you go ahead and do what you want to do, admit it, be open to questions and feedback, be open accept what you don't yet know. Being open and honest builds trust, and trust is your biggest selling point when you want to convince someone to leave their job and join your for pennies(or lesser, that is zero salary!)

Being honest also means telling them upfront about what are the risks and why they should not join you. When I was trying to convince one of my co-founder about leaving Amazon, I gave him 20 reasons not to join us and just about 5 on why he should join us, and when you talk about risks talk about actual risks not double negatives/hidden praise. As we said before, build trust and maintain it at ALL cost.

Tip 3- Select for attitude, train for skills: It's obvious that ideally you want someone who has both, but if you have to choose one go for attitude over skills. It's not a requirement that the person has built exactly same product as you want to build(or has worked in same domain). And there are many reasons for this, 1.) Start-up pivot all the time, you do not want to get a co-founder for doing 'X' and later realize that you want to do 'Y' which he/she is just not a fit for. 2.) Start-ups are a roller-coaster, you want people who will lift you up when it rains, not sink the ship! And that is more a personality attribute than a functional skill. 3.) Learning functional skills is a lot easier than learning a new personality etc.

Tip 4- Get your funnel bigger: Meet and talk to as many people as you can, a lot of these people will not be people you want to work with(or who want to work with you), but you will learn how to recognize who you want to work with. Exhaust your network as much as you can. At Pratilipi one of my co-founders is my school-mate, one from my engineering college, one from my MBA college and one from my job.

Though this is an extreme case but point is that it's always easier and better to judge people when you have spent years with them than when you have spent half an hour with them.

Tip 5- Make it a win-win: A lot of people often say things like they want a tech co-founder who knows x languages, has worked for y years, has built z things and he will be a CTO and we will give him/her 2-10% equity. Now, I can't say for sure if that's always a bad idea but please understand that really good people usually have a fair bit of idea about their value, and everyone wants a sense of fairness. So, when you want someone to do 30% of your work, you give him 30% of your equity. 

Do not give yourself extra credit because you had an 'idea', ideas are dime a dozen, get the best possible team to execute that idea and make it worth-while. It's almost always better to have 10% of a billion dollar enterprise than 100% of a million dollar enterprise. So, get good people and give them their fair(or more!) share.

Tip 6- Be prepared to take 'No' for an answer: You have probably seen gazillions of memes on how nice guy don't get the girls, and people do not appreciate 'true' love. The truth is people respect, admire and love those who are ready to show guts, who are not dependent on one being for everything, who are ready to walk away if need be and still keep going. 

Don't be scared of approaching that Googler friend of yours because he must be happy with his job and say no to joining you. 

Tip 7- The most important tip, sell trust first dream later: No matter what anyone says, the truth is that all businesses(not just start-ups) have a risk attached to them; no idea is fool-proof. And when you start, you cannot be 100% sure that this is what you will be doing 6 months down the line. PayPal started as a cryptography based libraries for palm pilot devices, Twitter(in form of Odeo) wanted to be a podcasting platform, Hotmail(in form of JavaSoft) was trying to be a web-accessible database service, Groupon(in form of Point) was a crowdfunding platform, Flickr came from an online game role-playing game, and there are plenty other examples.

The point is when you are hiring your first few people(either co-founder or employee), focus more on existing members and yourself, make sure that they believe in you before you pitch the idea or that they should join you(FYI Steve Woznaik didn't think they will make any money selling computers, and he co-founded Apple).



About the AuthorRanjeet Pratap Singh@RanjeetSingh
Ranjeet Pratap Singh is a Guest writer for Startuptimes.in . He is the Co-Founder / CEO at Pratilipi and passionate about Startups & Leadership


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